Aguilar: Chef Dan Altarejos: Creating culinary experience for Bacolodnons

Urban Life

IF YOU ever wonder who’s behind Anne Bistro’s finesse and flavour to have made it as Bacolod’s fine dining destination, then you are in for a treat because we are lucky to get hold of its head chef and major shareholder, the head turner Dan Altarejos.

Chef Dan, as he is popularly known has a culinary degree from the elite Enderun Colleges after he finished his bachelor’s degree at De la Salle University.

Surely one of Bacolod’s most eligible bachelors, he moved to this city a couple of years ago to be with his partner and open up a business. In no time he was able to make a name for himself in the local culinary scene bagging the top awards for savory dishes and desserts on the recently concluded first ever Tanduay Rum Festival Culinaria while his restaurant, Anne Bistro, was awarded as Best Restaurant in Bacolod City in 2018 by Gawad Agustio of Colegio de San Agustin.

“Ever since my culinary career I have never believed in competitions. When you own a kitchen and you run it professionally, every day is a competition towards pleasing your guests. But when the opportunity came about the Tanduay theme, I grew to love it since Tanduay is a home grown product in the Philippines particularly here in Bacolod and so I wanted to test it out and at the same time show the people that Bacolod has its own talent in the culinary area,” he shared.

When asked what specialties he has, Dan says a chef needs to be very versatile as there are guests who would really request for certain kind of cooking and so ultimately culinary is more of an experience than just specific food.

“It’s the art of extracting the natural flavors of every component that you have in a dish. It’s more of the method that I still instill in myself from day 1 until today. It’s just a matter of combining different flavors in different cultures altogether in one dish,” he said.

The beginnings

His passion for cooking began when he was still a teenager and in high school. He shared that he and his mom would love to grab midnight snacks. “It started with instant ramen, wherein I never liked the MSG packet so what I usually do is I’d cook the instant noodles then I’d make my own broth. I’d put in some components. From time to time I got to learn how to mix and match different flavor profiles. That’s where it all began, the creation of something nice to the palate,” he narrated.

Making a mark

Making a name in the local culinary scene was not without hurdles. When asked what his struggles were chef Dan pointed out that the market in Bacolod was especially challenging. He was once told by a local prominent family that Bacolod people are people of habit. They have to have a great impression when they try something new otherwise they would go back to what their palates are accustomed to. And so it is particularly hard to introduce new dishes such as European food that are not popularly appreciated.

“We take risks from time to time just to test the waters if people would like it or not. So far, business wise, the Lord has been very gentle to us,” he added.

As for those planning to pursue culinary arts, chef Dan has three lessons to share:

1. The kitchen life is not for everyone. The kitchen is always hot, you work more than 8 hours a day, you stand more than 8 hours a day. Kailangan medyo sira ulo ka sa kusina. You have to be crazy, you have to be a little sadista sometimes. When you get cut, you don’t stop, you just get yourself a band aid, put some gloves on, and you carry on. It’s a relationship. It’s a commitment.

2. Be curious. There are no rules in combining flavor profiles, or combining certain culture with other culture. You just have to know that it works. Because when you are curious about things and you try to execute it that is one step already.

3. Heads down and ask the right questions. We have the golden rule in the kitchen wherein if you don’t know, ask.

When asked if he has plans to conquer and dominate the local culinary scene, Chef Dan simply said “I don’t really believe in dominating this certain industry, it’s more of leaving a good impression of the people here. At the end of the day, we do what we do.”


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