French master chef Matthieu Garrel flew to Manila recently and spent a week whipping up new dishes for Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila's world-class interactive restaurant Spiral as well as the hotel's other dining outlets.
Chef Matthieu flew in from Paris for this special French month celebration by Sofitel.
Aside from being an exclusive Maitre Cuisinier de France, or Master Chef of France (only 500 chefs worldwide can claim this distinction), Chef Matthieu has cooked exclusively for former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, supermodel Carla Bruni.
FRESHEST INGREDIENTS. For this trip, his first to the Philippines, Chef Matthieu prepared a feast that taps into Le Belisaire's bistro origins, using the freshest ingredients and flavors.
He explained that he used existing Le Belisaire recipes, not because he's lazy but because he wants authentic French dishes to be made available for this French celebration in Sofitel.
He just made adjustments here and there, but he said, eating each dish will make one feel as if they are in Rue Marmontel, the address of Le Belisaire in Paris.
He had to send "all of my recipes here so that someone could taste for me. I don't taste but I just look and say the changes, like this please, or please like this."
When he arrived in Manila a day before the launch, Chef Matthieu didn't even let his body clock adjust to the new time zone.
He started working at once in the hotel kitchen, thanking the staff for "all they do for me, I didn't have to explain a lot and make changes, just explain a little and make small changes to simple things like salt, pepper, telling them, 'I want this, I prefer this, take out this, we keep this.'"
The Sofitel staff did not disappoint and helped Chef Matthieu prepare eight dishes for the showcase table, and ten dishes for the Spiral buffet.
THREE HOURS OF SLEEP. He even had time to visit an early morning TV show, and worked on just three hours of sleep.
He says he wanted to make sure everything proceeded without a hitch.
As part of his preparation, he asked Sofitel's F&B Director Damien Marcheney what people like in the Philippines, and found out they like goose liver, duck, vegetable, and seafood.
Chef Matthieu shares, "My work is to adapt my technique to all the countries. I visit markets and maybe I [can] get new ideas from there."
He's very generous with what he has prepared.
LOCAL FLAVOR. "All of the recipes I do for this month, it's for them [the clients]. It's not my property, and we just have to change here and there to give pleasure to the customer."
He has never tried Pinoy food so he insisted on tasting local dishes.
"I need to try because I said, please show me what is your market, show me what is the fish market."
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) warned him that the markets here are unlike those he is used to in France and he laughs, "I have to smell your markets, your restaurants, what you like in the kitchen, what is Filipino food..."
He adds he is willing to try the full experience because "it's for my culture, for my memory, also for my cookbook.
"All the time, it's my travel and I make business but I take a lot for me, it's very important."
NEW KITCHEN HEIGHTS. Chef Matthieu brought in his special-edition cookbook, Le Belisaire (named after the restaurant) for this event.
The book features recipes he prepared for Sofitel.
It's also signed by the chef and author—making anyone feel they can conquer new kitchen heights as they are guided by a true food artisan.
What would Chef Matthieu like to have if it were his last meal on earth?
He laughs and reveals, "All of these are of my favorites, but the foie gras, the goose liver with vegetables spiced with clams and mussels... I think it's good because we mix duck, we mix seafood, we mix lots of vegetables.
"And we have a lot of Moroccan spice, seafood from the Philippines, duck from France and I think it was a good combination."