Culinary Wisdom: 8 Thoughts and Tips About Food by Chef RV Manabat, from Taiwanese Chicken to Boston Lobster Rolls - LA Wine & Dine

The Youtube star traverses the world in search of great flavors and even better insights.

He was baptized Rudolf Vincent T. Manabat. However, he is commonly known as Chef RV Manabat—a name familiar to some, due to his massive online presence, with almost one million YouTube subscribers and 1.5 million Facebook followers. And it consistently grows each time he opens his oven!

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This 30-year-old kitchen wiz from Biñan, Laguna has regularly explored the world, immersing himself to as many culinary experiences as possible. This he does so he can successfully share his lessons learned back home to whoever is interested. And he has not stopped. Ever!

Armed with a Culinary Arts degree from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management of the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde in 2012, he opted to teach at a college in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for a year. 

This was in preparation to pursue a postgraduate Masters in Gastronomy, Major in Food, Wine and Cheese Studies from Boston University, a private research institution by the Charles River.

Further studies

With a passion to further impart his expertise locally, Manabat became a chef-instructor at the Maya Kitchen Culinary Center Manila, which is a mainstay household brand for nearly five decades. He followed this up by a teaching stint with the Christian Brothers at his alma mater.

It was at this period he authored his bestselling cookbook Baking Secrets, followed by the sequel More Baking Secrets six years later. He soon ventured to foreign shores once again. His goal now was a diploma course in French Patisserie at the Ecole National Superiore de la Patisserie in Yssingeaux, an idyllic commune in south-central France. 

Manabat eventually took a  leap of faith and opened his home  kitchen to seven housewives and home-bakers who wished to acquire the fundamentals of pastry-making. The once-a-week sessions  immediately ballooned to thrice-a-week meetings with 35 participants. Yearning for more enlightenment, he found himself enrolled in a Master Chocolatier Program at the Chocolate Academy, a long-standing institution with international guest chefs, in the quaint municipality of Wieze in Belgium.

To update his craftsmanship, he signed up for a revered cake decorating course at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, which specializes in award-winning entrepreneurial-focused programs.

Upon his return to our islands, he decided to focus his full-time efforts on his growing number of eager apprentices. He eventually launched his Boutique Cooking and Baking Studio which showcases international cuisine, lifestyle baking and catering programs.

This was coupled with his eponymous café-restaurant in his beloved hometown to provide a physical and community venue for supportive and loyal patrons to his home-cooked, proudly timplang Biñan meals and home-baked treats of delectable selections of cakes and pastries.

Socmed platform

In the years after, he followed his desire to travel to most continents, to include courses at the French Pastry School in Chicago, as well as specialty certificate courses in Asian cuisine in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea, to absorb, assimilate, master and finally impart tidbits, formulas, conundrums and secrets.

Due to the pandemic, his face-to-face workshops and seminars have been put to a halt and his dining operations are presently limited only to take-out.

Not a minute wasted, he instantly ramped up his social media presence—he has been a well-known internet personality since 2019—and doubled his efforts in creating cooking and baking video tutorials for those who seek a new hobby or start a new business.

One recent afternoon, we had the opportunity to chat with this man who leaves no stone unturned. Then he shared his persevering adventures (at times, misadventures) as he tried to obtain secrets of his todream recipes.

Phở in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

“According to my Vietnamese teacher at the Saigon Culinary Center, the secret to good Pho is to caramelize the herbs and spices on an open fire. This will enhance the natural flavor of the soup. Though I trust cooking schools, I wandered around the markets and sidewalks to observe how the locals cook this dish. The teacher was right; the aroma of the soup came from the caramelized Spices.”

From left: Vietnamese pho; Taiwanese Chicken

Fried Chicken in Taipei, Taiwan

“At the basement of the world-famous Shilin Market, diners wait in long lines for this heaven-sent chicken: so crispy, so flavorful and no sauce needed. Per the owner, the factors are in the marinade: just soy sauce and some spices. And lastly, in the frying, on consistently hot oil for the exterior extra crisp. You have an option to dust the chicken with garlic powder.”

On Sushi in Tokyo, Japan

“For perfect sushi, the freshest fish is a must. In Tokyo, there’s no other place than the Tsukiji Fish Market. To seriously and closely observe the pros, I had several lunches at sushi bars around the area to witness authentic sushi preparation. Findings: it starts with prime cuts of fish and vinegared rice, coupled with proper, well-balanced pressure from absolutely clean bare hands. It takes a lot of patience, practice and experience!”

From left: Japanese sushi; Swiss fondue

On Cheese Fondue in Grindelwald, Switzerland

“I visited a bakery-restaurant in this village, known to serve classic cheese fondue with a home-style method. ‘Add Gruyere, Emmenthal, white wine and liquor. The amount of alcohol varies on how happy you are,’ shared the owner with a cheeky smile. ‘Oh, please make sure to use freshly-baked bread to complement the cheese mixture well!’”

On Paella in Barcelona, Spain

“On the second floor of the popular Mercato de La Boqueria, there’s a cooking school for foreigners specializing on this national treasure. Their hidden ingredient: the sofrito, otherwise known as the sauté mix. Caramelized onions and near-burnt  pimiento are the keys to achieve a golden-colored paella without any artificial colorant. It guarantees good authentic smoky aroma and long-lasting flavor!”

From left: Spanish paella / patano, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; French brioche / p.p1 Opsylac, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On Brioche in Paris, France

“Almost all brioches taste similar, but some stand out. A baker at a charming boulangerie at the L’Opera district proudly revealed his concoction: ‘Use Normandy Butter and plenty of egg yolks. Don’t forget to rest it overnight to let the gluten develop slowly. For the golden crust while leaving the interior ultimately soft and buttery, use an excellent convection oven.’ “

On Lobster Rolls in Boston, USA

“Comfort food during my graduate school days. A local chef from Maine—where lobsters reign supreme—expressed the code: ‘Start with freshly-boiled lobster. Crumble its meat just until chunky. Add mayonnaise, old bay seasoning, some lemon juice and salt and pepper. And of course, good brioche to blanket the goodness. That’s it!’”

From left: Boston lobster roll; Brazilian pao de queijo

On Pao De Queijo in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

“I love cheese bread, usually dipped in olive oil with sea salt. I frequented the Churrascaria Palace—my favorite restaurant in the entire world—and the waiters were extra friendly. But they were not friendly enough to divulge the recipe. In Copacabana, I chanced upon a bakery that baked this treat at least eight times a day. I just sat there and asked the necessary questions. The enigma? Just tapioca flour, cheese and a hot oven. Throughout my stay, I would buy bags full of this famous pastry. I brought home two cans of the original Portuguese olive oil and packs of unadulterated Brazilian sea salt to celebrate and commemorate this hard-earned discovery.”

This story originally came out in the June 2021 issue of Lifestyle Asia.

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