Traveling is the best way to try different cuisines anywhere in the world. That’s something I’d personally do if I jumped on a plane or car to anywhere. Maybe this is why chefs like Margarita Forés make for good TV as they travel the world one kitchen at a time.
Margarita, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef last year, has an upcoming culinary travel show called Harvest with Margarita Forés. This four-part series will premiere on Feb. 18, 7 p.m. on CNN Philippines. Over lunch at Lusso, we got a sneak peek of her new show and got insight on how she makes the most of her many trips across the Philippines.
That said, we gathered lessons on traveling and discovering new regional cuisines from our catch-up with Margarita. Every (aspiring) jetsetter might want to take note of this.
During her trip to Bicol, Margarita was taught how to make a traditional laing and even gata. Despite her background in Italian cooking, we found that she’s still open to learn about the local delicacies here in the country.
“I know a lot about my own region, from Negros Occidental. But what’s really an eye-opener for me is what they do in other parts of the Philippines,” Margarita says. “I’ve come to realize that, regionally, there’s so much to discover. It reminds me a little bit of Italy where they’re also very regional. Sometimes it’s not even one region to the next, it’s one town to the next.”
Coming from Negros Occidental, Margarita considers inasal as one of the recipes that’ll always stay with her. This is why she likes interpreting that in different ways.
“The one they do in Negros is different because of how they marinate it. [That said,] it can be applied to any protein. It can be interpreted in a more modern way, especially with the new repertoires that I’m doing.”
“[One of my favorite ingredients from the province] is taba ng talangka. Whenever I make crab ravioli, I top it with taba ng talangka and sour cream made from calamansi,” Margarita says. She also shares facts about the meal and wine we had at Lusso. “The raspberry we put in your wine is sampinit, which is a rare raspberry that’s grown in the wild. Our Chicken Veronique is made from farm-grown chicken and the risotto has Bulacan river prawn.”
Margarita tells us that most scenes are impromptu, especially when she’s cooking. Of course, when you’re traveling and in a remote area, you should know how to improvise your cooking tools and methods.
“When we’re cooking, the [stove’s heat can get] into my face and it makes me tear up. That happened a lot in Bicol because we were shooting in the rain and we were cooking over fire wood. It’s safe to say that nothing’s rehearsed because we only decide what dishes to do when I get there, based on the ingredients I see and the dishes I encounter.”
When asked about her favorite dishes and restaurants, Margarita can’t name one. But she says that the best dishes aren’t extravagant, nor are they found in fancy restaurants.
“I have so many favorites from everywhere I’ve been. Maybe what I can say are the restaurants that are found in the least expected places. Those that are by the roadside and where you just have home-style cooking, not a Michelin-star place. I think that when you encounter something like that, it remains a favorite. There are many restaurants like that in the many places I’ve visited and those are the places I go back to. Not the ones that have a Michelin star.”
“That’s the thing I want the audience to go home with after seeing the show—for them to realize that there’s just a wealth of things to discover, whether they’re near of far from wherever they are. There’s just so much to discover, not just cuisine-wise or culturally, but even learning about how they are as a people,” Margarita says. “What they do is always distinctly important and uniquely different, and I think discovering that wherever I go is a really important lesson.”
Photos courtesy of CNN Philippines