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AklayJune 5, 2006 Monday

Cooking With Chef Aklay

One of the reasons I moved to Sagada is to learn from the French master chef himself - Aklay (an Igorot name given to him). He has been cooking for 26 years in 27 countries as he mountain biked his way across Europe, the Himalayan mountain range and Asia. He has cooked with firewood when he stayed in the jungles of Borneo and Palawan and he has cooked in a kitchen equipped with all the bells and whistles as pastry chef to the Sultan of Brunei. From mopping kitchen floors to being head chef, he's done it all. I don't think there's another one like him in the world. Having him here in Sagada and savouring his cooking is truly a gem of a find.

Assembly Line Efficiency
More than anyone else in Sagada, I've hung out with him, observing how he does things. He works methodically with the efficiency of an assembly line. I watched him go to work - simultaneously, he baked (from scratch) 3 types of bread (whole wheat bread, pan au chocolat and garlic/pepper/carrot bread), smoked bacon, baked 2 cakes and cooked his lunch. For Villia's despedida, he deboned 3 ducks in less than 10 minutes. If he draws a gun as fast as he cooks, he'd be the fastest gun alive.

Heavenly food
I've tasted his cooking on more than a few occasions. This guy knows his shit. I'd beg for his leftovers. His 2 dogs eat better than me.

Getting a Promotion
From simply being an inquisitive observer, he has now allowed me roll some dough and zest some lime. When I asked to do more, he smiled and shook his head. Not because I'll screw it up, but because it takes me 3x the time to do what he does. Everything is precisely timed. A delay can cause a domino effect.

    Cooking Tips from Aklay:
  • Use the foil wrapper of the butter as a non-stick bottom layer to the baking pan.
  • Whatever bread you do in any part of the world, the ratio of flour to water is always the same. Whatever the weight of the water, 55% of that is flour. The object is to make the dough as soft as possible without being sticky.
  • When putting eggs in the batter, put 3 eggs at a time in a bowl before pouring it on to the batter. Why not just put the eggs directly on the batter? If any of the eggs is bad, you screw up the batter.
  • If it's too sweet, add pepper. If it's too salty, you're screwed.
    Lingering Aklay Quotes: (with all the high-brow, arrogance and sarcasm only a French chef can muster)
  • After savouring the meal he prepared, I said, "I never get to eat this good everyday". He said, "I do."
  • When I asked him what soup he made, he said, "I never make the same thing twice. You want me to name every single one of them?"
  • When I mentioned it's genius to be an Iron Chef, thinking fast on what and how to prepare a full course meal in an hour, he said, "That's not genius. I do that shit everyday"
  • When I asked him how long it takes to be a good chef, he replied, " can't be a good chef until you've made 2,000 mistakes."
  • When I asked him what he considers a difficult dish, he said, "I'd been cooking for 27 years. There's no such thing as a difficult dish. Either it's too long or too short, or too fast...but not difficult "
  • "If you'd been cooking for as long as I have and you still keep making the same mistakes, then it's time to change career"
  • "...the number of people I cook for doesn't matter...100, 500 or 1000. It's the organization that counts."
I can't enough of this guy!

--- TheLoneRider

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