Looking for the 5-star experience? Private chef Noel de la Rama says that one can easily host their own fine dining Christmas feast.
Even though Chef Noel de la Rama says he is one the least known cooks in the industry, his clientele of top moguls, society figures, and celebrities that span from New York to Manila have looked to him for the ultimate fine dining experience. A one-man team, he is known for his bespoke menu and service. “I never offer set A, B, or C like most caterers. That in itself makes it extra special. Everything that comes out of my kitchen is made by myself,” he states. A personal chef, caterer, and culinary teacher, he ventured into private dining for the main reason that he never wants to make the same thing twice. “There’s nothing more tiresome than cooking the same food all over again for days without end. I am fortunate enough to have clients who somehow give me a free hand whenever I create a menu. Initially, I ask them about any food requests, aversions, and restrictions then I let my imagination take over. As a personal chef it is my responsibility to give my client a memorable meal,” he explains.
Being in the industry for almost 30 years, Chef de la Rama also advocates for farm-to-table cuisine, not only is it better for the environment but it also elevates his meals. “There’s no denying that the freshest seasonal ingredients taste their best at their peak. If your ingredient is top-notch, then there’s no reason why you need to mask its flavor. Find the right complementary component, and I can guarantee you that cherry tomato on your plate will taste really good,” he divulges and touches on the need to respect and support farmers who make it possible to have food on the table. “They spend their time cultivating their products to give us superior products. I think their commitment to their livelihood is what inspires me to produce the best dish possible.”
With the upcoming holidays, the chef would like to remind home cooks and hosts that a Christmas feast doesn’t always mean that the table has to be overflowing with food. He advises to take the “less is more” approach, “you don’t want the taste of your viands competing against each other. Whenever I create a buffet or family- style menu, I usually have two main dishes and a lot of accompaniments and side dishes. Having a tight and cohesive menu makes it more memorable.”
For his family, he shares how their Noche Buena for example is treated as a heavy midnight snack. “Filipino delicacies complemented with a baked ham or chicken galantine plus a lot of cheeses, bread, salads and of course thick tsokolate so we can dunk our buttery ensaymadas from Pampanga.”
One trick that Chef de la Rama also shares is when he’s stuck on creative ideas for recipes is to draw from Filipino flavors. “You have no idea how many times the flavors of adobo have saved me when creating a dish. We are lucky because ours is a melting pot of different cultures and influences. So it is important to use it to your advantage.” Another essential ingredient he discloses is butter, “whether it’s the holidays or not, good butter has been an essential part of my cooking–melted, browned, flavored, or even just slightly softened.”