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A dash of olive oil.

By Angelo G. Garcia

When Locavore opened three years ago, it changed the Filipino food as a brand. The restaurant's industrial and modern look paired with its innovative local fare made it stand out from other Filipino restaurants. Today, it's among the favorite eateries in Metro Manila.

Raintree Restaurant group, on the other hand, is known for operating concepts that have been quite successful in the local food scene. Some of these brands include Museum Cafe's Kabila, which serves classic Filipino dishes with a flair; Providore, which offers comforting classics; and Chotto Matte, which puts Peruvian and Japanese cuisines in a tasty combination.

What's common about these dining concepts are young, talented, and innovative chefs behind them working hard in the kitchen, Chef Mikel Zaguirre for Locavore and Chef Kalel Chan for the Raintree Group.

The two were recently launched by olive oil brand Dona Elena as its new ambassadors on its Chef Ambassador Series campaign. Chosen based on their passion and creativity in the kitchen, these qualities resonate profoundly with the brand's own values.

"When we chose the chefs who would best partner with us, we made sure that their values embodied the values of the brand--passion, creativity, and innovation," explains Fly Ace Group AVP for marketing Abbie Ng Reyes. "There are many parallelisms between the brand and our chef ambassadors. When Dona Elena was launched 20 years ago, it started with the passion for elevating home cooking by making sure that everything was great-tasting and at the same time very healthy. Through that passion, we continue to launch products that are excellent and of quality."

Chef Mikel, who dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, instead became one of the country's most promising chefs. Before running successful kitchens, he also taught. He was a consultant in the culinary industry. Today, Locavore is just one of his brands, as chef Mikel is also behind FAT and Poke Poke.

He is known for his flavorful dishes, such as the customer favorite at Locavore, sizzling sinigang, as well as for his playful take on textures and flavors, which come to play in the extremely popular poke bowls at Poke Poke. For chef Mikel, the secret to working in the kitchen is quality ingredients and a bit of confidence.

For his new recipe Mojo Chicken for the olive oil brand, he wanted to make roasting a bit less intimidating. He used various herbs and spices to marinate and roast the chicken, pairing it with chimichurri sauce.

"I'd like to change the notion that roasting is intimidating, because all it takes are a few quality ingredients, the right amount of marination, and cooking time. It takes just that to produce a chicken dish that's crammed with flavors," says Chef Mikel.

By ANGELO G. GARCIAChef Kalel, on the other hand, has just the technique it takes to achieve that perfect dish. "Low fire cooking is the key to allowing the ingredients to further concentrate its flavors. It also tenderizes the meat, reduces the shrinkage, and retains its form. Simple, satisfying, and perfect for days or nights you need to serve something on the table in 30 minutes," he says.

That's how he describes his new creation, Spanish Style Balsamic Bangus Belly. Mixing classic combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, he also added classic ingredients such as olives, carrots, and bay leaves in his dish. The result is flavorful flaky fillets of milkfish meat in a savory sauce cut by the acidic yet fruity flavor of the balsamic vinegar.

Chef Kalel grew up in a family of home cooks. He has been using Dona Elena for quite some time and, as the corporate chef at Raintree Group, he believes that the best ingredients provide the success any food business venture aspires for.

Launched 20 years ago, Dona Elena has become the leading olive oil brand in the Philippines. It is produced in Andalusia, Spain, using two types of olives--picual and hojiblanca.

"When it was launched, Filipinos did not know how to use olive oil, what its use was, and why they should use it. But now, after 20 years, the market has really grown and Dona Elena has been at the forefront," Abbie says. "Chef Mikel and Chef Kalel are young and have the passion for food but what made them successful and stand out is their commitment to excellence. And both of them are real users of Dona Elena, a testament to the product's quality."

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Publication:Manila Bulletin
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Nov 23, 2017
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