Drew Barrymore’s personal chef Pilar Valdes shares the recipe for a holiday dinner that you can’t get from any other restaurant.
“The best conversations start over good food,” the saying would go which Chef Pilar Valdes is living proof of. A Filipina who moved to New York City to study and work in the nonprofit world found herself as a private chef to Hollywood star Drew Barrymore, all because they bonded over meals. “Drew always says that I met her at a particular time of transition, that the food and our relationship was a grounding force. In many ways, I feel the same way, as I was at a point in my career trying to figure out where to take Kickshaw Cookery next. It was indeed serendipity. Looking back, it really felt like the universe flinging us together,” she shares.
Her company Kickshaw Cookery was also borne out of the same love that a personalized food service can bring. “It’s about trying to capture some of the things I value about good food: comfort from something that is made with care; the excitement of discovering new flavors, textures and ingredients; and the relationships built over shared meals. I do look at cooking for other people as an act of generosity and sharing.”
What makes her recipes relatable and have that special home-cook magic is that Chef Valdes has first-hand experience on being a good eater and just cooking for necessity. “I started cooking as a way to ease my homesickness,” she admits. This translates to how Filipino cuisine is a touchstone for her creative process. “Filipino food and flavors are always home,” she says. “The way I cook draws a lot on my own personal history and flavor journey, just as Filipino cooking also reflects our country’s history—indigenous, migrant, colonial—and everything in between.”
For holiday tips and tricks, the chef constantly teaches homemakers to approach cooking with curiosity and to be unafraid to tweak recipes to your flavor profile and of those who you are serving. “My mother is the reason why I have the love of food and feeding others. We actually have very similar cooking styles in that we both cook very intuitively. She also has an incredible palate. We are both notoriously bad at following recipes and typically cook to taste. Our study was from reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows, and eating, eating, eating,” she shares. Although, one aspect she will never compromise in a dish is balance. “A lot of my strengths are based on responding to clients’ palates or dietary needs while creating exciting and delicious meals. I love working with familiar recipes and bringing in a less familiar ingredient from the green market or a bit of twist in the process or in the spices. The familiar juxtaposed with something unexpected. Balance is really important to me.”
Today, Chef Pilar Valdes is a regular culinary contributor and partner on the Drew Barrymore show, standing opposite of the actress as they both teach the audience how to healthy meals that will still satisfy one’s cravings such as her famous Roast Tomatillo Roblano Soup. Alongside “Rebel Homemaker” which is a cookbook they collaborated on and has already made it New York Times Best Sellers List in its debut week.
In the book, you can find many delicious but still healthy meals to prepare this Christmas. “The book is not a typical cookbook. It has just under 40 recipes that are dear to her heart and that we’ve made in her home, but it also includes her essays and over 300 personal photographs. It’s an incredibly thoughtful and sweet book, and I’m both excited to be a part of it and deeply grateful for the opportunity,” she says proudly.
Rebel Homemaker will soon be available in Manila via Fully Booked and National Bookstore.