Students overwhelmingly outnumbered the pros at the recent Sabor Bisaya Food Expo and Culinary Competition in Bacolod City, and that was fine because the theme was “Mastering the Basics” anyway.
Organized by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Negros Occidental (HRANO), the cook fest was held at the convention hall of the Bacolod Pavilion and was chaired this year by Aboy Evaristo, owner of Aboy’s Grill & Restaurant, one of Bacolod’s pride and joy.
Sabor Bisaya was originally concocted by chef Juan Miguel Gaston to help upgrade the food, hospitality and tourism industry in Western Visayas to international standards through competitions and to provide a venue for networking among industry leaders and peers.
As it happened to be Sugarlandia’s turn to host this year’s Visayas elimination round of the National Food Showdown (NFS) (it will be Cebu’s turn next year), the Chef Wars became the highlight of Sabor Bisaya.
While the professional chefs did get their chance to fight the big fight to earn the right to represent the region at the NFS on Sept. 20 to 21 at the World Trade Center, no team in the pro division merited the Chef Wars gold.
The silver was awarded to Business Inn/Planta’s team of Benedict John Co Uy, Jason de Oca and Roseller Montebon. The diploma award went to the team of Jun Celis, Gina Ortega and Jerwin Apostol of Virgelio’s Grill, and the team of Gerardo Abarico, Ronie Nunez and Lyle Francis Ango of Casablanca Restaurant in Dumaguete.
But there was gold in the student division of the Chef Wars. The team of Rod Ruel Gonzaga, Michael Alvin Sullesta and Johanah Dee Chua of Bacolod Academy for Culinary Arts (BACA) won it.
The silver went to two teams: University of St. La Salle (USLS) with Steve Joshua Yeo, Kinglee Tabino and Victor Michael Javellana and Western Institute of Technology (WIT)-Iloilo, with Larry Baticos, Rolynson Eugrafia and Ramil Sencil.
Wrena Jane Bajo, Sharmaine Galo and Demie Marie Gacita of Banilad Center for Professional Development (BCPD) took the bronze, as did the Southland College (SC) team of Aldimar Orioque, Cliff Ryan Yanong and Andrew Paul Garaygay, and Teamskills School for Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management (Teamskills)- Dumaguete Ramonito Juanites, Ritchel Jay Romblon and Julius Amil. Cian Ohm, Mark Joseph Rosales and Glydyl Lotayo of La Consolacion College (LCC)-Bacolod received a diploma.
The students were manning the kitchen most of the time on the first day of this culinary tournament and this really made the trip to Bacolod worth one’s while.
Overall, LCC-Bacolod was the 2013 Sabor Bisaya champion, followed by VMA– Global College (VMA) and Colegion San Agustin-Bacolod (CSAB).
In the competition called “Na’nam: A Feast of Negrense Flavors,” the budding chefs were asked to whip up something using as main ingredients any of these homegrown marvels: ubad,
takway (taro tendrils), kadyos (pigeon peas) or tugabang (saluyot).
No school won the gold but three teams took the silver: USLS’ Ritz Lazarito and Manual Cuadra (perfect timing for the school’s silver anniversary); CSAB’s Christian Belera and Joseph Rey Descallar; and WIT-Iloilo’s Renel Tupaz and Angelo De La Torre. The bronze went to BCPD’s Greece Pugoy and Rhea Mae Limod, as well as SC’s Juany Collin Galvez and Jason Larawan. LCC-Bacolod’s Karl Joseph Goroy and Rhena Amar, and Teamskills’ Angeline Baja-Os and Vaniza Santiago received the diploma award.
In the on-the-spot creative cake decoration challenge, were the student bakers aware that the woman who was going around watching their every move was pastry royalty Penk Ching? And if they knew, was that cause enough for nerves? The good news is that the kids handled themselves well and a few turned out nicely frosted masterpieces with a baptismal or christening theme.
The WIT-Iloilo’s team of Larry Baticos, Jeremy Paul Abiador and Richard Matthew Esteban took the gold. The silver award went to VMA’s Mae Ann Salarda, John Sergio and Alexis Saylo. LCC-Bacolod students Mheryl Fernandez, Marielle Angeli Faren and Charlynn Mesa won the bronze. Carlos Hilado Memorial State College-Talisay’s Lowela Umbao, Ernie John Cristoria and Lendel Tiolo went home with a diploma award.
As expected, there were booths for showcasing kitchen equipment, cooking ingredients, culinary schools and various food services. Best of all, Fresh Start was selling hot piaya hand-rolled the old fashioned way, with muscovado sugar and other organic ingredients.
Food was brought nonstop into the judging room. HRANO president Bobby Magalona of Bob’s Pastry Shop and Restaurant and his officers, Christine Dorris of Nature’s Village Resort, Sylvia Golez of 18th St. Palapala Seafood Grill and Restaurant, Jose Dino Cajili of Chicken House and Toots Sison of Sugarland Hotel, made sure of that. A drive along Lacson Street in Bacolod City would prove UK Sunday Times food reviewer AA Gill right: “A restaurant makes a street a better place; collectively, they make cities better places.” So if you were a judge at Sabor Bisaya who needed to fit into a gown for a formal occasion, you would have failed miserably because in Bacolod, the food was just sinful.
The biggest culinary event in Bacolod, Sabor Bisaya made sure to invite food celebrities to do the judging honors, namely: NFS overall chair Myrna Segismundo, Laguna Group CEO Julita Urbina, pastry queen Penk Ching, restaurateur-chef Antonio Escalante, coffee guru Manny Torrejon, Inquirer food columnist Sandy Daza, chef Datu Pendatun and NFS cochair Raul Ramos.
The women judges were billeted at the old reliable Sugarland Hotel, which graciously provided a shuttle service to and from the cook-off venue, as well as side trips to Chicken House for
a wonderful inasal dinner, to Virgie’s Home Products for delicious caramel and mango tarts pasalubong, to the Lacson Ruins for a bit of sightseeing and to Aboy’s for a memorable lunch of grilled seafood, steamed wild mushroom and their signature squid fat.
The other schools that participated in Sabor Bisaya were John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation (Bacolod), Carlos Hilado Memorial State College (Talisay), West Negros University, University of San Agustin (Iloilo), Fellowship Baptist College (Kabankalan), University of Iloilo, Aklan State University, Advance Central College (Antique), Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (Ajuy Campus), Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (Concepcion Campus), St. Paul University (Iloilo), Iloilo State College of Fisheries and Negros Oriental State University- Dumaguete.
For the students who are hoping to one day take over the top kitchens in town, if not the world, Sabor Bisaya must be one of the biggest learning experiences they have ever had cooking.
No event of this size could have managed on its own. Luckily, Nestlé Professional, San Miguel Pure Foods (Great Food Solutions), Unilever Food Solution, POS Gasul and SM City Bacolod stepped in to give Sabor Bisaya a push and a shove.
There will be a Negros Trade Fair on Sept. 25 to 29 at the Glorietta Mall activity center.