What Do I Want To Get Out Of The Basque Stage?


So it’s official….. I have less than a month from when I leave the great Pacific NorthWest to start my culinary adventures in San Sebastian, Spain, as the next Basque Stage Rising Star! It has been a crazy, busy, and overwhelming couple of weeks since I have received the scholarship and I can’t imagine the my last couple weeks being any less crazy, busy, and overwhelming as the ones previous.

I feel that a month seems like a long time, but I know that time will fly by and I will be sitting in a plane, heading too my new home for 3 months. There is so much to do in such little time!

One thing that has been on my mind ever since I found out that I will be the next Basque Stage is what I hope to get out of living in San Sebastian, working with a great company like Sammic and staging under some of the most talented chefs, Xabier Diez and Aizpea Oihaneder, over at Xarma.

So here is a list of some of the things I have came up with that I hope to achieve upon returning to my real home in Seattle after my time in the Basque Country.

1. Develop a greater understanding and knowledge of the Basque Life.

I have the Harvest Vine to thank for opening my eyes to all things Basque. I’ve had an amazing 3 years working for/with some of the greatest people that have taught me so much about the culture and the food that comes from the Basque Country. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from working under my chef, Joey Serquinia, is that it takes more than knowing flavors and ingredients to cook good Spanish food. It takes a lot of knowledge about understanding about the culture and history of how these dishes came about.

With living in San Sebastian, I will be able to experience all the things that I can’t from just picking up and read about from a book about the Basque Country. I will be able to see and experience first hand what it is like to live the ‘Basque Way’. From the people, to the food, to the farms, to the wineries, I am so ready to soak up everything. I’m just hoping that my brain and heart will be able to handle all of the greatness that the Basque Country has to offer!

2. Utilize and expand the resources and opportunities presented to me

Everyone working in the restaurant industry  or any industry actually, knows the importance of networking. With staging in Spain, I will be introduced to a whole new circle of chefs, wine makers, farmers, and companies that I just would never be able to meet here in the States. I hope to take advantage of this great opportunity and really utilize all these networks that I could really benefit from in my career as a chef.

Sammic Headquarters

One of the coolest aspects of the Basque Stage is that it is sponsored by a great company called Sammic that develops and manufactures commercialized kitchen equipment for restaurants, hotels, etc., etc. I am really excited to work with this company and get to see and work with the products that they develop and really hope to build a strong relationship because they could be a great asset for whenever/if-ever I plan to start a restaurant of my own. (Can we say Discount!? Just Joking. =P) But on a serious note, I am very appreciative of what they do and for sponsoring such a great scholarship.

3. Help spread the word about the Basque Stage

I have to admit it. I’ve been a total Basque Stage Whore (pardon my language) ever since I had found about them more than a year ago. I have been and avid follower of the blogs of the previous Basque Stage winners and I was addicted to applying. I told myself from day one that I was going to keep on applying until I get it because its honestly such a great opportunity for chefs of all kinds, whether or not you are a home cook or professional cook. Everyone at the Basque Stage and Sammic have both teamed up and created something that I feel so passionate about and proud to be part of and I feel that more people need to know about it.

I was ecstatic to hear that The Art Institute of Seattle, the culinary school I had graduated from, was interested in getting in contact with me to hear more about receiving this scholarship. This is a good step into the right direction to let other students to know about this great opportunity that is honestly so easy to apply for. Yeah, I must admit, that it was pretty crappy the past 2 times I’ve applied and gotten so close to getting it, but persistence really pays off. Keep trying. Keep applying. Keep believing in yourself. Because in the end, there is no harm in trying, especially when the outcome can be as spectacular as cooking in one of the culinary capitals in the world!  And I don’t plan on just spreading the word with just students, I want to help encourage anyone and everyone.

4. Re-open Txori

Oh, beloved Txori. Txori was the sister restaurant of The Harvest Vine that sadly closed down in 2010. It was the first restaurant that I had my first real bite of real Spanish food. This was the restaurant where I started my culinary career as an intern that eventually lead into landing a job at. Quite possibly one of the best jobs I have had in my life.  It was here I knew I wanted to pursue cooking Spanish food.

Txori, which means “bird” in Basque, was a bar that served the traditional Basque tapas known as “pintxos”. Pintxos are basically small bites of food that are usually served on a sliced piece of toasted bread or pricked with a skewer that have became popular in San Sebastian. I feel that these are the type of bars that America need to adopt more of. There is so much to love about the concept of eating small bites while sipping on a nice glass of cava or albarinio and conversing with fellow patrons.I am most looking forward to pintxo bar hopping and really get to see what a real pintxo bar feels/looks/smells/tastes like. I want to take these things back because I feel that people need to know the greatest of Pintxos!

