An Epic Win for the Filipino Cuisine — @Filipino Unsung Kitchen Heroes in Japan
In the mean time, while the local news is centered on politicking and drugs, here is definitely some refreshing news for all Filipinos from all-over the world to be happy and will surely put a smile on your face when you read the whole story below.
It is about our identity in celebration of our love for food and something that can somehow give us some national pride amidst the social and political turmoil we are already familiar with these days…without further ado.
Last September 30, in the land of ramen, sushi-eating samurais and split-toed ninjas, our very homegrown folks have silently waved and hoisted the Philippine flag and pride by sweeping the top 2 places in the prestigious Japan Soy Sauce Association’s – The 8th Soy Sauce Recipe and Story Cooking Contest during the awarding ceremonies held in the Royal Park Hotel in Tokyo Japan.
Bagging the top place or Gold Medal is Claire Ocampo (mimiclaire.com and mimiclairekitchenstudio.com) with her jaw dropping recipe of entitled as “Pork Belly Adobo with Banana in Caramelized Kokuto Brown Sugar” or in short, “Super Adobo” : ) and following her on the 2nd place / Silver Medal Award is Justin De Jesus (justinjapan.com) with his “Bistek Tagalog in Yuzu-Soy Sauce”. Tying close next goes to Florence Zappia of Canada for her dish rendition called “Nasu no Ageni Itarian Sosu Soe”.
Truly, the Adobo has become our representative dish in the world that carries and embodies our food culture as a Filipino but this time, it has proved to be just as epic and delicious as it could, given the naturally-sweet twist given by the ingenious cook that is Claire, while Justin epitomized our Filipino’s conventional preference for the beef steak – a la Tagalog style, however using a native Japanese ingredient yuzu or Japanese lemon in place of the calamansi.
Both dishes wowed the panel of judges and chefs including Yukio Hattori Sensei (better known as the President of Hattori Nutrition College and host/judge of Japanese Iron Chef) himself, which carefully analyzed and screened the recipe entries that poured from all over of Japan.
It is very, very and truly a silent proud moment for them as Filipinos – knowing that their victory means that their taste buds have been certified and proven to be as not only oishii but also soulfully satisfying – by a high-caliber food experts panel composed of top celebrity Japanese Chef as judges, recognizing the traditional Filipino taste as something which their gustatory sensors can appreciate exceptionally as well.
While Filipino cuisine is struggling to be recognized as at par with the world’s most famous cuisine (French, Spain, Italian and Japanese to name a few popular ones), this small victory gives us hope that we can truly adapt to different food cultures while maintaining the essence of our own. Most in Japan would even know or not deny the fact whether there is even such a thing as “Filipino Cuisine”, honestly speaking. But to wow the high-profile judges and audience by winning the top 2 consecutive places in interpreting the use of soy-sauce as an ingredient in delivering savoring dishes such as this feat has become a humbling experience for these two food aficionados who have just dreamed of winning a contest, let alone one, in their passion for the love of food and cooking.
Little does everybody know that, these 2 folks – Claire and Justin – are actually partners mainly as a tandem with the former being an a self-entitled food experimenter/cooking instructor and the latter as a budding food photographer respectively.
They are and have been teaming up to help each other in their expertise and hopes of becoming an an established chef/entrepreneur and while Justin aims to become a fulfilled patisserie and respectable food photography and stylist at the same time here based in Japan.
Claire opened this year her own venture called the Mimiclaire’s Kitchen Studio in Urawa,Saitama, Japan to teach Filipino, French, Italian and Japanese Cuisine to savvy inbound tourists and locals who wish to learn cooking various dishes using English while sharing her love for the food while striking the cord between experimenting with achieving the ultimate fusion cuisine which attempts to combine all the fabulous elements of different food cultures in the world. Thus, using the catchy “Eigo de Cooking” as her slogan in promoting her classes.
Basically, she caters to the locals who want to learn new dishes while brushing up on their English skills while gearing the classes to become sort of a melting pot between in-bound tourists, Japanese locals and foreigners living in Japan as well who wish to learn preparing dishes in the convenience of a friendly English or bilingual atmosphere.
