Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cavite's Culinary Generals Preserve Regional History Through Cuisine

It has been more than a year since I last got acquainted with a group of Eat and Cheat, a group of chefs, farmers, and local food enthusiasts that focuses in developing recipes for cancer patients and health food advocates.  I was torn when I heard about the group bit the dust. But it sure paved a way for my colleagues getting a share of the limelight in their own terms.

As a point of fact, the Razorchefs led by Chef Chris Caraingan have earned more and more interesting projects, and one which all of us Filipnos should be truly proud of.

Come the launch of Food Holidays, I met Chef Chris again.  This time he gave a little talk about the Culinary Generals.  After the event, we were able to get to chat, and boy, was I so happy after him inviting me to be one of the Razorchefs.  Razorchefs, as a contrary to many's knowledge isn't only composed of learned chefs from prestigious culinary academies, They are a group of cooks, food purveyors and people passionate by heart about food.  Up till now, that seemingly good news still gives me chills down my spine.  How could I have been nay prouder of myself.

With that short chat, Chef Chris gave me an idea of the who's, whats and why's behind The Culinary Generals.

According to him, it's an association of Cavite-based chefs, restaurateurs, food historians, entrepreneurs, cooks and academicians, whose members call themselves the Culinary Generals. They are trying to preserve the region’s history by reviving interest on regional heirloom recipes and table traditions, which are fast disappearing from everyday life.

“The Culinary Generals” came about as a result of Calabarzon’s participation in last year’s Madrid Fusion”, declared Culinary General chef Christopher Carangian.  

“The Department of Tourism (DOT) Region IV-A Office gathered the best practitioners from the region’s food industry for participation at the Calabarzon booth at the 2015 Madrid Fusion and it was there that we decided to form a group that would keep alive the region’s heirloom dishes that have disappeared from everyday life, promote regional culinary talents, as well as native local products and produce,” explained chef Carangian during the 2016 edition of Madrid Fusion Manila.

Another Culinary General, leadership guru Cornel Bongco , said “that in the meetings of the Culinary Generals, we rediscovered new ideas by revisiting the old way of life, even leadership principles, trade secrets, and business ethics that are still useful today.”   He cited as example the old ritual called Tagayan, where guests and hosts take turns to propose a toast in poetry form.   This drinking ritual, which started in the Quezon Province, displays the hospitable nature and civilized way of life of the southern Tagalog region.   “Rediscovering food is not only a way of rediscovering our past, but also rediscovering oneself.  Each bite is a bite of history, a bite into old principles, for us to be better Filipinos,” he added.

Architect Encarnacion Raralio, President of the Imus Institute of Science and Technology and a Culinary General herself, lamented that old folks have started to pass away, together with their heirloom recipes.   “That is our biggest fear and is the reason why we are raising against time to trace the region’s culinary history and traditions,” she said.

DOT Region IV-A Director Rebecca Labit said that, “as the Calabarzon region marches towards a progressive future, the region also tries to keep its culinary heritage alive. As a cradle of history, the region proudly nurtured some of the country’s heirloom cuisine and it is crucial to safeguard this intangible heritage. This is a difficult task and we are very grateful to the Culinay Generals for devoting themselves to this undertaking.”

One of the ways that the Culinary Generals try to keep the almost forgotten culinary tradition of Cavite relevant and interesting once more is done through the annual Kalye Kulinarya, a three-day local gastronomy congress that features a food bazaar, trade expo and business seminar.   Kalye Kulinarya helps to promote local traditional producers and small proprietors, particularly backyard businesses, which mostly do not have any packaging or branding.  Another project in the offing is a coffeetable book on heirloom recipes and cuisine linked to the region’s history.

Membership into the association of Culinary Generals is by invitation only.  Those interested will have to submit their credentials and members will assess whether the applicant meets the group’s standards for history and heritage cuisine.

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