Re-opening Txori has been something I’ve always wanted ever since the day their doors have closed. But I’m hoping that with this Stage that it will maybe cause a spark, an idea, even a small thought of maybe re-opening those doors to something that not only I, but so many others, have grown to love. And whenever the time comes, I will drop and stop everything I am doing because this is something I really want, no, need to part of. (*hint hint* Carolin ;] ).

5. Be able to share my experiences

So of course it’s going to be great to share my experiences with friends, family, all you following my blogs, and so on. But honestly, one person I’m really hoping to share this experience with is my daughter, Tegan. She is my world, my mini-me, my pride and joy. Its going to be the hardest thing I will ever had to do being apart from her but everything that I do, I do for her. I have always known that with working in this industry, I had to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s quite a big sacrifice I’ve had to make, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it. I’m going to gain so much out of it, but what I will be gaining the most is a story for her of how her dad has fulfilled one of his dreams and that if you work hard and keep trying, you will be capable of doing anything. I want her to know that someday, I hope she will be able to do something like this and be able to share her stories with me. No matter what, I will always be there for her and will support her in anything she wants to do.

Sorry for the lengthy post! I am just getting so excited and anxious and have so much on the mind right now that my brain kind of threw up all of my thoughts in form of this blog post. Haha


My First Post As A Basque Stage!

Hi everyone!

This is my official first post as a Sammic and Basque Stage Rising Star!

For those who are unaware, the Basque Stage Rising Star Scholarship gives the opportunity to a lucky aspiring chef to the Basque Region of Spain to work with under some of the most prestiges chefs in Spain for 3 months.

It was merely a week ago when I had received an e-mail with the subject titled “*Important*”. Usually I overlook these e-mails and proceed to send them to the trash but this one was from Marti (check out her blog, Blank Palate, its super dope!), one of the coordinators of the Basque Stage, so I knew that the e-mail must have been pretty important. So I sat up and prepared myself to read what could be one of the most important e-mails in my life.

“I just wanted to let you know that the judges have selected you as the winner of the II Rising Stars scholarship!!!!! Which means, should you accept, you will be headed to San Sebastián on April 1 through June 30 to stage at Xarma.”

My heart dropped in disbelief. Still to this moment I have a hard time believing that I am the next Basque Stage Rising Star. The feeling is unreal. This must be what it feels like to be on the top of the world.

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 1.11.34 AM

Hey! That’s me!!!!

I am so excited to get to work under Chef Xabier Díez and Chef Aizpea Oihaneder at their little gem, Xarma, in San Sebastian. I know that I will have a lot to learn from these two chefs who have worked inunder some of the best chefs that include Martín Berasategui, Michel Bras, and of course, Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, where they both met. It is of highest honors to be chosen to work and learn under your team! I hope you guys are ready for me! =]

I have to thank my work family at The Harvest Vine. Working there the past 3 years have been so great and has filled me with so much love for all things Basque. I can’t wait to come back to show all you guys all that I have learned in the Basque Country!

A very special thank you to my girlfriend, Staci. I know it’s been really hard to watch me reach for something that involves me to be away from our beautiful family, but it means the world to me that you support everything that I do regardless of how selfish things may seem. It’s been a very stressful week figuring out what’s going to happen, but I can’t thank you enough for taking this crazy ride with me. You and Tegan mean the world to me and everything I do, I do for you two. I love you both so much.

Well it’s been a very overwhelming week and the next coming weeks are going to get crazier and crazier, but in the end,  it will all be worth it the moment I lay my first step in San Sebastian. Again, I would like to thank everybody at Sammic, the Basque Stage, and Xarma for this opportunity. I can’t wait to fully embrace the life in the Basque Region and be able to share my experience with the world!


P.S. Please check out the current Stage’s, Susy Santos and Clifton Su, blogs. They are both very exciting reads and just get me even more excited for my turn in the Basque Region!

All About Eggs!: Huevos a la Flamenca

For my next All About Eggs! post I decided to do it on Hevos a la Flamenca. This is a very traditional Spanish dish that varies from region to region, but it usually consists of eggs that are baked in a rich tomato sauce along with cured meats, vegetables, and paprika.

