A taste of Luigi Muhlach’s comfort food

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The launch of Luigi Muhlach as executive chef of Amacena at One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites was a pure gustatory delight.

Living up to the Spanish name of the classy and cozy resto, which means “great love for food,” the dishes will make you fall in love at first bite. It’s Luigi’s take on comfort food with a twist, such as Longganisa Mac and Cheese, Adobo and Kesong Puti Bruschetta, Pinakbet Pizza, Kaldereta Pot Pie and more.

My BFF Sahlee Quizon and I felt so satisfied. Super-duper thanks to the dashing owner JR Francisco, his girlfriend Alexandra Santos, sales and marketing director Carmelo Gorostiza and general manager JM Ouano for making me feel instantly at home in my new fave hideaway in Tagaytay. (For reservations, call 5844111.)

Luigi’s mom, Janice de Belen, played “best supporting role” as she proudly took pictures of every dish. Being a great cook herself, Janice is her son’s number one critic. Every time Luigi whips up a dish, he is wary of what his mom will say.

Seeing them together made my mind go on flashback mode. When Janice was still pregnant with Luigi, my mom (Inday Badiday) had an exclusive interview with her in “Eye to Eye.” That’s when Janice uttered her classic line, “God was with Aga and me when we did it.”

Aga was not around, but he promised to pop up at the resto soon with wife Charlene and their twins. It felt like Aga was present though, because Luigi talks and moves like his dad already.

Luigi’s fab wife, Patty, their adorable kids (Alejandro and Adriana) and his siblings (Janice’s children with John Estrada) cheered him on.

It’s not easy to step out of the shadow of his parents. But Luigi has mastered the recipe for self-reliance. The bubbly chef has found his life’s pièce de résistance.

Here’s my one on one with chef Luigi:


What’s the best part of being the son of Aga and Janice?

Name recall. People at least have an idea already of who I am and what I do.


What’s the hardest part of being their son?

It was hard for me to be taken seriously in the kitchen. Some of my cochefs felt intimidated, and I was easily doubted.

People would always think that I don’t deserve to be where I am [and] that the opportunities that come my way are not because of my talent and passion, but because of who my parents are.


What’s your advice to aspiring chefs?

Try to absorb everything that is being taught in your school, and experience everything there is to be experienced in the kitchen.

Be prepared for unpaid working hours. When they say your shift is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., that means you have to be there at 6 a.m. to do your mise en place (setup) and you go home an hour after your actual shift, because you still have to clean your station.

Being a chef takes a lot of passion, hard work and determination. Don’t get impatient; start from the bottom. Peel onions and carrots. Work as a butcher. Be eager to learn from cochefs [and] read books.

I don’t scrimp on ingredients or avoid some of them just because they are unhealthy. People go out to eat good food, so whatever would make it delicious, that’s what I use.


Among all your dishes, which is your parents’ favorite?

My mom is currently raving about my adobo and kesong puti bruschetta, dinakdakang chicharon and soft tacos. The Steak Benedict is her classic favorite, which happens to be one of dad’s favorites, too.


What’s the best advice your mom and dad gave you?

Do everything on my own.

My dad always tells me that he wants me to experience the feeling of being successful or achieving something that you know no one helped you achieve, that you did on your own - like buying a car, sending my kids to school, landing these jobs.

He always tells me, “I don’t want to deprive you of the feeling of enjoying your hard-earned money by giving you everything you need.” Inquirer.net