VMC: Where life is sweet at 95-A A +A
By Betsy Gazo
Saturday, May 10, 2014
VICTORIAS Milling Company Inc. (VMC), the grand dame of the sugar industry, has just turned 95.
To celebrate this important milestone, VMC held a grand birthday bash at the Victorias Golf and Country Club last May 6, and on the grounds of the Don Bosco Technical Institute on May 7.
About 1,500 employees got together for a fiesta on the second day that started with an Anniversary Mass, followed by a Cheer Dance Competition, and a Cook-Off, a management talent show, and the Sweet Recognition in the evening with a 95th Anniversary Concert featuring Giselle Sanchez, Sitti, Nyoy Volante, and Aegis.
The party was capped with fireworks and a post-party concert brought to life by the Scopes Band.
The Life is Sweet @95 Cook-Off was especially memorable because 10 finalists made it to the competition and the celebration was so grand that, flown in just to judge the cook-off, were notables of the culinary world.
“At our core, VMC is a food company. Food, whether it be sugar or the products under Victorias Foods Corporation (VFC), are a way of life for us. As such, we organized this competition to cultivate and support the food culture of our province, and at the same time, recognize the skills and talents of our people,” explains VMC president and chief operating officer Eduardo Concepcion.
What’s more, the dishes that the contestants were to create had to have VFC products among the ingredients.
The lucky 10 competitors were Marisol Ferraris, Josie Depasucat, Gina Barrios, Ma. Rosario Granada, John Nixau Lobaton, Llowen Miraflor, Ma. Carel Hibionada, Hernel Piamonte, Minerva Panes, and Jessica Magbanua.
They were lucky not only because they were chosen for their kitchen prowess but also because the judges were no other than Chef Alejandro Daza a.k.a. Sandy, of the Wooden Spoon, a Filipino restaurant. Chef Sandy also hosts Lifestyle Network’s Food Prints. As a cooking expert, he says that “nothing is more gratifying than people telling you how good the food [you prepared] tastes.”
Also a host at Lifestyle Network is Curiosity Got the Chef’s Sharwin Tee. Mr. Tee is the first winner of the reality show Clash of the Toque-en Ones. Being a judge at the Life is Sweet @ 95 Cook-Off was also “a research trip for me.” Here, he got to taste new products because he has never had Victorias products before.
Victorias Food Products are high in quality, yet the judges admittedly had a hard time getting hold of them. The famous canned sardines and bangus were not often easily available to the public since these are popular pasalubong items that end up on dining tables abroad.
VFC’s officials have solved that problem by putting up an outlet at 17th Lacson Street and making sure that the outlet is well-stocked.
Also among the judges was Iloilo’s celebrity chef Pauline Banusing. Proud of her Visayan roots, Chef Pauline has Freska Ilonggo Restaurant in Iloilo City. Should you be in (her) town, also visit Steps of Rome, and Al Dente Ristorante Italiano at Sarabia Manor.
Then there is the other lady culinary star, Cyrene de la Rosa, who is a noted food columnist in Interaksyon, TV5’s news portal. Ms. de la Rosa writes under her column Chow Buzz.
Let’s not forget Bacolod, the foodie haven. From the capital city comes our fifth judge Joseph Patrick “JP” Anglo who owns the restaurants Mai Pao and Mushu. He was a hit in the cooking reality television shows Junior Master Chef and Master Chef Philippines. He had fans among the VMC employees!
Although not a judge, Chef Marcel Haessner of the Bacolod Academy of Culinary Arts (BACA) has made rabid fans out of the 10 finalists. This German cutie who is also the academy’s assistant director trained the competitors for an intensive five days at the BACA in order to prepare and gain confidence for the Cook-Off.
BACA is devoted to bring out the best in each student using world-class facilities, the best teaching methods, and the best ingredients. Now, let’s see who benefitted most from the training.
It was really exciting when the countdown to start the cook-off happened. Lots of furious chopping, peeling, slicing, roasting, mincing, breading, frying, stirring, sautéing, baking, puree-ing, and boiling went on in the Don Bosco gym.
A variety of Victorias Food Products were on the preparation tables – cooked ham, smoked bacon, luncheon meat, and, sardines. Chef Marcel could only rave about the smoked bacon. And I agree that it is truly superb even if I’m a frustrated vegan. It’s so good that’s why I’m frustrated.
The best part of the competition is the prizes. Would you believe that the cash prizes are nothing to sniff at? Shall we now announce who won P50,000, P20,000 and P10,000? Drumroll, please… The first prize winner was Hermel Piamonte; in second place was Josie Depasucat, and a tie at third were Llowen Miraflor and Ma. Rosario Granada. There were consolation prizes for everyone, so everybody was happy!
I congratulate the winners not only for winning the prizes but also for showcasing Victorias Food products in so many delicious ways. With that, I look forward to the day when our Grand Dame turns 100!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 10, 2014.