This is a dish that has been on our brunch menu at The Harvest Vine since we started over two years ago. If we were to take this dish off the menu, I swear that our customers would cause riots and chaos in the Madison Valley. It is definitely one of the most popular dishes in our repertoire and it is the one dish I always recommend to our first time brunch customers. I feel that it is basically everything that our restaurant stands for all wrapped up and baked in a cazuela. Our Huevos a la Flamenca consists of a base of tomato frito (a fried-tomato sauce), a scoop of béchamel, slices of cured chorizo, thinly sliced jamon serrano, some sort of vegetable depending on whats in season, and two farm-fresh organic eggs. It is Spain in a dish! It has the perfect balance of flavor from the smokiness of the paprika in the chorizo, the saltiness from the cured ham, the brightness from the fried tomato sauce, the added richness from the béchamel, and the fresh flavors of whatever vegetables are in season. All of this combined with a perfectly baked egg with its still-runny yolk and then being soaked up by a slice of a freshly baked baguette, its easy to see why it has all the rave for our customers.

This is another prepartion of eggs I was new too. This dish is actually quite easy to put together as all you do is assemble everything and then put it in the oven, but it is very easy to mess up. Within a minute, this dish can go from being perfectly cooked to horribly overcooked. There is a very small window of time that you must take out the baked eggs when the egg whites are still a little jiggly, but with carry over cooking, the eggs will be finish cooking through as you let it sit.

Huevos a la Flamenca

To assemble, put 3 oz of tomato frito sauce on the bottom of the cazuela. In the center, add a tablespoon of béchamel. In the 12 o clock position of the cazuela, add the broad beans. At the 9 o clock position add your slices of chorizo. In the rest of the open space, lay down your thinly sliced pieces of jamon serrano. I carefully position all of these ingredients because it creates a hole in the center that will help keep the egg yolks to stay in the center of the cazuela. If the egg yolks are both directly in the center, it will help cook the eggs more evenly.

When you have your Flamenca assembled, place on high heat until the tomato sauce starts to bubble. Crack two eggs into a bowl to make it easier to place eggs into the cazuela (plus it makes ensures that you don’t accidentally break the egg yolk if you were to crack the egg directly in). Using a spoon, create a little hole in the center of all the ingredients and then slide your eggs into the cazuela.

Place into a pan and then place in a hot oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the egg whites are pretty much cooked through but still jiggly. It may look a little undercooked as you pull it out, but all the residual heat from the tomato sauce will carry over cook the eggs to perfection.

Sprinkle with salt and chopped parsley then serve with couple slices of bread and then enjoy! There are two type of people who eat Huevos a la Flamenca in a certain way. Those who like to break the yolk and mix everything together and then those who like to individually fish out every ingredient. I prefer to pick out all of my ingredients because it’s like a eating a new dish with every bite!

Basque Stage Candidate Post: Scallop and Pork Belly Bocadillo w/ Popcorn Revuelto

So this dish I decided to do was conceived last minute as I was actually planning on doing a completely different dish for the past week or so for my Basque Stage Candidate Post. It wasn’t unti Tuesday morning that l I picked up my copy of the latest Lucky Peach, David Chang’s, the face behind Momofuku, quarterly journal of food writing. He had this little section where there was a recipe for a little concoction called “popcorn grits”. This had caught my attention and just had my mind racing instantly. For some reason, one of the first thoughts that came into my mind was revuelto. Revuelto is a probably one of my favorite preparation of eggs that I had discovered at The Harvest Vine (expect an All About Eggs! post about revuelto in the near future!). Revuelto is essentially softly scrambled eggs. I thought that popcorn grits would make for a perfect combination to the rich and creamy eggs, texturally and flavor wise. Then it dawned on me that I softly scrambled eggs weren’t going to be enough. I needed something more. Did it need a seafood? Or a meat? Or maybe both!? Then I thought about a special dish that my chef does every once in a while for special guests. He does a little play off of ‘bocadillos’ (Spanish for sandwiches) where he sandwiches a seared piece of seared foie gras between a sliced seared scallop. I thought that the scallop would go perfect with my popcorn revuelto but the foie gras to be a little over the top… Enter the pork belly…. the pork belly would give the dish the meatiness that it needs so I decided to replace it instead of the foie (I know, crazy right?). And just for fun, I thought I’d reincorporate popcorn as a crunch garnish, so I flavored it with Spanish smoked paprika and Piment d’ espelette. Piment d’ espelette is probably once of my favorite spices as it adds a real nice kick to anything you add it too. So to get back on track, here is my Basque Stage Candidate Post!

Scallop and Pork Belly Bocadillo w/ Popcorn Revuelto


  • Olive Oil
  • Popcorn Kernals
  • Heavy Cream
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Scallops
  • Braised Pork Belly


  • Reserved Popped Popcorn
  • Piment  d’ espelette
  • Pimenton Dulce


Combine the oil and popcorn kernals in a large pot and set over high heat. Once the oil starts sizzling, cover the pot and lower the heat to medium.

