When food is life

LIKE poles do attract as in the case of chefs Marco and Kate Dychangco-Anzani. Kate used to handle a TV cooking show while Marco guested at a cooking demonstration in another channel. By the time they met, they already knew of each other. When Marco’s three month consultancy contract with Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa ended, both had fallen in love and decided to get married.

That, Kate says, was in late 2005. For the next couple of years, they lived the expat’s life, as the couple was based where Marco was employed as chef or consultant chef. Then they had their first born, and it was then that they decided to quit moving from one place to another in order for their child (and future children) to have “roots” while growing up.

The choice of Cebu was easy.

Chef Marco, has spent 25 years in the industry and has worked at one time or another in five continents, 18 countries and 30 cities. In New York, the New York Times hailed him as one of the pioneers in “New Mediterranean cuisine.” This was what Marco brought to Cebu when they opened Anzani New Mediterranean Cuisine at Nivel Hills in Lahug, Cebu City. Kate says Cebu at the time was not ready for such a fine dining place, but today, the couple’s decision has paid off, and Anzani has been hailed as “Cebu’s Best” for two succeeding years by SunStar’s Best of Cebu.

Kate and Marco travel three times a year, not just to visit Marco’s home in Italy, but also to other places to find out the latest in the culinary world, with the idea of bringing current trends to Cebu.

They have since opened Bellini, a bar, also at Nivel Hills. Then they opened Gusto in Cebu IT Park, a restaurant offering basically pasta and pizza. They later opened Gusto also at Cebu Business Park and finally a third one at the South Road Properties. Then, with ideas from abroad about a food hall, they opened District on 53rd in Cebu IT Park where, Marco relates, “One can grab a bite, then leave, or stay for a more substantial meal.” Kate describes it as “like a hawkers’ station.”

Finally and very recently, the couple opened Anzani Prime under AIG (Anzani International Group) which caters to the upper market, offering premium steaks sourced from all over the world.

Marco and Kate reveal that they develop the concept and menus of their restaurants together. Once they have decided on the concept and menu, it is Marco who is “chief chef” in the restaurants’ kitchens. Kate cooks only at home where she keeps up with the lifestyle trends that she and Marco try to incorporate in their restaurants’ offerings. She is constantly studying the market. She also handles events with Flare, a PR company, that organizes food, and food and wine events. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Le Cordon Bleu in restaurant business and catering events management; not content with that, she recently got a Master’s Degree in gastronomy from Harvard Innovation Lab. Aside from all this, she has her own cooking show, Food Hunt with Kate, which looks into local cuisine. She is also the food and entertainment edtor of Zee Lifestyle.

Kate says they hope to double the number of their outlets by 2017, so Marco says they keep training people but, unfortunately, of the people they train, “Only 10 percent make the grade and finish the training.”

The problem, said Kate, is that “they think of the training as a path to a job, not to a career path through which they can grow and even become chefs themselves.”

With the Anzanis active in Cebu’s food scene, the city will always have a globally competitive restaurant to go to.
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