Chele Gonzalez Explores The Exciting Possibilities Of Cacao

Chef Chele Gonzalez incorporates the Philippine cacao into his newest menu, showcasing nuanced flavors and varied uses beyond the fruit’s role in chocolate making.

Chele Gonzalez, chef and partner of Gallery by Chele, says “Gallery by Chele is and always will be my flagship restaurant. It is where Carlos (Executive Sous-chef and partner Carlos Villaflor) and I have devoted our careers to exploring what is possible. It is where we bring to life the things we value—creativity, teamwork, and learning.”

Chele Gonzalez

READ ALSO: Archipelagic Flavors: 4 Chefs Who Are Championing Filipino Ingredients

In Stvdio Lab, its research and development kitchen, Gallery by Chele goes beyond being a restaurant.  It is a laboratory for high-minded gastronomic concepts and a breeding ground for cutting-edge ideas and where out-of-the-box menus are crafted to delight guests’ palates.

One of Gallery by Chele’s central missions is to engage with the world. Through collaborations with individuals and institutions in agriculture, food technology, culture, and design, it enriches the understanding of gastronomy and hospitality. Discovering and crafting delectable creations from what others might deem waste resonates with Gallery by Chele’s philosophy.

This season, Gallery by Chele is experimenting and discovering the possibilities behind cacao.

“People know that chocolate is made with cacao,” says Villaflor. “But what most don’t know is that cacao is also a fruit.”

Cacao Ceviche

Cacao has a unique taste, combining the flavors of other tropical fruits, such as lychee, rambutan, cotton fruit (santol), and sour citrus. It is common practice within the chocolate industry to discard the surrounding mucilage or cacao pulp while processing the precious beans within to create chocolate. The Gallery by Chele team has discovered there is much more to the amazing cacao beyond its most commonly-known byproduct. 

Their travels to Davao and other parts of the Philippines have allowed them to appreciate cacao as a complete fruit. This greater understanding of the entire cacao—from the fruit pulp to its shell—has inspired the restaurant to create a new dining experience.

“We’ve been working with Rob Crisostomo from Tigre Y Oliva Craft Chocolate for a while now. Recently we found out that they now are capable of extracting and pasteurizing cacao pulp juice,” shares Kevin Menendez, Gallery by Chele’s R&D chef. After being extracted from the mucilage, the pulp juice undergoes a stabilization process and is concentrated into syrup. This syrup is then used as a sweetener substitute in the new menu. The research and development team also utilizes cascaras or cacao shells to create fermented products such as vinegar and kombucha, which are also featured in the restaurant’s dishes.

Gallery by Chele now brings the complexity of cacao to its newest tasting menu, providing its guests with uniquely delectable possibilities.

Gallery by Chele is about exploration. Traveling around the Philippines and neighboring countries, the restaurant examines the disparities and similarities among the local ingredients. They engage with the outside world not only to learn about global culinary techniques, design, and technology but also to impart our knowledge to others.

There are two menus available, a six-course and a full 10-course experience. Both tasting menus has a supplement for a cocktail, wine, or non-alcoholic pairing while the full experience can be paired with a combination of a cocktail and wine pairing. Both have the “bites” or appetizers that take them around the restaurant and garden to try these bites that cover “Welcome”, “Garden”, “Travels”, “Heritage”, and “Sea.”

New dishes that stand out include the swimmer crab with aligue (crab roe), shiitake mushrooms, and aromatics as well as the octopus stay, citrus slipper lobster wrapped in kale with beurre blanc, duck cacao in beetroot and mole, and the tuna belly inasal.

It is not common for a menu to revolve around the cacao not as a source of chocolate and this menu is one of the most innovative and delectable tasting menus currently offered in the Philippine dining scene.

The Unknown Faces of Cacao is currently available at Gallery by Chele located at the 5th floor of CLIPP Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Message or call (0917) 5461673 for inquiries or reservations.

Photos courtesy of Gallery by Chele.

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