Do you remember the first thing you wanted to be when you grow up? Is that what you have become? It’s not for me!
Inspired so early
As far as I can remember I wanted to be a dentist because my dentist was rich! Haha! And then I wanted to be a priest (eww, yikes!). Rumor has it that the priests, in our parish at least, have lechon and special dishes on a regular basis. Regular churchgoers like us experience special food only on special occasions. There was even a time that becoming a lawyer crossed my mind. But I was already fond of watching cooking shows, glued to Wok with Yan. I had always wanted to be part of the live audience for free food. He cooked Chinese food like it’s a walk in the park.
Wok with Yan, starring Chef Stephen Yan, started in the late 70s and was widely syndicated until the mid-90s.
Cooking it up with the Dazas would be next in the lineup. I could still hear Sandy Daza in my head saying “Mix it veeeeery, very well.” For me, Nora Daza, their mom, is the Philippines’ Julia Child. Her cookbook Let’s Cook with Nora is my bible.
Let’s Cook with Nora, is updated, and with a digital edition available.
The Dazas: Gabriel III, Sandy, Mariles, Stella, and Nina with Ms Nora Daza (seated), photo captured from facebook.com
And there’s Chef Heny Sison! Was it an hour’s show? On IBC 13? This was where my interest in baking grew. It was a love-hate relationship, really.
Chef Heny Sison photo captured from HomeFoodie.
I watched Heny and Jackie Ang-Po cook and bake as if it was so easy and how much I wasted on ingredients doing what they did on the show! That was when I wanted to be a chef.
When I started cooking at the age of 5 or 6 I plated the food according to what was on a newspaper’s lifestyle section, magazine, or hotel flyer. I set our table with napkins and layered plates without knowing why it was done. A curveball took place in my life and I graduated from interior design. But a few years later, I was at the registrar’s office and enrolled in a culinary arts certificate program. It felt like I was being led somewhere, and prepared for something.
I decided, finally
Culinary arts and hospitality jobs became a phenomenon that took over nursing as the most wanted career paths to pursue. So phenomenal, it took mainstream media by storm. Celebrity chefs mushroomed with daily cooking shows when back in the day there was only a handful on weekends.
Aside from Sandy Daza and Heny Sison I also look up to chefs Fernando Aracama, Reggie Aspiras, and the late Ed Quimson. My paella is Quimson-inspired.
Chef Fernando Aracama is one who always pushed me to better my best. We first met during the 2013 Philippine Culinary Cup where my team won the gold. It had been a yearly thing for a while, the winnings. Whenever we bumped into each other he’d ask, “What did you get (medal) last year? Good luck, aim higher.” I saw him in commercial competitions too from time to time. Such an encounter flattered and humbled me at the same time because in my head I was saying “one day, I’m going to be like you” with that sense of achievement.
Up the stage again during the 2016 Philippine Culinary Cup with the best my team could present.
Chef Fernando Aracama with the author.
Sometimes no matter how we push we are destined to go in a different direction to be something bigger and better than what we thought we could be. People close and around you will say ‘you are never enough’ or ‘you have not proven anything despite the winnings and exposures. Do not allow them to break you; they are not even worth your while.
Such an encounter flattered and humbled me at the same time because in my head I was saying, “one day, I’m going to be like you” with that sense of achievement.
On the other hand, there are those who cheer you on, people—the angels—who, unknowingly for you, open doors, opportunities, or lead you to them, and unconsciously brighten up even your gloomiest days. And if that is not enough, imagine living your dream! Hang on to that and keep going.
Look up to your inspirations. Thrive! Conquer! Miss Universe Catriona Gray couldn’t have sealed her response better, “Be grateful!” because there are still things to be thankful for.
Merry Christmas everyone! We survived in 2020. Cheers to a brighter and better 2021!
Featured image: Winning the Gold in the 2013 Philippine Culinary Cup, ‘where the best meet to compete,’ with my team.
Chef Chris Lachenal strives to elevate Filipino cuisine and revive dishes that are slowly losing popularity. A former chef instructor, he emphasized the importance of understanding the process of things in order to grasp refinement in food. As a chef-for-hire he satisfies his clients, always. He is the creative and passionate soul behind FoodCreations by CCL.