Once the kernals start popping, make sure to shake the pot vigorously to make sure none of the popcorn burns. Once the popping starts to slow down drastically, take off heat and leave cover on until the pops stop.

Reserve atleast a cup of popcorn for the garnish. For the Garnish, toss together melted butter, popcorn, Piment d’ espelette, and Pimenton Dulce until covered evenly.

Heat up the milk, cream, and butter in a pan over medium heat. Once the mixture comes up to a simmer, add 1/3 of the popcorn and cook for about a minute. strain the liquid through a medium-meshed strainer (it’s important not to use a fine mesh strainer because you want to be able to push through the popcorn)

Once the liquid is strained, scrap the popcorn against the strainer, pushing through a popcorn-like puree (the popcorn ‘grits’). Scrap off all popcorn from the bottom of the strainer and set it aside. Repeat these steps with the remaining 2/3 of  popcorn. After the last batch, save the popcorn-infused cream.

In a saute pan, reduce the popcorn-infused cream until the consistency is really tight and not to runny. Timing for this dish is crucial as you don’t want to under-reduce or over-reduce your cream because it is the biggest factor for keeping your eggs the right consistency. Add the egg and then remove the pan from the heat. The residual heat from the cream should be hot enough to cook the egg all the way through. With a spatula, mix the eggs and the cream until the eggs start to set. Mid-way, add your popcorn ‘grits’ and salt then continue to stir. The eggs will be done when they there is no longer any uncooked eggwhite and have gained some body to them. They should be creamy and hold some form, but you will definitely know if they are overcooked if any chunks of egg have formed.

In a separate pan, heat up oil on high until barely smoking. Add scallops and let sear until golden brown. Feel free to check the caramelization and move it to a hotter part of the pan if it needs more caramelizing. Right before you flip the scallops, add the sliced pork belly. Flip the scallop and then turn off the heat. Flip the pork belly and then finish with chopped parsley.

Place the popcorn revuelto on the plate. Slice scallops in half and place a slice of pork belly between each side of the scallop making a sandwhich. Place on top of popcorn revuelto and then garnish with the Espelette and Pimenton popcorn. Make pretty with parsley oil and some micro-greens then enjoy!

I am really happy with how this dish turned out. The flavor combinations all worked really work together and there were so many different textures that made this dish really fun to eat! Thanks for reading and hopefully you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed making it!


Anchovies, Sardines, and Canned Tuna, Oh My!

There are many foods out there that are notorious for being the arch nemesis to any kid. There are the usual suspects being broccoli, brussels sprouts, peas and spinach; basically anything green.But for me, there were three things that I just could not stand as a young child. Those three things were anchovies, sardines, and canned tuna. These foods were the bane of my existence.

I was never really a picky eater. I’d eat all my vegetables like my mother would tell me, but for some reason, anchovies, sardines, and canned tuna had always scared the bejeezus out of me. I think anchovies got a bad rep for me because of all the poor advertisement I was exposed to by fellow kids and TV shows that would express the wrongness of ruining a perfectly good pizza by adding anchovies. As a kid, all you can think about is, “how can you ruin a pizza?! Pizza is the greatest!”

With sardines and tuna, i had my parents to blame. My mom has always been the best cook I know and always made the tastiest dinners. But occasionally, I would know when to skip out on dinner by the smell that would fill up my house whenever she prepared canned sardines and tuna casserole. YUCK. Sorry Mom, hate to put you on blast on the internet, but your sardines and tuna you made for dinner was terrible. I still love you though!

As I grew into the stunning young adult that I am now today, (yeah, right… who am I kidding? =] ) my taste bud has changed as well as my outlook on food. I became more open to new and unfamiliar things. But for some reason, trying to let anchovies, sardines, and canned tuna back in my life was a pretty difficult thing for me! This all changed when I started at the Harvest Vine.

A beautiful package of Boquerones (vinegar-cured anchovies)

The moment that I saw the anchovies that we were serving at our restaurant, I knew that they were something special. My mouth actually started watering to the look and smell of these spanish anchovies called boquerones. As i used them more and more, I had a new found love and appreciation for these anchovies. Every time  I would open a package I can just imagine little old Spanish ladies carefully filleting each anchovie and then vinegar-curing them to perfection, then meticulously weaved together to make anchovies look like a piece of art.

Plato de Boquerones: A platter of anchovies, anchovy-stuffed olives, pipparas, and olive oil. A very traditional combination.

