What exactly are the secrets?

16 02 2009

I ACTUALLY don’t have the time to be writing this right now (on a Sunday!).  You see, I am working on a number of presentations for the coming work week.  And putting together concise comments in call out boxes on graphs has put me on a standstill.  I’ve hit a blank wall so bad, I could hear Jewel singing “Standing Still,” on heavy rotation in the music player in my head.

 

But I’ve decided to write this one because I’m building strong opinions about this show I’m watching.  I thought I would be using that term loosely – watching – as I just turned the TV on, for ambient sound in the background as I work.  It was supposed to be nothing but a collage of chiaroscuros that would play as I get busy on my laptop.  But this show I’m watching – the premier telecast of QTV-11’s “Secrets of the Masters” – has demanded my attention.

 

“Secrets of the Masters” has been touted as a showcase of the country’s culinary masters.  They played out names in their teaser and I actually saw some that got me excited – Ariel Manuel, Ed Quimson, and Jill Sandique.  For this premier telecast, they have Chef Gene Gonzalez of Café Ysabel fame (and yes, that corned beef ad).  I do remember watching him on his cooking show on TV before.  And I do know that he has had an illustrious career, owns a culinary school, and has had the opportunity to cook for visiting royalty.  Some of the dishes he made before for Princess Anne (I think…  could be somebody else…) were even featured on the major broadsheets.  I have the newspaper clippings somewhere.

 

The show’s set reminds me of the show “Emeril Live!” on the FoodNetwork.  I’m actually just waiting for Chef Gonzalez to interject “Bam!” everytime he seasons or garnishes his dishes and I swear, it will be “Emeril Live!” all over again.  Fortunately though, he doesn’t have a signature expression or catch phrase – or “Bam!” – so all that I’m left with, as an audience, is contending with his speaking voice that seems to always be at the top of his lungs.  Kind of annoying at times.  Especially since he is in a studio setting, with sufficient voice amplification provided for by microphones.  He doesn’t have to speak so loud as if he were in a Broadway theater trying to reach the audience who bought the cheapest seats in the house.

 

SURPRISINGLY, I like the choice for the show’s host – Issa Litton.  I say surprisingly because I didn’t like her in that lifestyle show.  But here in “Secrets of the Masters,” her vocal modulation and facial expressions do come to good use.  And I have to say that she is one of the few TV personalities with almost impeccable enunciation.  Having said that, I was prepared to sense from her feign affection or appreciation for the dishes she is being served.  But know what?  I could tell that she has been reacting to them genuinely.  I feel her palpable joy over the icre cream, as well as over the oxtail stew with saffron rice (more on the dishes later).  She comes across as someone who could very well be your friend, out to lunch or dinner with you.  She does speak good English and may very well stick to it 100% of the time.  But for good measure – and I guess to reach a wider demographic – she throws in some Filipino words, attempting even to simplify the chef’s highfalutin “chef speak.”

 

But definitely, the stars of the show are the creations of Chef Gene Gonzalez.  While I don’t see myself bowing down in his presence just yet, I have to give him mad props for the creativity with which he concocts “new” dishes and the “innovation” he introduces to time-tested recipes.  He started the show by getting the ice cream churner working on his Chocolate-Tomato Ice Cream (names not accurate), which is being served last.  The salad course is called Silk Road Salad, a tribute to the “silk road” that extends all the way from China to Russia, passing through a number of countries along the way.  And truthful to this name, Chef Gonzalez puts together a melange of, among many other things, delicate lettuces, Philippine mango, Persian apricots, Indian papadoms, and slivers of smoked salmon in a dressing made of extra virgin olive oil and the pulp of ripe Philippine tamarind.  The salad looks good to me.  Seriously.  I feel like the dressing is Chef Gonzalez’s version of a raspberry vinaigrette that I love!  He also makes this Pork Belly with Chocolate Demiglace.  Issa puts it succinctly as “lechon kawali (pan-roasted pork belly) with chocolate!”  For fowl, he makes something called Pato Al Caparas (Braised Wild Duck with Three Kinds of Rice).  This one looks really yummy, especially the close-up shots of the meat and the sauce.  The meat is so tender it was literally falling off the bone.  And having tried various kinds of rice myself, I can tell how delicious the three varying rice textures are, soaking the sauce in.  And then there is the Menudo Sulipena (old-fashioned Pampanga Oxtail Stew) which also looks so sumptuously, sinfully rich.  The oxtail was boiled to perfect tenderness and the ingredients on their own sound temptingly good – the roasted peppers, specifically.  And the Saffron Rice he serves this stew with couldn’t look any better.  It is almost risotto-like, glistening with the golden yellow color the saffron infused each grain of rice with.

 

But unfortunately, as the show comes to an end, I am being left here wondering what the secrets really are.  I didn’t see anything I don’t already know or somehow have an idea about.  Unless of course if it is all about Chef Gene Gonzalez’s creativity and innovation.  Then, I will agree – those are his secrets.  And he is a whiz too in plating his dishes!  We eat with our eyes first, after all.  And watching this show, all I can do is eat with my eyes.  And I have to say that Ms. Litton did a great job giving me the vicarious thrill of savoring the night’s masterpieces.  As this is a new show – unless they have all the episodes in the can already – I hope they will do away with the heavy editing that cuts a lot from the actual cooking process.  The dishes were almost instantaneously dished out.  I would’ve loved to have seen the chef’s technical skills and techniques.  But I think it is because of their desire to pack in as many dishes in just one hour.  They had to compromise.

 

And yes, Chef Gene Gonzalez has to hawk his cookbook series as the show does come to an end.  Which is a good thing actually.  I guess I will check it out on my next visit to the bookstore.

 

The next show is HIRED, the search for Cravings’ next Chef de Partie.  I turned the TV off.

 

 


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One response

24 02 2009
stavemichael

i also like watching this show. last sunday. and i was so totatlly amazed with the palitaw with ube inside.. “ganun pala iluto yun” hahahahaha. i tot it would be cooked in a pot of oil. bino-boil lang pala. *laughs* (i dont know how to make palitaw kasi)

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