Michelin-Starred Chef Alain Ducasse Was Here
The request, to be honest, seemed innocuous enough: Could I host a fundraising dinner at Enderun Colleges for The Tuloy Foundation. Tuloy, as the foundation is fondly called, takes kids who are impoverished or from abusive family environments and give them a chance at a better life. I wasn't in a position to say no. The program has given Enderun some students who have been sent to the best kitchens in the world.
The dinner, of course, had to be something special: It was P10,000 a seat. That's the price to have one of the world's greatest living chefs, Alain Ducasse—via Ducasse Education Philippines—on your plate. The good chef himself was flown in to grace the event, lending the evening’s festivities an extra special touch. It is not every day, of course, that one gets to be in the presence of culinary royalty.
What do you serve the kind of people who can afford to pay this much? Do you serve them a lavish meal of goose liver, lobster and gold leaf, straddling fine china from France? Nope. This is 2018, darling: You serve them vegetables, locally and sustainably raised by hardworking farmers who grow them sans any chemicals and pesticides. They're real treasures from the ground. Eating veggies, and preparing them with the same reverence as you would the finest meats and seafood, is something close to Alain’s heart as his latest restaurants and books show.
It sounds risky, but Team Enderun pulled this off with elegance and panache. Their starter of micro cucumbers in yogurt with local white cheese was refreshing and the perfect glimpse of things to come. The fish course—my personal favorite—was beautifully presented with precision-cut local vegetables and fresh tuna belly. I am not surprised that Kitayama beef figured in the meat course, because they really do have the highest quality of local beef, and this proved it. Even Philippine cheeses were made to shine in a special cheese flight. Rounding it all out was a fancy dessert of lemongrass vacherin with tropical fruit and tea essence.
This is the proof in the proverbial pudding: It is definitely quite possible to make world class dishes—food that can be served in any table in any restaurant in the world—using local Philippine ingredients. The only limit may be one’s imagination, and perhaps, more importantly, access. But that’s another conversation entirely.