The best time to be creative in the kitchen is when you're hungry, at least according to renowned chef Billy King, the man who brought the famed Le Souffle restaurant here.
True enough, King hasn't eaten anything when he showed his latest creations at The Manor's Le Chef restaurant in Baguio City late last month.
He's not the type who holds a pen and sits down to think, either -- the chef initially said he'll serve 6 new items, but he ended up with 13.
"It's best to be hungry. It's the best time to be creative. Let the gastric juices and imagination flow," he said.
King is a proud chef, one who's not willing to jump on the celebrity chef bandwagon. He said, referring to chef contests on television, "Some of it is nonsense. Why create something in an hour when you need 3 hours to do it? It's not right. It just cannot be good."
"It seems nobody can do anything without a blender nowadays," he quipped.
His seeming air of arrogance, however, fades away the moment we got to taste his dishes. From the savory dishes to the desserts and drinks, each item tasted divine, causing us food writers to close our eyes and call to God after every bite.
What the chef served us, indeed, was a meal fit for a king.
The chef's first dish was a salad with blackened prawns cooked in 7 spices mixed with green mango, celery, walnuts, kesong puti, avocado, apple, tomato and an assortment of greens.
It had 2 dressings -- olive oil with lemon for the vegetables and sesame for the prawns. The salad had very clean flavors, and was a great way to start the long meal.
This was followed by 5 savory dishes, each showing King's effortless culinary brilliance. The melt-in-your-mouth fatless steak had just the right hint of spice with the horseradish, and the accompanying vegetable rice was very hearty and filling.
The delicate roasted salmon provided a nice contrast to the thin, crisp papadum served with yogurt and talong salad, while the rack of lamb sinigang, although not that sour as it's supposed to, had the big, bold flavors of rosemary.
Next up was another seafood dish -- sea bass with spinach and mushroom duxelle, wrapped in phyllo pastry with turmeric and ginger sauce. It's the same dish that Freddie Roach, trainer of boxing champ Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, enjoyed eating, King shared.
What I found the best-tasting out of King's savory dishes, however, is the balsamic baked adobo served with spaghettini with mushrooms and carbonara sauce. It was a very sexy dish -- from the crispy pork skin to the rich balsamic flavor.
"When it comes to food, just keep it clean. You can make it complex, but you still have to identify the flavors," King said.
King also came up with 3 alcoholic beverages to suit different tastes.
For those who want something refreshing, there's the vodka with Midori, Sprite, cucumber peel, orange and apple. Fruit lovers, on the other hand, may be drawn to the blended mango and pineapple shake with Blue Curacao and grenadine.
The third drink, the Toblerone cocktail, is what I liked the most. Served with coffee, orange, almond liqueur, chocolate shavings, chocolate syrup, and cinnamon, it's a lovely drink with just the right amount of kick.
After the drinks and savory dishes came 4 delectable desserts, each with a unique charm.
Saffron ice cream, the least sweet dish, balanced the sourness of the strawberries while the walnut ice cream lent a rich, earthy flavor to the apple pie with cinnamon cream.
The cheesecake and the chocolate mousse gateaux were equally good desserts, but in different ways. Served with French cream and hot chocolate sauce, the cheesecake was dreamy and sensual.
"It's better than really really good sex," the chef said in jest.
The chocolate mousse, on the other hand, had a heavenly taste and wonderful texture. The dish was clean and wholesome -- and it even showed in the way it was plated.
Asked about his cooking secrets, King said, "Just focus on a small thing. Don't try to overdo it. Don't camouflage it. There's only one star of the show, everything else is there to accompany and complement it."
"I'd like to call what I do 'clean cuisine.' High-quality, that's what cooking is all about. And I've been doing it for 12 years," he ended.
He may not enjoy writing down recipes, brainstorming sessions and celebrity cook-offs, but King certainly knows what he's doing, and he does it well.
LE CHEF AT THE MANOR
Camp John Hay, Loakan Road
Baguio City, Philippines
For reservations, visit http://www.cjhotels.com.
KEIX'S NOTE: This piece first appeared on abs-cbnNEWS.com (Click here to view the article).