Filipino dishes will be highlighted at Le Tavole Accademiche 2017. This October, Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (UNISG) in Pollenzo, Italy opens its kitchen to Filipino Chef Jam Melchor. UNISG, founded in 2004 by Slow Food International in cooperation with the Italian regions of Piedomont and Emilia-Romagna, has focused on the study of gastronomy. Le Tavole Accademiche embraces this focus through food that combines education, haut cuisine and local produce.
Every year, 25 international top chefs are invited to prepare creative recipes that reflect the school’s principles of good, clean and fair food using local, seasonal ingredients. For the first time, a Filipino chef will present the local cuisine and gastronomy as Chef Jam Melchor visits UNISG this third week of October, 2017.
I first met Chef Jam Melchor during the press launch of the first Tinapay Natin Bread Making Competition. He opened his first restaurant Villa Café in 2011, serving modernized Kapampangan heirloom recipes. This was followed by Bite Contemporary Cuisine in 2012, which was hailed as one of Manila’s best restaurants for 2013 by spot.ph, and known for its organic dishes and its advocacy for sustainability. In 2013, he established Healthy Eats Manila, now known as YesPlate, and considered as the only sustainable diet delivery service in the metro that aims to provide nutritious calorie counted meals and easy weight management solutions to professionals that includes top celebrities.
From 2014 to 2015, he was commissioned by the the Philippine government under the Department of Agriculture to be the Chef Ambassador representing the Philippines for the ASEAN Roadshow 2014 Linamnam!: Flavours of the Philippines. It was held in different ASEAN Countries to promote local products for export, with a food festival showcasing Filipino classic dishes.
This paved the way for him to convene the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement, an SEC-registered, non-profit movement dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Philippine culinary heritage and gastronomy.
An active member of Slow Food International, Chef Jam participated as a delegate and Philippine representative for the Terra Madre 2016 last September in Italy, cooking and presenting Filipino dishes and Philippine Ark of taste ingredients to the world. He shared that the organizers of the food congress noticed that the Philippine booth was abuzz. This prompted him to be invited for an interview which paved the way for the opportunity to be part of Le Tavole Accademiche 2017.
“I want this trip to be a platform for Filipino food to be recognized, especially in that university where they value gastronomy,” Chef Jam shares. “My goal is to inspire more Filipinos, the youth especially, to discover more about our cuisine like where it comes from and what is it all about.”
During his visit, Chef Jam will be serving classic and regional dishes that will hopefully fire up more conversations about Filipino food as UNISG students and alumni feast on Filipino fare. Although he hails from Pampanga, his menu will feature different provinces through his Sinigang na Bayabas, Adobong Batangan, Binulo na Tinawon and Sinuglao.
While the Sinigang na Bayabas, soured with the local guava, highlights his Kapampangan roots and is a personal favorite, Chef Jam acknowledges that sinigang, just like a number of Filipino dishes, has different interpretations. He travels to Batangas for his Adobong Batangan, pork belly braised in vinegar, garlic, and annatto. “Batangan is the old name for Batangas, where the dish originated.”
Binulo na Tinawon pays homage to the traditional way Filipinos cook rice using bamboo. This version will highlight the heirloom rice tinawon, grown in the Banaue Rice Terraces.“I want people to know more about our interesting food culture, its diversity and abundance,” Chef Jam adds.
Chef Jam crafts his menu around local ingredients such as pili from Albay, adlai from Bukidnon and mango from Guimaras and Zambales. In fact, pili will be an integral component of his dessert plates, that features Mango Pili Sansrival and Pili-Crusted Turon.
He will also be bringing several Filipino Ark of Taste ingredients, which he will have the chance to present to UNISG and use in his menu. At the press conference, I was able to talk to Chef Jam. I learned that this endeavor is being supported by the Philippine government. As a matter of fact, some of his travel expenses will be shouldered by the government, and the Department of Agriculture will be in charge in flying in most ingredients to Italy from the Philippines.
That means that the participants at the Le Tavole Accademiche (Academic Tables) of the Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (UNISG) will have the chance to experience authentic Filipino dishes. Chef Jam Melchor will make everything from scratch. After the event, UNISG will conduct a study of Philippine produce and will send students to study about our crops.
UNISG hones the minds of future gastronomists about the global food culture through academic discussions and practical experiences that allow them to discover and taste more of what lies beyond their shores. Through the endeavors of chefs like Jam Melchor, we can be assured that conversations and dialogues about Filipino food and Philippine ingredients will continue with the next generation of gastronomes.
Chef Jam will be assisted by Johan Movido, a culinary graduate from CCA Manila. The road to Le Tavole Accademiche was made possible with help from the following sponsors: Department of Agriculture – Philippines, the Province of Pampanga and Albay, the city of Angeles, Carl Schmidt Sohn PH, Mama Sita’s Mixes and Sauces, Le Jardin Café, Top Chef Enterprise, Destileria Limtuaco, Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement, and Slow Food Youth Network Philippines.
As Filipino cuisine is making its mark and becoming popular in the global market, Chef Jam hopes that we’ll be able to sustain production of local produce in the country. The opportunity at presented by UNISG at the Le Tavole Accademiche shows that Filipino has arrived in the global scene. As the demand grows, the Philippines should be able to deliver in order to succeed and maintain our footing globally. For parties interested to support this endeavor, you may get in touch with Chef Jam through his email at [email protected] or mobile 09178309516