I remember my first experience eating a fresh sardine. It was just simply grilled to perfection and served with Alioli (garlic mayonnaise) and lemon wedges. I’ve never had anything like it. It wasn’t reminicent of the terrible canned sardines with tomato my mother use to try to feed me. It was a fresh, meaty, super flavorful sardine  that makes me want to go back in time and slap my past self in the face because it was that damn good. We also house-cure our own sardines in the same way that the boquerones are cured in vinegar.

House-cured Sardines with Cherry Tomatoes in a Piquillo-Mint Vinaigrette.

There isn’t any canned tuna like Ortiz Bonito del Norte Tuna from Spain. This is the tuna we use at work for Ensalada Rusa (Russian Salad), which is essentially a Tuna salad with alioli, potatoes, carrots, and hard boiled egg. I’ve had many, many tuna salads made with the “chicken of the sea” in my day and they don’t live up to the standards of the almighty Ensalada Rusa. This tuna comes packed in a can covered with olive oil and it has such a mild flavor with an amazing buttery texture yet is very firm and dense. It’s so amazing!

Ensalada Rusa – bonito tuna salad with potatoes, piquillo peppers, carrots & alioli

Ortiz Bonito Del Norte!

Basque Stage Candidate Video!

Well this seems a little familiar…..

Here is my (second and hopefully last ;] ) Basque Stage Candidate Video!

I am no means, a film maker or video editor or screen writer or actor, so please bare with me people. I know the tacky transitions between clips is pretty unbearable, but hey…. I tried my best to make it a little bit more enjoyable for you guys! I always find it pretty hard to talk about myself, letalone, record myself, so this is me trying my hardest to get my point out. Point being…… I have never wanted or worked so hard for something in my life. Getting to stage in Spain under some of the greatest chefs would be a dream come true for me. Spanish food is something real dear to me and it has become a huge part of who I am as a chef. I have so much more to learn and all I want in the end is to open peoples’ eyes (and mouths!) to the greatness of Basque Cuisine!

So here it is…..


Thanks for your time and wish me luck!


P.S. If my video were a drinking game, ya’ll would get super drunk off of how many times I say “Basque” and “Spain”

P.P.S. Peep the ‘NorthWest‘ Shirt I’m wearing at 0:18 secs. I love my city! Have to show the 206 some love.

P.P.P.S. Special Shoutouts to Irbille Donia for being a great camera man! And Minus the Bear (more 206 love) for making such a dope song that I needed to use it in my video.

All About Eggs!: Tortilla Española

Egg cookery has always been something that interested me. One of the many lessons I have learned in my early culinary school days is that cooking eggs will be one of the toughest jobs someone will have in a kitchen…..

Really?!? How could something as simple as cooking an egg be that difficult? Well….. Since I’ve started working brunch, I now understand what they say about eggs.

So this portion of my blog is dedicated too all things eggs! Something that is so easy to make, yet so hard to get right that it could be seen as an art form.

Working brunch at the Harvest Vine has taught me many new preparations of eggs and more importantly, how to properly cook eggs. My first All About Eggs! post is on one of the most traditional dishes of Spain, the Tortilla Española. I have chosen the Tortilla because it holds a large amount of importance to how I work in the kitchen. I have made it a goal of mine to perfect the art of cooking the omelet ever since I’ve had my first taste of one at Txori. It was perfect. A small wedge cut out of the disc shaped omelet served on toasted bread rubbed with garlic oil and then dabbed with 3 perfectly round dots of alioli. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but simple has never tasted so delicious. It took me about 2 years in the making and over hundreds of tortilla but I have finally figured out the ways of the Tortilla Española. There are so many variables that can make or break your tortilla from the batter you make with your potatoes and eggs to the heat control under your pan.

(Photo taken from The Kiwi Project)

Tortilla Española is essentially a potato and onion omelet but the fillings of ingredients can be countless from diced chorizo or ham to various vegetables like peas, artichokes, or roasted peppers. Basically, you can make a tortilla with any ingredient you want. Get creative  and have some fun (check out one of my favorite renditions by Ferran Adrià, the egg and potato chip tortilla)!

To make Tortilla Española, it is preferred to use a potato that is not as starchy. At my work, we use regular russet potatoes and find that it works perfectly fine. Traditionally, Tortillas start with thinly sliced potatoes and onions being cooked down in a pan with oil to cover until the potatoes are tender. At our work, we use reheated panadera potatoes that we add to our eggs so it cuts the time in the kitchen.

