Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TALK TO THE COOK ] Victor Magsaysay cooks inihaw na puso ng saging from Paris

vicsAn heirloom dish from Magsaysay's lola in Agusan. At right, the chef at La Cuisine.

I met Victor Magsaysay in the very late ‘90s. We were introduced by the fashion choreographer Ariel Lozada in Matina where I used to hang out (people used to say I was already part of the furniture). He was a bit inebriated. He was wearing a shirt of his own design, a simple tee with a cross stitched on a sleeve. He says now that it was 1997, he was 25, and the tee also had MANILA inscribed on it in blood red.

I’m not sure now but I think that his designs have a bit of a cult following then, which included Cecile Zamora and Michael Salientes. We exchanged only a few words but I thought there was something very sexy about him. A few days after that he was off to New York and would not be heard from since then.

While he has remained in touch with a couple of friends, I only got in touch with Victor again through facebook and found he has become a chef. He recently cooked a dinner inspired by authentic Filipino recipes at the la Cuisine in Paris. I asked him to share a recipe for Swank and he politely agreed.

When did you start being a chef? How?
I was always interested in food. I am still primarily a visual artist though my training is in design. I started missing Pinoy food here in Paris seven years ago.

You used to design clothes, right? What made you shift?

I started with a tailoring shop in Makati when I was 17 then went to school in FIT for menswear design. I was part of an art collective called ORFI (Organization for the Return of Fashion Interest) in New York with two partners, an architect and a stylist. We were nominated Best Menswear Designer in 2001 at the CFDA. Then, in 2002 I moved to Paris to design furniture for a friend. I think food is just another expression of creativity, you work with ingredients proportion and timing. It's very similar.

vicClockwise from topmost left: the entrance of La Cuisine; sliced eggplant and cherry tomatoes for the pinakbet; preparing the dinner; an appetizer of what looks like the local okoy; and what looks like a sawsawan of vinegar; Magsaysay instructing a French staffer.

What's your favorite part about cooking?
Imagining the elements together.

What's your idea of a perfect breakfast?
Rice soup! And all it's variations...lugao, congee, jok, khao tom etc. etc.

The most memorable meal you've had.

Food for me brings back memories and emotions it's hard to say...

The most memorable meal you've cooked.
My first omellette

Most important lesson learned in the kitchen.
Find your groove and stay calm.

Inihaw na puso ng saging

(A recipe of my grandmother from Cabadbaran, Agusan)

Grill the banana heart in an open flame until the outer leaves are charred and burned and the banana heart is soft when squeezed.

Remove the burned outer skin ‘til you reach the tender heart.

Slice lengthwise to get eight or more separate spears.

Marinate for two hours in oil, salt and vinegar to avoid discoloration.

Discard excess vinegar and lay out the spears on a deep tray.

Simmer coconut milk and pour over the banana heart.

Add sliced red onions and sliced tomatos.

Squeeze native biasong lime or kombava rind on the salad.

Serve with grilled fish or tapa.

Photographs by Yusuke Kinaka. For Victor's entire menu (in French), click here.

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