Manila's Gene Gonzalez cooks up recipe for success

Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:29pm EST
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By Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - The Philippines may not have much of a reputation as a culinary destination, but it has produced a number of top-notch chefs who've made a mark in global kitchens, often thanks to Eugenio "Gene" Gonzalez.

Chef, restaurateur, best-selling author and teacher rolled into one, Gonzalez was a former bond market dealer who set up his first restaurant, Cafe Ysabel, at the age of 23, and it's still going strong 27 years later.

The 50-year-old self-confessed chocoholic, who studied behavioral science, hosted gourmet cooking shows on Philippine television in the 1980s and he has written several recipe books that have made it to Manila's best-seller lists.

In 2000, he set up "The Center for Asian Culinary Studies" from which about 500 chefs have graduated so far.

Gonzalez spoke to Reuters recently about his first love and why he thinks passion is not enough to make a great chef:

Q: How and when did your love for cooking begin?

A: "I started cooking when I could stand on a stool. I grew up in a kitchen. We came from a very special town that is well known for entertaining and for food. My family entertained the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, then Prince Norodom (Sihanouk), who later became king of Cambodia, and Arthur MacArthur (a former Philippine governor-general), they were so many."

Q: What inspired you to go into the restaurant business?   Continued...

<p>Eugenio "Gene" Gonzalez, a top-rated Filipino chef, tastes the sauce his students are working on during a class at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies in Manila. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo</p>