We start with 2 quarts of panadera potatoes and slowly reheat them until they are hot to the touch. We then add them to 14 scrambled eggs whisked with a good amount of salt; this makes about 2 full sized Tortillas or around 9 mini Tortillas. The next part is one of the most critical parts of the Tortilla making process, which is to let the batter sit for 30 minutes to an hour. This lets the heated potatoes gently heat up the eggs (but not cook the eggs) to make a very thick batter. I find that the thicker the batter, the faster that center of the tortilla cooks all the way through. If the batter is too thin and water, then it’ll take you longer to cook the tortilla all the way through and also, I find that it makes it easier to brown the outsides of the tortilla. Which is what we don’t want!

Next comes the frying. The key to the frying is to make sure you have the right pan. I prefer deep, heavy skillets that keep an even heat throughout the pan. Now for the oil, you got to make sure that you use enough oil so that the Tortilla doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and also, you need to make sure that the oil is heated up pretty hot. I usually heat it up until right it starts smoking before I add the potato and egg mixture so it instantly sets the bottom of the omelet. After adding the eggs, I return the pan to the stove and set the heat on medium low and carefully watch the omelet by running a spatula around the outside of the rim and scraping the bottom of the pan, making sure it doesn’t stick. When the outer edge of the omelet is thick and the center of the uncooked side looks like its no longer liquid its ready to be flipped!

Known as “la vuelta”, which means the flip, is probably the hardest part of the Tortilla making process. First, run a spatula around the rim again to make sure there is no sticking, then place a flat plate over the pan holding it firmly with your free hand thats not holding the pan handle. Then using both hands, carefully flip over the pan and carefully lift it from the plate, releasing the omelet from the pan. The cooked side of the tortilla should be a golden color with very little browning.

Next, reheat the pan with oil until barely smoking and then carefully push the omelet back into the pan, making sure to tuck in all around the tortilla to form the disc shape. From here on out, it is all about making sure that you watch the heat under the pan isn’t too hot that it browns the omelet. After every 4-5 minutes, I flip the tortilla until the center of the tortilla feels cooked all the way through. A toothpick can be inserted and should come out dry too show you whether or not the tortilla is done.

Even after making a couple hundred of these, I find myself finding new ways to perfect my Tortilla Española. It is always a great feeling when you flip out your Tortilla for the last time and let it sit before you cut into them and indulge in the light and fluffy texture of Tortilla!

Tortilla Española Wrapped in Jamon Serrano then seared until crispy!

The Evolution of Filipino Food and Irbille Edibles

For Filipinos who now live outside the Philippines, the desire to eat Filipino food becomes greater. These are the Filipinos who are the most nostalgic for the foods of home. However, wherever they are they have new foods to savor and new ingredients to experiment with and to add to their Philippine repertoire. It will be exciting to see how adobo, sinigang, and kinilaw can be transformed in the United States, where all types of cuisines are flourishing and new fusions of ideas are happening every day.

Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Filipino food is honest food. The type of food that you that no matter how good nor bad, it has a way of transporting you back to the islands where these dishes were conceptualized. Growing up, I have known Filipino food as one-pot meals that my mother would throw together and serve to the family with the common accompaniments; the freshly cooked jasmine rice, the small bowl of chopped tomatoes mixed with salted duck eggs and patis (fish sauce), a tiny dish that reeks of the bagoong (shrimp paste), and of course the weapons of choice, our fork and spoon. This was the norm for us every single day as far back as I could remember. Filipino food is something that will always be very dear to me, but when I think about it, it is food that I haven’t really put a lot of thought or time into getting to know. With huge bold flavors of sweet, sour, and saltiness, it has taken some time for myself to see how this cuisine is a whole lot more complex than it is ‘simple’.

It wasn’t until I had the opportunity presented to me from fellow chef, Irbille Donia, to take part of a Filipino Pop-Up Dinner that he was organizing under his catering company, Irbille Edibles. His goal for these Filipino Pop-Up dinners is to introduce our community to Filipino Cuisine in a new perspective that people might not be use too. He wanted show how Filipino food could be brought to a new level with the use of new and traditional techniques with the beautiful local produce we get here in the North West. I was pretty skeptical at first solely for two reasons. One, I wasn’t sold yet to the concept of Pop-Up restaurants. And Two, I am a terrible Filipino and haven’t really cooked any Filipino food in my life! (I know, embarrassing!) Regardless, this was a great opportunity to learn something new about something I’ve always believed I knew so much about and also take part of something that hasn’t been seen yet, that being fine dining Filipino food.

