A Taste of Art, A Brush of Flavor: The Culinary and Creative Genius of Claude Tayag
By: Mye Mulingtapang An Impressive Journey in the World of Food and Art Claude Tayag , born in 1956 in Angeles City, Pampanga, is like a one-man show that could fill several lifetimes! He's not just a talented painter, but also a wizard with wood sculpting and furniture design. On top of that, he's a top-notch chef with awards to prove it, a bestselling author, a regular columnist for the Philippine Star, hosts his own show called "Chasing Flavors" on the Metro Channel — and he’s the culinary genius who introduced sisig to none other than Anthony Bourdain. The guy's got more skills than you can shake a spatula at! Coming from a big family of 12, Tayag and his siblings learned the art of cooking from their mom, Adoracion Suarez Tayag. Even as a teenager, he was known for being a wizard in the kitchen, always experimenting and trying new things. From Canvas to Kitchen Tayag stepped into the spotlight as a chef when he opened "Art Woks" at Larry Cruz’s Ang Hang Restaurant back in 1988. Here, he transformed his paintings into edible masterpieces. In 1993, he was the featured chef at the Manila Hotel, showcasing his twists on traditional Pampango cuisine. In 2001, he was invited for a special stint at the Prince Albert Rotisserie of the InterContinental Manila —- the first Filipino chef to score such an invite. His first book, Food Tour, is a delightful mix of essays, peppered with his own drawings and mouth- watering recipes. It even snagged the Best Philippine Culinary Travel Guide at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2007. Tayag's also one of the six culinary maestros behind KULINARYA: – A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine , where he also showcased his food styling chops. Teaming up with his wife Mary Ann Quioc, they penned the best-selling culinary travel guidebook LINAMNAM: – Eating One’s Way Around the Philippines . Now in its second edition, it's been a hit, selling over 25,000 copies. From Pampanga to the World Nestled in Balé Dutung, Angeles City, Pampanga, Claude and Mary Ann whip up a mouthwatering traditional Pampango feast for lucky diners at their reservation-only restaurant. Bloggers consistently rate Balé Dutung as one of the top five restaurants in the Philippines. They've also set up shop with a full-time restaurant, 1956 DOWNTOWN Café, in Angeles City, serving up Claude's unique take on classic Filipino dishes. In May 2016, Claude represented the Philippines at the Embassy Chefs Challenge in Washington, D.C., USA, winning the People’s Choice Award for his delectable dish Bringhe. It featured heirloom rice from the Cordilleras and other Filipino goodies. He outshone 25 other chefs from around the globe. Fast forward to November 2018, and he was back in the limelight, representing the country in the Korean-Asean Rice Festival in Seoul, Korea. Adding yet another feather to his cap, Tayag also hosts a TV show called Chasing Flavors on the Metro Channel. Only in its second season, it already bagged the Gawad TANGLAW (Tagapuring mga Akademisyan ng Aninong Gumagalaw) Jury Award in 2019 for Cultural Development and Sustainability. Sisig and Beyond The late, great chef, author, and television personality Anthony Bourdain was known to love Filipino food, especially sisig. He was first introduced to the legendary Kapampangan pig dish during a conversation about it with Tayag in 2008. Filipinos love sisig, a famous meal typically served hot and sizzling on a plate composed of chopped and seasoned pork. According to Bourdain, sisig is the "perfect beer food" because of its distinct texture and strong flavors. In the Philippines, while filming No Reservations , Bourdain visited Aling Lucing's Sisig in Angeles City, Pampanga, and sampled some delicious sisig. Captivated by the dish's savoury goodness, he declared it to be one of the best pig dishes ever. Because of Bourdain's love of sisig, the dish's reputation on the international culinary scene was further enhanced. He frequently praised Filipino food and its variety of flavors, with sisig emerging as a symbol of the country's abundant and delectable culinary offerings. His support of sisig has resonated with foodies all across the world and solidified its status as a favorite dish in global culinary debates. An August 2017 edition of Chasing Flavours had this thought-provoking discussion. The World Street Food Congress creator, K.F. Seetoh, was also featured in the programme, offering an intriguing look into culinary knowledge and cross-cultural interaction. Bridging Cultures Through Food Tayag’s culinary influence extends beyond his introduction of sisig to Anthony Bourdain. He stands as a prominent figure in the global Filipino culinary landscape due to his unwavering commitment to promoting Filipino cuisine worldwide. Tayag extended the reach of his latest book The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Stories through the Ages to Filipino communities in Europe. The book provides an insightful journey into the historical roots of adobo from the selection of ingredients to the cooking process, illustrating its integral role in Filipino culture and tradition. The book features a compilation of interpretations on how to prepare adobo from a diverse group of Filipino chefs. These recipes are accompanied by narratives that delve into the cultural significance and stories surrounding this beloved Filipino dish. "This Ultimate Filipino Adobo book, in a way, is a celebration of our diversity. We have more similarities than we realize. What brings us together is our love of food, our love of eating together, our love of entertaining, of sharing our bounty," Tayag says. In Milan, the Consulate General led the Ultimate Filipino Adobo Challenge on October 13. The challenge showcased classic adobo, beef adobo, and dry garlic pork adobo in conjunction with the launch of Tayag's book. Tayag's presentation and Filipino culinary experience at the Philippine Pavilion of the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 19 garnered significant interest and attention in Frankfurt, Germany. "The Ultimate Filipino Adobo" proudly joins the esteemed collection of culinary books recognized by the National Book Development Board of the Philippines. In Germany, Filipino communities, each with their unique culinary backgrounds, presented their own renditions of Adobo. Variations included Ibanag toasted adobo, adobo floss balls, adobong Bisaya, Bacolod tres adobo, and Batangueno chicken adobo. Filipino-German chefs and adobo enthusiasts united to showcase aAdobo as an emblem of Filipino gastronomy in Germany. Championing Filipino Cuisine For Tayag, regardless of variations in ingredients, preparation techniques, and appearances, adobo serves as a cherished memory of Filipino family gatherings around dining tables worldwide. He emphasizes the significance of self-identity in relation to food. "In defining what Filipino cuisine is, it’s like a symphony of subtle flavors —– the sweet, the salty, the sour, and maybe a bit of bitter but all combined in one bite", said Tayag. While Filipino cuisine still works towards universal recognition, the dedication and endeavors of food ambassadors and Philippine government agencies are making significant strides in acquainting global cultures with the distinct flavors of Filipino cuisine. Claude Tayag underscores that the flexibility and adaptability of our way of cooking is so easy. We can do Filipino cooking anywhere, wherever you are in the world. This makes Filipino cuisine the most democratic cuisine in the world. The sharing of Filipino culture through food encompasses not only the taste and flavors but also the skill and proficiency in culinary arts, the warm hospitality at dining tables, and the profound love for Filipino culture and history around the world.