By Pauline Evora
When you are lucky enough to meet these three passionate chefs, you will be drawn to try their cooking. Their love for good products and for the island is contagious. They shared with us what makes a Christmas table special and spilled a recipe or two!
Dos Mestizos’ Chef Monique Yrezabal-Escalona grew up in Spain, and yet she celebrated Christmas Eve in the Philippines every year. A Christmas table at home meant cold cut jamon, chorizo, grapes, cheese, walnuts, paté, caviar, Russian salad, meat and a lot of sweets. It was always a mix between a Spanish and American menu, with a Filipino touch, and the pineapple ham and queso de bola were a must!
She tells us that what makes Christmas special for her is definitely carolers and parols.
Aria Cucina Italiana’s Chef Luigi Barbolla is always happy when his customers are satisfied with his Christmas dishes. This is his gift for all those who do not spend the holidays at home. But you will find him at his happiest when he is surrounded by his beautiful family, and preparing a Christmas meal for his friends.
“Because the true meaning of Christmas is receiving and giving. The gift of love, peace and happiness. And I have all this every time I am with them,” the Italian chef explains.
Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa’s Chef Gilles Galli misses the snow and the cold of a French December. But the happiness of celebrating with his family and sharing gifts are overtaking his nostalgia.
“Christmas is the most important family celebration for me, it makes me feel like a kid again,” the joyful chef shares. The creative chef behind the Christmas menu of Shangri-La's three restaurants confesses being very traditional about decorating his Christmas tree. “It has to be red, green and gold!”
Sharing a few tips with us, Chef Monique stresses that shopping in advance is top on her list as supplies on the island can be limited. This way, we avoid a last-minute panic about changing the whole menu for a few missing ingredients.
Chef Gilles shares how he plans his menu between Christmas and New Year's Eve. “The menu is invariably the same every year: seafood platter, foie gras, smoked salmon with homemade blinis, cheese platter and above all, nice Champagne and wine,” he reveals, which makes it easier to plan ahead. If you prefer to dine out, his advice is to inquire first, “depending if you prefer a buffet or a set menu, a traditional Christmas dinner or something more exotic.”
The beloved chef and long-time resident of Boracay, Chef Luigi shares with us that the one dish he cooks every Christmas is the Tortellini in brodo - a dish of stuffed pasta in a heavy broth, usually prepared on holidays in Northern Italy. He laughs and teases us with a bright smile, “Aside from enjoying the water activities here in Boracay, I’m inviting you to go to Aria and I will cook for you. Surely, you will have a memorable Christmas Day!”
1) Dos Mestizos is a successful family story, with founder Jose Carlos Remedios (right) with two of his children who have picked up the torch, Andre Garcia (left) who manages the restaurant, and Chef Monique Yrezabal-Escalona (center)
2) Chef Gilles Galli
3) Chef Luigi Barbolla
Chef Monique’s Russian Salad
Boil potatoes, carrots, green peas, and chicken breast in chicken broth until tender.
Boil red beets separately.
Roast some bell peppers and blanch French beans.
Let everything cool then place it in the fridge.
Combine mayonnaise, a splash of white wine, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients gently together with a spatula.
Garnish with fresh parsley.
To make it extra special, add a lot of love to it!
Chef Gilles’ Half Crayfish Roasted with Orange and Honey Butter, Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk
1 crayfish (around 600 to 800 grams)
270 grams butter
2 teaspoons of honey
400 grams sweet potatoes
150 milliliters coconut milk
Cut the crayfish in two and put aside in the fridge.
Mix 200 grams of softened butter with the peeled orange segments and honey.
Brush the crayfish halves with the orange butter and cook in the oven for 30 minutes at 210°C.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cook in salted water.
Once cooked, mash them and add the coconut milk, 70 grams of butter, salt and pepper.
Once the crayfish is cooked, plate the crayfish (one half per plate) elegantly, with the mashed sweet potatoes on the side. Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs, edible flowers or lemon zest.
Enjoy your meal with a good bottle of white wine. Bon appétit!