PH embassy chef wins first place in 2018 Chef Challenge for serving 'sisig'

By Roy Mabasa

By serving the mouthwatering Filipino dish “sisig,” the chef of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. has captured the first place in the 2018 Chef Challenge at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade in the United States capital over the weekend.

sisig (photo by mbites/Manila Bulletin) sisig (photo by mbites/Manila Bulletin)

Chef Abie Sincioco-Mateo captured the top post in both the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice categories in the annual competition participated in by 27 other countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Caribbean and Europe.

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy said Chef Abie’s sisig, a traditional Filipino dish of grilled or broiled chopped meat, seasoned with calamansi (the Filipino lime) and hot chili, paired with a special “beer cocktail” of combined Pale Pilsen with Cerveza Negra, “won the hearts of the judges and guests.”

Chef Abie described the secret ingredient that made all the difference in her winning dish as “full of love.”

“Tonight’s outcome shows that Philippine cuisine is certainly being recognized in the American mainstream, and the ECC provided us a good platform to further showcase our unique cuisine that testifies to our country’s beautiful and diverse cultural heritage. Chef Abie’s double win is a great way to celebrate National Heritage Month,” said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez.

Aside from Chef Abie, the other winners were: Embassy of Ghana, second place in both the Judges’ and People’s Choice categories; Embassy of the Republic of Haiti, third place in the Judges’ Choice; and the Embassy of Colombia who won third place in the People’s Choice category.

On the other hand, the Best Beverage award went to the Embassy of Barbados and the Best Dressed Embassy was awarded to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco.

This is the third time that the Philippine Embassy joined the Chef Challenge, an event that can only happen in the U.S. capital, which is home to 177 embassies.

Organizers said the challenge provides a setting for culinary diplomacy, cultural diversity and inclusion.

Last year, no less than celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain predicted that sisig will lead the charge in Filipino cuisine’s rising international recognition.

"Americans and American palates are just now starting to become seriously interested... I think certain Filipino dishes are more likely to take root and take hold more quickly than others," Bourdain said in a television interview.