With an enthusiastic crowd, the 2nd Kulinarya Cooking Showdown Grand Finals, capping the Semi-Final round  that was held on 22 October 2011 at the Seasons Marketplace in Milpitas, California, was held on Saturday, 21 January 2012 at San Francisco’s Carnelian by the Bay restaurant.

The 2nd Kulinarya: A Philippine Culinary Showdown is a continuing collaborative effort of   the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, its attached agencies, in partnership with the dynamic, distinguished members of the Filipino American community, to promote the Philippines through heightened appreciation of  its cuisine, talented chefs, culinary destinations, and  Filipino restaurants, food ingredients, and entrepreneurship in the Bay Area.  

The event was also the platform to launch the new campaign of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) “It’s more Fun in the Philippines” and likewise a feature event for the Philippine Pili Nut, a new Philippine food ingredient recently introduced to the US Market by the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Beginning with a Pili Nut Cook-off, the whole showdown unfolded to succeeding activities – highlighted by the on-site cooking competition held in two (2) divisions: Amateur and Professional. The competition was simultaneous with a food and beverage showcase and sampling area, as well as a bazaar of services and products from Sponsors.

At the Pili Nut cook-off, five (5) competitors presented their pre-prepared savory and sweet dishes, using the Philippine Pili Nut, to a distinct panel of judges as well as sampling plate for the public. The winning Pili Nut dish was Pili Nut Toffee Crunch prepared by Ms. Joy Sanchez, a member of the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. The public was treated to a sampling of the contestants’ dishes. A presentation on the Philippine Pili Nut was conducted and a table sampling the variety of Pili Nut Snack Packs was available.

The main Kulinarya competition floor featured a cooking showdown of the Finalists who have qualified during the elimination round held in October 2011 to compete in the finals. Spectators excitingly watched the competition as contestants; first in the amateur division, followed by the professionals, inspiringly prepared on-site four required dishes – their own interpretation of popular and traditional Filipino food – they prepared appetizer, salad, or soup, an entrée, an adobo dish, and dessert.

The three finalists for the amateur division were Gloria Ramos, Jerrick Figueroa, and Arlene Nunez. Gloria is a "self-professed foodie" who loves to  cook food for family and friends. She is a published author and an exhibited artist. Jerrick, a graduating student at the California Culinary Art School was born and raised in the US. He grew up eating Filipino food. Arlene is a Career Professional; with over 20 years of experience in Customer Service Management, has always had a passion for cooking.

Arlene Nunez won the Amateur Division and her recipes were Vegetarian Fresh Lumpia for starter, Authentic Filipino Kare-Kare for the 1st main course, Savory Adobo Banh Mi for the 2nd  main course, and Taste of the Philippines Sampler Trio – Brazo de Mercedes Cupcake, Halo Halo Custard cake, and Coconut-Pandan Mini Sans Rival for dessert.

For the professional division, the three finalists were Kristela Nazario Mendoza, Tim Luym, and Albert Rivera. Kristela is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and recipient of an Associate Degree at Le Cordon Bleu. She currently works at the Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, California as the Executive Chef. Tim is a San Francisco Chronicle 3-Star Executive Chef /owner and a 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Rising Star Chef. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Now a restaurant consultant and consulting chef at the Attic Restaurant in San Mateo, he is also the principal behind the WOW Food and festivals in the Bay Area.  Albert entered the Culinary Program at Contra Costa College and began his culinary career as an intern at Plouf in San Francisco.  Albert’s passion for cooking was reignited with the kitchen of Va de Vi, one of SF Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurants. Currently, he is the Sous Chef at the sophisticated Metro Lafayette.

Albert Rivera won the Professional Division  with a winning  menu that  consisted of  Shrimp and Vegetable Ukoy with Calamansi Ponzu Dipping Sauce for the starter, Deconstructed Afritada for the 1st main course, Braised Pork Belly Adobo with Butter Beans and Gremolata for the  2nd main course, Deconstructed Halo-Halo for the dessert.

Five distinguished and accomplished judges from the culinary scene provided valuable expertise for the showdown. They  were Joanne Boston, a food writer based in San Francisco, Lynne Bennett, staff writer and wine coordinator at the San Francisco Chronicle, Nancy Freeman, president of the Asian Culinary    forum, Ron Bilaro, food columnist and successful private chef, and Rose  Ravasco, an associate editor and a New York correspondent.

With sustained liveliness and wit, the whole event was hosted by well known emcee Franco Finn, a Filipino-American Emcee and TV host for the Golden State Warriors, SF Bay Area’s professional basketball team.

There was never a dull moment at the Food and Beverage Showcase and Sampling Area as lines of hungry samplers patiently waited to get a bite of the different Filipino dishes that were offered by various Filipino Restaurants and Establishments who participated.

The event had been a success with the support of our major sponsors like Western Union, Ramar Foods, Philippine Airlines, GMA TV, TFC International, San Francisco Examiner Datu Puti, LBC International and Mama Sita.  Ingredients used by the finalists were sponsored by Seafood City and Island Pacific Supermarket.

The 2nd Kulinarya Cooking Showdown proves that Filipino food has emerged and continues to evolve into higher levels of cuisine for the mainstream and discriminating palates; aking us all aware and remember, when considering dining options, “Let’s Go Filipino!”


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