Filipino food may not yet be as famous as Italian and Japanese cuisines.
But for Chef Jose Antonio Miguel Melchor or Chef Jam, it is high time for Filipino cuisine to be noticed internationally. He is the first and only Filipino invited at the Academic Tables of the Universita degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (UNISG) in Pollenza, Italy.
He believes that there should be pride in promoting Filipino gastronomy and that it is more than just adobo and pancit.
Melchor said being the "Harvard” for gastronomy, UNISG is the best place to promote Filipino food culture.
"Before anything else, we must understand our food for what is and what it was. We must recognize its story, its meaning — its heart. Because before we can prove to the world that it is not just Filipino food, we must first realize it ourselves," he said.
From October 18 to 20, Melchor -- the young culinary expert from Pampanga who is famous for his organic dishes and advocacy for sustainability -- prepared a series of traditional recipes representative of the different regions of the Philippines.
On the first day, he served swam na mais, a corn soup with pork; adobo, marinated pork and chicken stew; binulo na Tinawon, a dish based on traditional Tinawon rice, which is grown in the Banaue terraces; and maja blanca, a coconut-milk dessert.
The second day opened with sinigang na hipon sa bayabas, a shrimp soup flavored with guava from the Kapampangan region; chicken galantina ensalada, a chicken galantine; kare-kare, a pork stew with peanut and shrimp sauce; and banana pili langka turon or caramelized fried banana rolls.
On the third day, Melchor prepared binakol, an aromatic chicken soup; sinuglaw or grilled pork belly; ceviche made with fresh fish; bringhe, a paella-like dish with coconut milk; kaldereta, pork stew with potatoes, carrots, peppers, and tomato sauce; and buko pandan, a jelly pudding with pandan leaves, coconut and milk cream.
"I want people to get to know our fascinating food culture, with all its diversity and wealth," Melchor said.
With the help of the Department of Agriculture, Melchor also brought a selection of Ark of Taste products from the Philippines. He showcased Asian fragrances and flavors characteristic of a cuisine still little-known in Italy.
"My objective is to raise the profile of Filipino gastronomy outside our country, particularly among the students of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a place where the culture of food is studied and promoted," he recently said in an interview with the Filipino press.
"I would also like to inspire more young Filipinos to discover the past and future of their cuisine."
The Academic Tables is more than just the dining hall at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo. It is a space that combines education, haute cuisine, and local products at a fair price.
The preparation of each dish takes into account the seasonality of locally sourced products. The furnishings and cutlery are sustainable, the kitchen features energy efficient equipment, and meals are ordered in advance through a booking system which reduces food waste at the source.