Eager students can book her classes either thru her main website (mimiclaireskitchenstudio.com) and thru the local kitchen adventures booking service Tadaku.com (a match-making site which aims to teach locals, foreign dishes in English). She also teaches wagashi courses and other specialized Japanese food courses like soba and sushi making lessons in her classes.
Actually, she even finished and completed the French Patisserie Diplome Program in the prestigious Le Cordon Blue – Tokyo Daikanyama campus 2 years ago and is an expert in that field as well, although she really prefers to delve deeper more into her passion towards the the cuisine proper and really specialize in French Cuisine if given the chance later on again. With this in end, she hopes to achieve the ultimate fusion of Japanese, Asian-Filipino and French/European cuisines in her future creations as she continues to further her natural talent towards cooking.
On the other hand, Justin, is popularly known as a genius professional food stylist and photographer who have been already covering and gracing the leading food magazine covers in the Philippines before he decided to come to Japan almost a year ago to pursue his higher dreams of one day becoming a renowed patissier while immersing himself in the Japanese food culture and learning more about Japanese cuisine.In his spare time, he is busy documenting his explorations and discoveries of Japan thru his website/blog at justinjapan.com which surely will show and tell you just how multi-talented this photographer is who just loves everything about food.
He and Claire are helping each other and conduct food experimenting sessions and photo-shoots almost weekly while they test recipes and gather materials for their food blogging ventures and hope to publish a cookbook and coffee table book someday showcasing all of their creations and works. He has just finished his 1 year long intensive Japanese course and is now establishing himself here while dabbing in different photography and aesthetic engagements.
As for him, he is now in the preparation phase to stepping up his Food/Photography career and preparing to become a kitchen expert as well with specialty on the sweets and baking side. Currently, he is working as the the ever-dependable curator,fashion/photographer for the Japan Lover Me Store (a premium portal site for curating premium Japanese items and products including the sukajan souvenir jackets)
In the passionate run for their dreams while keeping their hopes betting high in the future, both of them are striving to give back to their homelands by leveling-up the image of the not-so-known Filipino Cuisine including the “image” per se of what is being a Filipino in Japan is all about – in the international scene while sharing simply their passion for the love of the food just like everyone who enjoys eating. In so doing, they aim to become as “kake-hashi” or bridge between the Philippines and Japan and serve as food ambassadors or diplomats in their own respects. Thus, they are considered the unsung heroes from a not-so far-away land from their home country, with the kitchen as their battle ground armed with their knives, rolling pins, mixers and exotic ingredients. Their glory can be also considered a victory for the every patriotic Filipino in us, specially during these times, we what we all need is a patriotic boost and a national identity that can totally bind us all and move forward as a nation.
Truly an epic win for everybody. Let us give them all an applause and watch them out as they further their crafts and endeavours. Wishing them all the best of luck!
Thanks for the great honor and giving respect to our motherland when we just need it most. Really.
Please share your support by following and cheering up on these guys by following their pages and social accounts below:
Justin De Jesus
** On a personal note, I would like to commend, congratulate and pat my wife on the back for doing a great job and your best in whatever and everything you chose to be and do for yourself. Truly, it has been a bumpy ride for you and us, as we struggle to balance the healthy mix of passion and business along the line. Surely, the day will come, when all of your dreams will be fulfilled and an indeed translated into reality. Cheers to more delicious food and I just can’t stop to become a silent cheerer-critic for you and your endeavors. Keep it up and you are almost there. The universe has conspired and started to re-align itself already to your will and aspirations. I and Chisa loves you very much!
Please watch out for the videos and other articles that were written by the local media as well and support them in their kitchen adventures. So if you guys want to learn something local in English with a flair of a classy ambience here in Japan and in an at-home feel. Do not hesitate to fly and come to Saitama and book her classes,. Surely, your food tours/trip will be memorable and worth a lifetime : )
So next year, are we ready to bring home the bacon guys again? Lemme see, maybe I can notch up and try some cooking lessons from Chef Mimiclaire’s Kitchen Studio Mimiclaire’s Kitchen and aim for the 3rd place for a Grand Slam win hehehe…
Cooking Contest Details:
The full set of photos can be downloaded and viewed here:
Hope you can share this good news and it would mean a lot specially for us Filipinos outside Japan, trying to make a decent thing out of our being a Filipino in everywhere and everything that we do.
Domo arigato for your attention and time and hopefully for a feature ^^