Where have you worked prior to the Marco Polo Ortigas?
My career has spanned 40 years now and has taken me from Scotland to Dubai, England, Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Maldives and the Philippines.
What influenced you to become a part of the culinary world? What is it that you love about food?
I had originally intended to take a Higher National Diploma in Hotel Management at Ross Hall (the Scottish Hotel School). I was given the opportunity to gain some industry exposure in the summer of 1977, working for six weeks in the kitchens of the Excelsior Hotel, Glasgow Airport. I enjoyed the experience so much that I asked my Executive Chef there at the time if he would consider taking me on as a full time apprentice, to which he agreed. Looking back now I think it was a natural progression for me as I had always been influenced by food that I had seen on my early travels to Hong Kong and the Philippines (1963 – 1971), and also the influence of my maternal and paternal Grandmothers. One was Swiss and the other Scottish, so both had very different culinary heritages.
What food/ingredients are always in your pantry?
Cheese, Eggs, Pasta, Butter…. Not too much as I really don’t cook too much at home.
What was your basis or inspiration for creating Cucina’s menu? How has it evolved?
The Cucina menu is also the same menu we use for our In Room Dining, so that was a big influence as I had to think about comfort food, the sort of food travelers look for when away from home. I also wanted the menu to have a good balance of dishes, whether they be Asian or Western. Quality ingredients is also very important to me, so I sourced the likes of Chilean sea bass, and premium meat cuts from the USA and Australia.
What would you like to tell people when they are eating your food?
Enjoy it, and try dishes that might be out of your comfort zone.
What is a Cucina specialty?
Being in the Philippines it is very important that we have quality local fare, especially so as we do have a lot of local business. Our premium beef is also very good.
If you could cook any other cuisine, what would it be and why?
My training is classical French, and that is considered the mother cuisine. However, I do love Italian food as it is not as rich and heavy. I also really enjoy Hong Kong Chinese Food.
Do you have a favourite food or type of food that you yourself indulge in?
Artisan cheese….I love to eat it, and I also intend to learn more about cheese making once I retire and have more time for myself.
What other dishes are you planning for Cucina?
As the menu has been recently launched I want to let it settle first. However, we will tweak the menu late this year or early in 2018, targeting dishes that might not be doing so well, and making changes. If I read about any food trends this might influence me, but I would always try and put my own spin on it.