It’s been 7 months since we’ve started doing these Filipino Pop-Ups and I have got to see the progression of our team and more importantly, our food. With each Pop-Up, we have learned more and more about Filipino food, especially what Filipino cuisine really is. Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of many cultures that have forever influenced the Philippines through trade and conquests. Primary influences being China, Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Working at The Harvest Vine, which is a traditional Spanish restaurant, I have learned that it is important to know about the history of a cuisine to really understand the food. And with working at the Vine, I have found the many ways that the Spanish had influenced Filipino cuisine through the techniques we use (i.e. escabeche) and also through the products they’ve brought us (i.e. Pork, chorizo, ham, saffron, etc.).

With this kind of knowledge, it opened up a huge amount of ways to reinterpret traditional dishes into a new, yet familiar, kind of way.  What we try to do is break down each dish into a way we can reconstruct it using the same elements, yet make sure that the dish is still a good representation of the dish. This is biggest learning curve that we at Irbille Edibles have seen. Filipinos are some of the most critical people about ‘their’ food. To put it in the nicest way possible, we are the reason it is so difficult for Filipino restaurants to survive in such a demanding market. I feel that Filipinos need to be a little bit more open minded with the way they see not just Filipino food, but food in general. Just because their mother or grandmother might make the best Adobo or Sinigang around doesn’t mean that you should shun everybody else’s interpretation of these foods. As is mentioned in the quote above by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, it is an exciting thing for Filipino food that we are open to new ingredients and techniques to really see how our dishes can evolve. Also, I would like to add that it is OKAY to splurge and indulge sometime. We are known to be penny pinchers, but its ok to break the bank every once in a while. Enjoy what you have worked so hard for and spend some money on not just great food, but also a great experience.

But luckily, we’ve had some of the greatest support for what we are doing at Irbille Edibles. Not just from the Filipino community, but also from the whole ‘foodie’ community here in Seattle. We feel that we are taking Filipino Cuisine into the right direction. We have shown that Filipino food could be elevated into something greater than it already is and still keep true to the tastes. It’s amazing how much Filipino food has progressed within the last couple years. Andrew Zimmern has even declared it to be the “next big thing” in food. There are also a large amount of food trucks popping up around america serving Filipino food on wheels. And also pleanty of restaurants opening its doors and doing the same thing we are doing at Irbille Edibles. Check out La Mesa  and Kanto in Toronto, and Maharlika in New York.

In the end, all I know is that I am proud of what I am. I find it amazing that through my love of food, I was able to gain so much about what being Filipino is really about. I am a Filipino-American and am so grateful for what America and especially the Philippines has to offer. There was so much I have learned within the past 7 months and can only look forward to what the future has to hold for myself,  Irbille Edibles and of course, Filipino Food.

Photos of the many inspired dishes at Irbille Edibles:

Family Meal: Feeding the Staff

If there is one thing that I thoroughly enjoy about working in the restaurant industry,its got to be staff meal or better known as, ‘family meal’. Family meal is a tradition throughout restaurants all over where the kitchen staff prepares a meal for the staff with whatever is in hand in the walk-in. These are meals that you’ll never find on the menu nor is it something that any diner will be likely to experience. Family Meal has gained such a reputation that there are books (The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria and Off the Menu: Staff Meals From America’s Top Restaurants) that are dedicated to the meals that the diners don’t get to see. Usually made with no preconceptions of what will be served, all that is known is that there is always a great amount of appreciation from the staff.

Brunch Family Meal: Mushroom, almonds, and crispy jamon salad w/ poached eggs.

The format of family meal differentiates from restaurant to restaurant. There are restaurants that will do family meal in the middle of the day, right before dinner service. Other restauratns will make family meal throughout dinner service and serve it to the staff at the end of service. then there are those restaurants that won’t make a meal for the staff but will have them order items off the menu for their “meal”. I find this not to be the best way to go since it isnt that cost effective and alsom, where’s the fun in that!?

Brunch Family Meal: Sobrosada, Roasted Beets, Red Potatoes, Rioja Vinegar, Poached Eggs.

At The Harvest Vine, weserve family meal at the end of service. throughout the day, teh most asked question from the staff is not usually about something about the menu (they should already know the menu!), but it is always, “so whats for family meal? Family meal at our restaurant isn’t like any other family meal I’ve experienced at places. It’s not to often that I get to enjoy a meal, especially at my job, where all the staff gather around the bar of our open kitchen and enjoy, relax, and recollect on all that has happend the past 5 Hours. We cooks put up all of the fixings for a great meal. A salad from the pantry station, and starches, vegetables, and proteins prepared from the fish and meat station. We spend all day making sure we put up miraculous food for our diners, that we need to make sure that we eat well too!

