CULTURAL POTPOURRI| Seda BGC’s Chef Pepe Castillo’s International Flavours

YOU WOULD NOT think that the humble, unassuming and soft-spoken Batangueño who once studied for a degree in Civil Engineering would, instead, end up in the kitchen concocting such flavourful dishes. But no, sir. It’s no ordinary kitchen that Romualdo “Pepe” Castillo ended up in. Chef Pepe, as the Executive Chef of Seda Bonifacio Global City (BGC), works in the modern and fully equipped hotel kitchen expressing himself through his culinary creations of international flavours.

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  “I come from a Batangueño clan whose men love to cook. My uncles who worked as cooks in hotels in Manila were the ones who trained me how to cook instead of my own mother. I started my career in the kitchens of a renowned hotel in Makati under the watchful eyes of uncles who recommended me for the job,” he’d proudly tell you as he added, “Then I would observe and absorb the ever changing trends, innovations and different cooking styles of cooking from the professional international chefs who, in a way, inspired me to stay in the culinary industry I am in at present. And I have no regrets, whatsoever. People might think becoming a chef is not considered as lucrative a career as a Civil Engineer. But staying in the cool confines of the hotel is a lot better than being in a construction site under the mercy of rain or shine. Being a chef is hard work as it requires a lot of patience and passion. But this is the life I want.”

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His 30 years in the culinary business has afforded chef Pepe direct contacts with people especially those in society’s upper crust. “You cannot please everybody all the time but in this business, you have to strive to please all the time. No one will complain if they do not find anything wrong with what you serve them. Besides, all of us should learn from our human mistakes and do better. Nobody is perfect,” he’d tell you.

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     Chef Pepe has earned admirations from VIP guests. He has also earned honors in prestigious culinary competitions such as “Best Dessert” in the Manila Black Box Culinary Challenge; “Award of Excellence” in the Cold Meat Platter category of Chefs on Parade; and “Bread-Baking Champion” in an activity sponsored by the Les Toques Blanches Philippines headed by chef Jose Gamboa, Jr.

   “In every dish that I serve, the key is precise timing, plus the use of fresh and high-quality ingredients. This is how I give my dishes that personal touch. I stay true to the original recipe, then leave my own imprint by modifying its appearance to enhance its aesthetic appeal.”

     Chef Pepe’s specialties for Seda Abreeza diners included grilled beef medallion with red wine reduction; crunchy two month old pork belly with paw-paw sauce; Norwegian salmon skewer with sweet onion and capsicum; grilled chicken with garlic sauce; free-range buffalo chicken with blue cheese dip; paella Valenciana, among others. His just desserts were simply heavenly like the sweet milk chocolate mascarpone, tiramisu, assorted panna cotta, dark chocolate praline, to mention some.

     What a joy it truly is with the ingenious Seda’s Chef Exchange program. Seda Abreeza’s Misto diners now have the opportunity to taste the culinary specialties of head chefs from the other Seda hotels. Before chef Pepe’s “A Taste of International Flavours” was Seda Nuvali chef Danilo Gallardo’s “A Taste of Japan.”

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