Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
AS a TV show host with an inquisitive appetite, Chef Sharwin Tee has found himself in places all over the country. “Anywhere I go, my main purpose is really to find out more about the food,” the chef said.
“When you eat something, even if it’s the same dish, there’s always something new to learn,” Sharwin shared. “It helps in creating new dishes, but it’s not like I try something and I realize I want to make my own version of it. It’s more of accumulative experiences of being in different places, trying out different cuisines.”
And Cebu, he said, has become one of his favorites. “Every time I come to Cebu,
there’s always something new to try. I have a list of places where I want to eat and just when I’m about to finish that list, there’s a new list again,” he said.
“I always look forward to finding more excuses to visit,” Sharwin added, and he said
that in every visit, he always brings home a pack of lechon back to Manila.
“I don’t think it’s right to come to Cebu and not have lechon,” said the host of Curiosity Got The Chef that airs on the Lifestyle Network.
In his recent trip here, Sharwin visited Little Saigon, Big Bangkok and he was impressed. “It’s nice to visit restaurants that build everything from scratch, because you can really taste it if you make it fresh. There they were smoking their own meat, creating their own curry, growing their own herbs,” he said.
“While it’s not really Filipino or Cebuano food, in a way it is Cebuano food because it was made by a Cebuana and the food was grown here,” Sharwin said. “It was a good experience and I’m sure there are plenty more places like that to enjoy here.”
And for Sharwin, food is always about enjoyment. He was only six years old when he was introduced to the joys of cooking—not through firsthand experience, but through a television show called Wok With Yan.
“It’s a show about this Chinese guy who barely speaks English yet he was able to entertain his live audience with his cooking. When I saw that, I wanted to be like him, to entertain people through cooking. That was the first spark,” Sharwin recalled.
He was later exposed to a show called At Home With Nora (Daza), whom Sharwin considers one of his heroes. That actually earned him a couple of raised eyebrows because at that time it was odd for guy to enjoy, let alone watch a cooking show.
As for his culinary skills and knowledge, all these were learned in culinary school, said Sharwin, who revealed he actually had conditioned himself to a career in the academe before that. Sharwin studied communication at the Ateneo de Manila University, then taught English at his alma mater Xavier School for two years.
One day, while surfing on the Internet—which was fairly new back then—he came across a website listing culinary schools, and found himself enrolling at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, the city where incidentally his favorite show Wok With Yan was filmed.
Following in his culinary heroes’ footsteps, Sharwin has his hands full with his own cooking program, Curiosity Got the Chef.
The chatty host-cum-chef likens his show to a kitchen playground where they tinker with a variety of flavors, and show appreciation to the ones that work well. It shows less of the criticism and focuses more on the delicious experience, he pointed out.
“In the show, we enjoy playing with recipes,” Sharwin said. “What if we put these two ingredients together? What if we tweak the adobo a bit or use a different fruit for sinigang? I think the title fits well because our show is really all about experimenting.”
He’s not much of an actor, either, he said, so he doesn’t usually present dishes that he himself wouldn’t eat on any other day. Personally choosing his food features is a fact he’s always been proud of.
“It’s easy to talk about food now because everyone is into it. But in reality, you’re just describing it. The real question is: would you eat it again?” he said.
*Curiosity Got The Chef airs every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on the Lifestyle Network.