The wedding banquet

When two chefs get married, expect a feast for the senses

THE BIG DAY Don and Monica's grandiose ceremony screams elegance

Passionate men who take pleasure in doing purposeful things are pure gold. Once Linamnam chef Don Baldsano puts his mind and heart into something, whether it’s bleeding in the kitchen (metaphorically but also literally), foraging in the great outdoors, or simply love, he gives it his all and more.

On Jan. 28, 2023, the restaurateur tied the knot with pastry chef Monica Morales in a ceremony straight out of a fairy tale, held at the East Ocean Palace at Aseana Business Park in Parañaque.

In a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of crystal, glass, and silver, made more lush by a forest of pale blooms in white, lavender, peach, and marigold, the ballroom was decked out in the style of a modern Hong Kong wedding, more wow even without a strict dress code requiring black ties and long gowns. Fresh flowers hanging from the lofty ceiling and cascading from the gold-trimmed Venetian crystal chandeliers added an air of opulence to the ritzy ballroom.

MR. AND MRS. BALDOSANO Monica and Don at the lobby area of the East Ocean Palace

The blushing bride glowed in her picturesque white, feather-trimmed, off-the-shoulder wedding dress, while the groom looked dapper in his blue suit and brown leather shoes, his scarlet necktie, a contrast to the sea of teal and white, the motif of the nuptial.

Carrying the ring down the aisle was food author Angelo Comsti, who, as the groom described him, might be “the tallest, the oldest ring bearer in history.”

Among the esteemed guests, who flew in all the way from Mindanao, were Tawi-Tawi governor Ysmael Mang Sali and Tawi-Tawi first lady Jumdah Sali, member of parliament BARMM deputy speaker Benjamin Loong, Turtle Islands Mayor Hji Faizal Jamalul, Tawi-Tawi provincial board member Hj. Sabudin Abdurahim, the Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP- EAGA) business council country director Redentor Lauddin, national commission of Muslim Filipino director Ardin Asiri, ministry of trade, investment, and tourism director Termiji Masahud, Tawi-Tawi economic adviser Sulay Halipa, and former Silang Cavite Mayors Socorro Poblete and Omil Poblete.

 Also in attendance were Ilonggo cuisine and culture champion Tibong Jardaleza, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo general manager Nat Lim, journalist Jaclyn Clemente-Koppe, Made Nice co-owner Raul Forés, Tipple and Slaw owner Francis Lim, and the Manila Bulletin Lifestyle editor AA Patawaran.

What would one expect at a banquet celebrating the union of two chefs? A reception worth raving over, that’s what.

The luscious Chinese spread handpicked by the foodie couple was nothing short of superb, from the roasted suckling pig to the salt and pepper sea mantis, from the sea cucumber with Australian abalone cubes to the steamed live mud crabs with garlic.

TOGETHER IS A WONDERFUL PLACE TO BE From left: Raul Fores, Jacklyn Clemente-Koppe, Angelo Comsti, Natalie Lim, the bride and the groom, AA Patawaran, Tibong Jardeleza, the author, and Francis Lim

As comforting as witnessing the lovebirds’ exchange of eternal vows was the crab roe shark’s fin soup. Add a dash of black vinegar to enhance the taste.

The steamed live grouper drizzled in light soy sauce, as fragrant as it was delectable, had a pure and smooth sweetness. The flesh, caught in your chopsticks, was so tender it fell apart.

A tantalizing tango of taste and texture, the roasted Hong Kong goose was also fall-off-the-bone tender.

LOVE IN CANTONESE Clockwise from top: Steamed live grouper, roasted suckling pig, crab roe shark's fin soup, sea cucumber with Australian abalone cubes, roasted HK goose, and steamed live mud crabs with garlic

Another chef-approved seafood dish served was the Japanese dried scallop with garlic cloves in oyster sauce. It was followed by the steamed live mud crabs with garlic, which were meaty and distinctly flavorful. You could never go wrong with giant crabs.

‘I believe this marriage will cook very well. For one, I have seen many weddings in my life but Don is the only groom I have ever met who seems as excited about the wedding as the bride.’

The hot taro sago was a hearty end to the meal. It was sweet but not overbearing. Last, but not the least, was the Ma Lai go or the Cantonese sponge cake. The popular Guangdong dessert paired well with traditional tea. At this point, however, most of the guests had downed more than enough wine, whisky, and cocktails, so the puff pastry served more as recovery food.

A CAKE TO REMEMBER The wedding cake from Harina Studios by Shelly Clereda

Don is particularly proud of the five-tier wedding cake from Harina Studios by Shelly Clereda. The vanilla bean cake with salted caramel was decorated with local flowers ylang-ylang, bignay, and plumbagos.

“Shelly added all the local flowers and elements that showcase who I am and what I do,” explains Don. The drape-like fondant was the icing on top, which represented the perfectly imperfect food associated with the 24-year-old chef and his cooking.

“Don talks to us about her the way he talks about the food he wants to cook and eat. Don is a chef for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, but beginning today, he has entered another lifelong commitment,” said the groom’s friend AA Patawaran during his toast for the newlyweds. “I believe this marriage will cook very well. For one, I have seen many weddings in my life but Don is the only groom I have ever met who seems as excited about the wedding as the bride. To Don and Monica, here’s to a life of passion, purpose, and happiness!”