AFTER more than three decades of honing his craft and palate in respected hotels and restaurants in Metro Manila and abroad, Bacoleño gourmand Edwin Infante is making a long overdue homecoming to this "City of Smiles," as the newest Executive Sous Chef of Seda Capitol Central -- excited to mark another milestone in his career and eager to reconnect with his Negrense roots.
Born and raised in Bacolod City, Chef Edwin shares he is thrilled to be one of the newest members of the Seda Capitol Central family -- especially enthused because the opportunity allows him to be back in his beloved hometown after being away for so long.
"It's a great privilege to be entrusted with my new position here at Seda Capitol Central. I've always admired how Seda loves and takes care of its people, being an Ayala-owned company," he explained. "Working abroad for a large portion of my life, I've come to value the respect and the passion people put in whatever they are doing."
As Chef Edwin reacquaints himself with the quintessential tastes of Negros, the cuisinier shares he is most excited to rediscover and restore the classic recipes of the region, as well as reinvent Bacololeño favorites like inasal, kansi, laswa and KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka)-employing the skills and expertise he's amassed from an illustrious 32 years of culinary experience.
'Trained by the masters'
Unbeknownst to most, Chef Edwin actually graduated from Binalbagan Catholic College with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Commerce Major in Accounting in 1987. However, that same year, he landed an entry-level job at Manila Polo Club that would change the course of his life for good -- being introduced to one of the giants of the Philippine culinary arts, the Conrad Calalang of "Kulinarya" fame.
"When I was young I never thought I'd become a chef," related chef Edwin. "After I graduated, I tried applying to different companies in Manila. But because I didn't have any proper references, I didn't make any of them. By chance, there was an opening in Manila Polo Club for an assistant cook position. Obviously, this was not in line with my degree, but I had to take that shot."
With the fortunate development, Chef Edwin unwittingly became one of the mentees of celebrity chef Conrad Calalang -- who sits alongside Margarita Fores and Glenda Barretto among the greats of contemporary Filipino cuisine. For the next five years, he trained under the wing of Calalang, who once single-handedly introduced Mogolian barbecue to the country with his iconic restaurant at the Mile Long Building in Makati.
"Mr. Conrad Calalang was graciously my first mentor. He gave me the opportunity to become a chef like him. After five years working with him, it completely left my mind that I was not a culinary arts graduate," mused Chef Edwin, who by 1995 had worked his way up to become the Pasta Chef in-charge at Manila's Café Intermezzo. Since then, he's trained under 13 Italian chefs and one German chief cook, given his remarkable career and the different establishments he's been involved with.
In the next decade, Chef Edwin built up his portfolio here and abroad: Serving as Head Chef of the Venezia Italian Restaurant in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until 1997, top brass of Bob's Café Bacolod between 1997 and 1998, and heading Season's Café Makati until 1999. He was also assigned Head Chef of Saray Pastry and Restaurant in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia for three years, before being the top chef of Mercato Italian Restaurant in Makati until 2001.
By 2002, Chef Edwin came into his own as a hotelier, kick-starting his career in the hospitality industry at scenic Beach Rotana Hotels and Towers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates until 2005. Later that year, he became a Junior Sous Chef at the high-end Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Muscat, Oman. By 2012, Chef Edwin clinched the title of Chef de Cuisine, demonstrating his expertise as he led the property toward a handful of prestigious culinary awards, including the "Best Italian Restaurant" distinction by Oman Today and an AccorHotels Excellence award in management and talent development.
Deciding to move back to the Philippines for good, Chef Edwin left Oman in 2015 to pursue the position of Executive Sous Chef of Novotel Philippines. Before being enlisted by Seda Capitol Central, he had also served as the Executive Sous Chef of Park Inn by Radisson Hotel in Manila.
With his far-reaching and impressive career, Chef Edwin shares that the lesson he's valued the most is actually quite simple: "Respect."
"I've learned to put a premium on respect. Respect everyone regardless of their level. The same applies to my approach to cooking: Respect the ingredients used," the knowledgeable chef shared.
'Authentic Bacoleño Cuisine'
With his extensive training, Chef Edwin shares that his gastronomical wheelhouse currently lies in both Italian and Filipino cuisine, although he also likes to dabble in Arabic, Spanish, French, and Chinese-inspired cooking. Chef Edwin has made a name for himself with the rave reviews for his melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked beef short plate and his crowd-pleaser hand-tossed Italian pizza.
However, even with his worldly tastes, Chef Edwin is most elated to be back in his hometown so he can hopefully pay tribute to the cooking of his Negrense father and pay homage to local regional culture.
"When I was a kid, I do not really appreciate the taste of food and my father's cooking," he related. "However, over the years, especially now that I've become a chef, I have a newfound respect for my father's love for us which he showed from his kitchen. I've come to appreciate the authenticity, pure and fresh taste of the Bacolodnon dishes he loved to prepare."
Under his tenure, Chef Edwin hopes to reimagine the menu of Seda Captiol Central's Misto restaurant and tailor fit it the Negrense palate, highlighting locally sourced produce and heirloom Bacoleño dishes given modern twists.
"My goal is to make Misto well-known in Bacolod not only for its international fare, but also for its local cuisine, as I incorporate and bring back time-worn and often-forgotten recipes that are uniquely from Negros Occidental," the chef mused.
Chef Edwin is also excited for Bacoleños to taste his elevated versions of local favorites like the chicken inasal, kansi, and the quintessentially Ilonggo KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka), as he aims to show younger chefs to value our local culinary heritage.
"I am passionate about teaching and passing on what I've learned to a next generation of chefs," he said. "I want to help motivate local chefs and show them the value of homegrown Negrense cuisine. It gives me great joy seeing other develop and succeed in their respective culinary careers. Everything is achievable if you focus and put passion of everything you do."
Chef Edwin's closing words for those giddy to taste Misto's slate of new dishes soon? "I can't wait for you to try our new 'catch of the day' dishes, which will likely range from savory sea catfish (alimosan) cooked in coconut milk and annatto to yummy fresh black pomfret bringhe (valenciana)."
Right now, he brings his culinary flair to Misto's Take-away Meals-a to-go selection of the hotel's best à la carte dishes. The menu, which Chef Edwin and his staff has meticulously prepared, include appetizers, breakfast favorites, salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and desserts.
Seda Capitol Central is the seventh property of Ayala Land's homegrown hotel brand- its name uncannily derived from the Spanish word for "silk," the smooth and lustrous fabric valued for its beauty, also a world-famous export of the Negros region.
The 154-room property boasts of a seamless hotel experience, adhering to the dedicated touchstones of the Seda brand of hospitality, yet also uniquely tailored to the lifestyle of its locale and the Bacolodnon clientele.
With stunning views of the Provincial Capitol Lagoon and just a short walk to the newly-opened Ayala Malls Capitol Central, Seda Capitol Central and is located along Lacson Street, Corner North Capitol Road, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
For orders, reservations, and inquiries, you may contact Seda Capitol Central at (034) 703-8888 and 0917 627 4572 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (PR)