One thing about being a food and feature writer is that you meet many chefs and restaurateurs.
You tend to get invited to dine with them at their restaurants, and you have the opportunity to taste the new dishes they’ve come up with.
One such chef, whom I go way back with, is Jeremy Young.
Together with his wife Fatima, they run the International Culinary Arts Academy of Cebu (ICAAC), and the school’s produced many a chef who’s proven their worth in Cebu’s food industry.
Chef Jeremy, who’s like a living version of Chef Alfredo Linguini of Ratatouille (the movie) fame, recently invited me to have dinner at the school’s training restaurant.
It was a dry run for the first-term students, to see how much they’ve learned, and you could see how nervous they were.
I had Diane and Ernest as my servers for the night, and I have to say they were very attentive and eager to please.
I started out with a Caesar salad, which contrary to popular belief, is not named after Julius Caesar. It was actually named after a restaurateur named Caesar Cardini, but I digress.
The Caesar salad was, as most green salads go, pretty refreshing.
The romaine lettuce was very crispy, and the lemon juice gave the dish a slightly tart flavour. It was made better with the addition of bacon, because as everyone knows, bacon is always good.
For my main, I had a USDA-grade tenderloin steak, done medium.
It had a very good sear, but was still a little on the “almost bloody” (medium rare) side, but I didn’t mind so much.
Those few seconds do matter when cooking steak, however. It was a really good steak, thick and tasty, with a good, savoury mushroom gravy.
Another thing I loved about it was that it wasn’t heavily seasoned with salt and pepper, so the flavour of the meat was preserved.
Each order comes with some buttered vegetables and mashed potatoes on the side, and if you ask nicely, they’ll give you more mashed potatoes.
I also had a half-order of spaghetti Amatriciana, which is pasta with tomato sauce and bacon made from pork cheek, called guanciale.
Again, it was very tasty, and the noodles were cooked properly, firm yet soft, enough to bite into with my lips.
Yes, I could have said al dente but I don’t want to sound like a cliché, so I prefer not using that term.
It was a very nice evening, breaking bread with old friends, and reliving the old days.
As we said our goodbyes, Fatima reminded me of ICAAC’s custom of having the graduating students prepare a 12-course dinner for special guests, and told me they would let me know when this would be held.
I guess I’m going back to ICAAC pretty soon, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Words & Photos by Jigs Arquiza
Jigs Arquiza is a journalist-turned-mechanic who lives on the island of Cebu, Philippines. He’s been cooking since he was 12 years old, but refuses to go professional because he doesn’t want to get into arguments about how authentic his food is. You can follow him on Instagram at @eatssogood
The International Culinary Arts Academy of Cebu ICAAC) is at Don Gervacio Quijada St., Guadalupe, Cebu City, Philippines
For more information about ICAAC, go to http://www.icaac.net/