TO CELEBRATE the 45th year of the Davao Tourism Association (Data), the organization saluted the local cuisine. To come up with an impressive menu for the evening, Davao chefs Pauline Benedicto, Ana Maria Cacho, Olive Puentespina, Alex Destriza, Bianca Delgado, Richie Ferrazzini, Clinton Gregorio, Noel Buenaventura, Choy Cerbo Llido lll and Nico Serafin, went into an “immersion.” The culinary team visited the local tribes, worked with them in the kitchen and learned how to prepare their food.

Back in their own turf, the chefs fused their learnings into their style, and using local ingredients, they whipped up an exciting array of Mindanao-inspired dishes. From starter to dessert, each bite had a distinct flavor or preparation that were familiar to many.

I will applaud the salad with Malagos Farm’s latest concoction, the Chili Jam, which chef Annie Garcia used as base for her salad’s vinaigrette. The sweet and sour sauce had a kick of spice at the tail end of its flavor profile. The pastil was reinvented with roasted goat meat as its topping to replace the traditional shredded chicken. And the Tiyula Itum Soup was delicious and flavorful.

The desserts came in its too-tempting preparation that said “one will not be enough”. With the right sweetness of the cakes, the chef was successful in highlighting the flavors of the local fruits in its ingredients. The Marang Cake had the most delicate chiffon to give focus on the Marang custard and the Malagos Flourless Chocolate delivered the bittersweet taste of the dark chocolate with every bite.

With the current members and newly-inducted officers led by its president Gatchi Gatchalian and president elect Cherry Al-ag were Data past presidents Mary Ann Montemayor, Gene Bangayan, George Misa and Angel Puentespina, the City tourism officer GeneRose Tecson, DOT regional director Tanya Tan, and councilor Myrna Ortiz delivered the City Mayor’s message: “Davao cuisine showcases the talents of Mindanao and Davao-based chefs and cooks who continuously hold their love for their craft and sense of innovation. To our local businesses, chefs and aspiring ones, we hope that you will continue to find more reason to create and innovate.”

At the celebration was was DOT Undersecretary Art Boncato, who said, “We are very happy because tonight is a great testament to how the past leaders have worked very hard for the association and Davao City. Never have we imagined that this association would to expand to having vice-presidents for halal, etc. These, I think, are only results of a great demand of the industry that we are responding to. That is why Data continues to be the voice, will continue to be the biggest voice of tourism in this part of the Philippines. In fact, the biggest voice of Mindanao.”

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