Chef Chele’s old and new obsessions

Published June 3, 2021, 12:00 PM

by Jules Vivas

The chef releases a line of wagyu products and a new burnt Basque cheesecake flavor

LOVE FOR EVERYTHING FILIPINO Chef Chele, on the left, with Rica Buenaflor harvesting gabi leaves from a field at Baranggay Lanipga, Camarines Sur, to use as an ingredient to make what he calls ‘real’ laing. (Photo from Chef Chele’s Instagram account)

Chef Chele González lives by the philosophy of quality first. The Spanish-born culinary artist values excellence to such a degree that he travels around the Philippines on a personal mission to learn the techniques and traditions of Filipino cooking. He has reached indigenous people in far-flung areas, from the Aeta community in El Kabayo to the Tagbanua tribe of Coron. For him, dining is not simply food, but the experience, the stories, and the various layers that make each bite much more meaningful. 

Manila Bulletin Lifestyle has caught up with the acclaimed cuisinier about his latest concept born out of the pandemic just a couple of months back. In our convo, Chef Chele shares that he was on his way to another culinary adventure to shoot for a mini food series called HerEATage. The short documentary series is aligned with his advocacy of discovering local food traditions, techniques, and well-kept secrets.

 His most current undertaking is at Barangay Lanigpa, in Camarines Sur. There Chef Chele studies how to create “real” laing with Rica Dakudao Buenaflor, a Le Cordon Bleu Paris graduate, who organizes the best of Bicol food tour covering Naga to Legazpi to Sorsogon, almost doing what Chef Tibong Jardeleza does in Iloilo and Western Visayas, but in the Bicol Region.

After the brief kamustahan, he proceeds to discuss his latest online concept, Deli by Chele. As the name suggests, it is a virtual platform that sells seasonal produce, cheeses and charcuterie, fresh bread, and other delicatessens, mostly local and all responsibly sourced.

MEAT MEET The frozen wagyu goods, (clockwise from left) tapa, pastrami, salpicao, corned beef, burger, and sausage

In a previous story in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, AA Patawaran summarizes the idea of the deli in a paragraph: “Deli by Chele is only one of the product lines that should come out of Stvdio Lab, a research and development arm Chele has set up with his team in pursuit of expanding their role as responsible citizens of a world that needs a lot more caring as well as the role of food and consumption in a world fast running out of resources.”

“First, you must understand our brand. Deli by Chele is not simply sustainable products. We find the right supply, most of it is local ingredients, and the process is all artisanal,” he says. The deli is the accumulation of Chef Chele’s culinary journey not just here in the Philippines, but his complete career in Spain and the rest of the world. “Here at Deli by Chele, it is our goal to constantly come up with good quality products that are healthy and delicious yet affordable and accessible.”

 This month, Chef Chele’s kitchen has been working hard to deliver responsibly and sustainably grown produce. Currently highlighted is a line of wagyu products.

Wagyu, despite its fancy reputation, translates to “Japanese cow.” Not all beef that comes from the East Asian country, however, is considered wagyu. Only four breeds of cattle qualify. The meat stands at the top of the luxury ingredient pyramid along with black truffles, caviar, and ethical foie gras. Full-blood wagyu cattle have the highest marble (flavor richness) levels of any beef in the world. High-grade, umami-rich, transcendentally tender, and incredibly fatty, the wagyu stands at the pinnacle of steak perfection.

Chef Chele and his team manage to incorporate the luxury item into local and everyday ingredients and foodstuff. The beefs are from Snake River Farms or WX Rangers Valley, well-known wagyu suppliers.

Here are some of the products from the “Chef Chele’s Wagyu Obsessions” line.

There are no artificial preservatives, coloring, or additives in the Wagyu Tapa, or to any of the products at the deli for that matter. American wagyu from Snake River Farms is cured in a classic marinate to create this pure wagyu goodness in the Filipino breakfast favorite.

Build an interesting hotdog sandwich of your own with the Wagyu Hotdog Build Box. It contains wagyu beef sausage brimming with Japanese flavors from the Sancho pepper, ginger, shiso, togarashi, and yuzu kosho. With the sausage are a homemade Brioche sausage bun, Spread Me-yo (Chele’s signature mayo-mustard), and pickled shallots.

LEAN, MEAN, AND ON A HIGH Pastrami sandwich from the kit

Yet another sandwich potential in the menu is the glorious marbled wagyu beef carefully ground into thick, robust patties. Indulge in Holy Chuck as the highlight of your main meal or as a quick burger sandwich.

The bestseller is the Wagyu Pastrami. “First consideration is the source of the product. We use brisket from Argentina. Bolzico beef that is all-natural, grass-fed,” says Chef Chele, stressing that no preservatives and chemicals are used. “We use artisanal techniques. Curing, hot smoking, cold smoking, roasting, and resting the meat takes 20 days overall.”

The Wagyu Pastrami Sandwich Build Box contains Sourdough roast, Spread Me-Yo, pickled cucumber, and of course the New York-style pastrami. Also available are the salpicao and corned beef.

 ‘Our goal is to constantly come up with good quality products that are healthy and delicious yet affordable and accessible.’

In other news, Chef Chele has been baking for his wife, Teri, a decadent chocolate pastry, the Dark Chocolate Burnt Basque cheesecake, which has just been added to the Gallery by Chele menu some days ago.

Talandang single-origin chocolate, from a place in Mindanao of the same name, is used by Chef Chele, sourced from local brand Tigre y Oliva. “This new variation of the Burnt Basque Cheesecake has the right balance of saltiness and cheesy flavors to complement the dark, rich, and bitter chocolate,” explains the chef. |