Astelanie Castro could not believe it when told she and two others were to represent Danao City in battling it out with other Cebu towns and cities in a cooking competition.
It was not disbelief out of sheer joy; it was pure, unadulterated disbelief. Why me? She wondered. It turned out she was a perfect representative of the city – a first-time participant in the Cebu Provincial Government’s culinary event Eats Meets West, which is now on its third year.
“Ang giingon kay kanang dili kamao moluto. Dili man ko kahibalo moluto. Maski paggunit sa kutsilyo (What was said was somebody who does not know how to cook. I do not know how to cook, not even how to properly hold a knife),” she said, with barely a hint of nervousness in her voice.
The competition rules included that those who will vie for the contests in the best appetizer, dessert, welcome drink, main course, and interpretation of a 1923 cookbook recipe categories, among others, should not have any formal culinary training.
Eats Meets West 2017 was the output of the Cebu Community-based Ecotourism Project of the Cebu Provincial Government that was started in 2015. It was intended to help foster authenticity and pride of place as it highlighted the value of local cuisine.
This year, the grand opening took place on November 16 in the town of Tuburan, which showcased its homegrown coffee.
On November 17, a whole-day Food Forum was held at the Capitol Social Hall, with seven culinary experts taking on topics like the ancient diet of Cebuanos, what Cebuano cooking really is, healing with food, organic farming, and design for food.
From November 18 to 19, 20-year-old Astelanie and classmates Niña An Goc-ong, 23, and Mary Cherelyn Buot, 19, joined representatives of 10 other Cebu towns and cities that battled for cooking supremacy in the annual culinary event.
“Naay kulba (I was nervous at the start) but at the end of the day nawala ra man (it was gone). Na-enjoy ra namo ang competition,” said Niña who, like Astelanie and Mary, was an education major of Cebu State University-Danao City campus.
“Maong nagpasalamat mi sa (We are thankful to the) government and sa among (to our) school nga gitagaan mi’g (for the) trust (to represent the city),” also said Mary.
Niña, who helps cook food for the family, said they just did their best and that they actually learned a lot from the experience, especially in preparing food within a time limit. “Mas ni-improve ang akong pagluto (My cooking improved). Like they said, ‘experience is the best teacher’,” she said.
Though their team was actually the youngest, it showed nerves of steel, with its main course “Gipusil nga Tinap-anan” being picked second best. (Gipusil, which is short for “gipus-an og sili,” or spiced with pepper, was a reference to the city being known for its home-made gun industry.)
“Mao na siya ang (That is the) best (representative) of Danao. Ang Danao known sa tinap-anan (smoked fish). Gi-innovate namo og gamay gihimong ‘gipusil nga tinap-anan’,” Astelanie said.
It was apparent that not just the judges appreciated the dish, as the fish was literally mobbed once it was made available for free tasting.
“Nice ang feeling nga daghang niduol (sa among booth),” she said. #