For most chefs, the flavor might be the first consideration when it comes to conceptualizing a dish. For Chef Kel, it all begins with the visual appeal. “I guess it always starts with food plating for me. When I am asked: 'Chef, what is sisig for you?' I visualize it in detail and imagine how the traditional dish looks like. From there, my mind tells me what I can add to it and what aspects I can highlight. An example would be the amount of fat that I'll put into a dish," he says. But transforming Filipino dishes doesn't just mean throwing random ingredients together. According to Chef Kel, it's all about understanding the gaps you need to bridge when it comes to blending flavors and at the same time, figuring out how you can make the dish your own.
Now one has to wonder where Chef Kel gets his ingenuity from. He tells us that his father remains a big influence as he, too, enjoys being creative in the kitchen. Chef Kel recalls seeing his father use Knorr Liquid Seasoning in more ways than one–from stir-frying to deglazing. "You will not be able to find his methods in a cookbook," he says. And it was growing up in a food-loving household that made Chef Kel find his unique place in the Filipino food industry.
However, despite all of Chef Kel's success, he admits he was not spared from the pandemic that has bludgeoned food businesses. “I was in a dark place during this pandemic. I had to cling to my passion as a chef. Everyone was telling me to do simple food or fast food," he says. Nevertheless, he stuck with what he does best because according to him, "Food should be enjoyed no matter where you are.”.
Chef Kel has been meeting this pandemic head-on and for him, there's no way but forward. Because while it was difficult at first, he wasted no time and quickly made his way back to the kitchen. "I like a good challenge," he says. "You cannot just wait and hope for the best, you need to have an action plan. You need to figure it out and maybe start a different plan that can help you succeed. You have to accept the situation and move forward.”
With that said, he already has his plans lined up for 2021 and beyond, with "emotional attachment to food" being the inspiration behind his future concepts. As for his explorations on Filipino cuisine, Chef Kel sees Locavore maturing by introducing more exotic flavors. He's already begun his quest by taking a peek into the Mindanao food culture which has varying Southeast Asian influences that range from Malay to Indian.
Chef Kel continues to play a big part in modernizing local cuisine. And Unilever Food Solutions, together with Knorr Professional, remain committed to giving chefs all the right ingredients needed to also take part in the evolution and revolution of Filipino food.
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