Aside from cozy rooms for a good slumber, Filipinos would always look for good food, or at the very least a modest breakfast buffet as well as a la carte choices, when staying in hotels. Whether one is staying in a five-star hotel with more than 20 buffet stations or in a business hotel with a well-curated spread, attention to dining options has become a must amid an increasingly more discerning market.
This is the reason why F1 Hotel Manila, the first hotel to open at the bustling Bonifacio Global City area five years ago, has decided to revamp its buffet and a la carte menu. It has tapped award-winning chef Angelo Chubby Timban as its new executive chef to execute changes in the menu for F All-Day Dining (the hotel’s main restaurant), Canary Lounge (outdoor bar), and all banquet and social events.
Now, Timban may exude a modest demeanor—tough looking but self-effacing and soft-spoken, to the point that you’d have to egg him to talk about his credentials—but he is a genius in the kitchen. And what he lacks in formal culinary education, he more than makes up for it with 26 years of solid, backbreaking kitchen work.
He honed his chops in some of the industry’s largest names, such as Resorts World Manila, Discovery Suites, Shangri-La Boracay, Traders Hotel, and Manila Pavilion. In various capacities, Timban has participated in the World Food Expo from 2003 up to 2010. He also bagged the golden award for the 2014 Philippine Culinary Cup and was a Silver Awardee during the National Food Showdown regional chef wars in the same year.
“The kitchen is a harsh environment. It is not the place for toying with food preparations. You must conceptualize your menu effectively, otherwise you’d end up with wasted ingredients, or worse, a hodgepodge menu that makes no sense at all,” he said in an interview a month after he joined F1 Hotel full time in August.
“Before you do fusion, you should master the basics first. Before you innovate, make sure you have a solid foundation to begin with,” added Timban, who points to a delicate balance of serving dishes that would impress hotel clients (yung hindi madali lutuin sa bahay) while achieving a comfort food taste.
For F1’s buffet restaurant, Timban’s challenge was to work out a menu that is well curated while maintaining a business hotel price point. Quantity is surely appreciated, but so is a commitment to quality and consistency in taste.
“Even if our buffet spread is not as extensive as those in luxury hotels, for as long as all the dishes taste good, then you get value for your money,” he said. And it makes sense from a business point of view as F1 is not out to compete with five-star hotels, with most of its clients coming from the corporate sector.
Among the dishes that he introduced are the crispy ox tail with sisig marinade, prawns with charred leek mousse, shiitake mushroom gratin, and ika sumi maki, a playful take of the Japanese roll that boldly uses squid ink for the rice base.
Even before Timban joined our table for the interview, we were already commenting how the taste of the buffet spread has improved. (I previously ate at F with my mom several months ago and it was a hit-and-miss experience, with dishes that felt like they were not well thought of and were just included in the buffet for the sake of meeting a certain number of stations.) The dishes now were flavorful and exciting to the palate.
Not a bad achievement at all for Timban, whose comfort food remains to be home-cooked pakbet with bagnet.
“We are finalizing other changes in the menu. We are thinking of including Tex-Mex and bento boxes, as well as Spanish and Korean-themed buffet on certain days,” he said. One can only look forward with happy anticipation to more delightful dining experiences at F1 Hotel Manila.
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