Apple and Beef Tongue Salad, Glazed Carrots, Rice Pilaf, Roasted Chicken

I find it an amazing thing that we can come together at the end of the night and just enjoy a simple meal together. It’s difficult enough to do this with my actually family, but I feel that this is as close as I can get to an actually meal with my family. These folks ARE my family. These are the people I see probably the most in my life and it is a great thing knowing that we all have such a great companionship and such camaraderie. To show how great our staff is, even our front of the house staff likes to contribute to staff meal. We’ve had some great meals like homemade lasagna, to empanadas to spam masubi for family meal made by those who don’t even step into the kitchen! How great is that?!

Sauteed Greens, Porchetta with Creamy polenta.

I always find great appreciation for family meal. Not only is it a free meal, there is always so much care behind these meals. These meals brings us together and for a second, we get to forget about what we are there for and stop catering to others and get to cater to ourselveves, our family…

I Feed Off Of Excitement!

It’s been a week since my last post, and a lot has gone on so I haven’t been able get on here. Sadly, I didn’t get a position as a finalist for the Basque Stage to travel to the Basque Country and Stage at Restaurante Martin Berasateugi. It was a great opportunity for myself and I have not felt this accomplished about anything so much and I only made it to the top 30 candidates. Just being part of the Basque Stage has made me feel like a winner. I have learned so much about myself and it has only pushed me to work harder.

But anyways, this is a blog post about something that makes me strive in life and in the kitchen; my excitement for others. I work in an industry where I meet A LOT of people and that is still such an understatement. From other chefs, to our purveyors, to the guests that dine in our restaurants, we interact with so many people. I am lucky enough to have surrounded myself with some great people that have taught me so much about this crazy career. And one thing I have learned about myself is that my excitement for what my other colleagues are doing really influences the way I work in the kitchen. These are the people who are out there really doing what makes them happy. For them, it’s not just a job, it’s their lives and everything they love about it. Their passion and excitement is contagious.

Luuk Hoffman, Taylor Cheney, and Irbille Donia are only some  of the folks that I find myself really excited for, but are some of the chefs that best exemplify the passion for doing what they want to do.

As I mentioned before, it is a  little disappointing not to see my name as one of the finalist for the Basque stage,  but I really feel that two candidates that they chose were really deserving of the great opportunity, specially Luuk Hoffman. I find it an amazing thing when I am influenced so much by the people I am trying to work against. I felt such an excitement for this other candidate that the outcome didn’t really matter for me. We all deserve this opportunity. And thats what I love about the Basque Stage and what you guys are doing. Luuk has really impressed me from the first time I came upon his facebook and blog.I had been rooting for him since day one and I’m so glad to see he came out on top and am really anxious for all of the great things that he will get out of living in the Basque Country!

Luuk’s Basque Stage Candidate Video!


Taylor Cheney is a sweet, sweet girl that I have had great opportunity to work with at The Harvest Vine. She is currently working at Mistral Kitchen under Seattle Chef, William Belickis, and another Harvest Vine Alumni, Taylor Thornhill. I’ve been seeing so much about her and her Arabesque Meals that she is doing every Monday at Mistral and I just really love how it has came about. From such a simple task of cooking family meal for the staff, Taylor was able to transform it to an actual feast of Arab-inspired dishes that eventually lead into something much more. It is an inspiring thing to see her passion for such a cuisine and to be able to share all that she has learned in such a great way!  Check out her article from Seattle Met!

Taylor’s Spread For Seattle Met!

Irbille Donia is a chef/friend that I have known for quite a while. He’s always been like a big brother to me and I just love the passion and drive this guy has. Alike Taylor, he has a great passion and understanding for a cuisine, his being Filipino food. He is the creator of Irbille Edibles, which has been doing great things such as catering gigs and taking part of Pop-Up Restaurant Trend and doing Filipino Pop Up Dinners every last Monday of the Month at Olivar. I’ve been honored to fill the place of his sous chef for these dinners and I’ve never felt so exhilarated. He has such an eye for making something as simple as Filipino food and elevating it to a very sophisticated level. I find this very exciting as Filipino food is probably one of the hardest cuisines to market because honestly, the best place for Filipino food is in any home of a Filipino Mother. We have done two Pop-Up Dinners and we have gotten a lot of great response from the Filipino Culture in Seattle, which is a great accomplishment!

Irbille and I working our first Filipino-Inspired Pop Up Dinner!

I find it really exciting when people are able to take something they love and really put all their heart and soul into it and be able to share it with the world. These are the type of chefs that we need in this industry. I find it very important that we surround ourselves with these people because they are the leaders that will keep us motivated and inspired to do what we want to do as chefs. I can’t be thankful enough to have these great people in my life to help push me to the limits!