Good chefs don’t accidentally burn food. They deliberately do it.
Gone are the days when charred, blackened foods were treated as a mistake; now, it’s often the highlight of a dish. Think of Burnt Basque Cheesecake, which made the rounds of social media during the height of the pandemic.
Burning before serving veggies can caramelize its latent sugars, adding sweetness and a kind of creaminess. However, not all veggies and fruits can withstand direct contact with coals. Pineapples, for one, can go from caramelized to bitter to inedible in a flash.
Indeed, intentionally burning food has proven to be quite an attraction for epicures, but an art form that should be left to the experts.
“It’s all about the technique and the right ingredient,” says Chryso Morales, a chef who enjoys meticulously pushing meat and seafood items right over the edge.
Licensed to grill
Chryso is the chef and co-owner of Slow Burn Mnl, a family-oriented home-based food business — run professionally — that’s born out of the pandemic. It specializes in fall-off-the-bone smokin’ ribs with just the right char and caramelization.
Chef Chryso’s method of choice is live coals, but he uses coco coals because they’re more environment-friendly.
“Though coco coal cooks slower than a broiler or a gas grill, it gives a more authentic and smoky aroma,” explains Chryso. “It’s a bit expensive but delivers better food quality.”
According to him, the right way to “burn” food is to learn the art of manipulating fire or coals. Fire is used to bring out the funkiness of the produce’s preserved flavors and to develop the intensity of spices like chili.
“Caramelization is key,” the young chef adds.
The making of Slow Burn Mnl
Chef Chryso used to be the executive chef of Aloha Hotel, a premier resort-hotel in Boracay, and a consultant to a hospitality school before the pandemic hit.
“My stint in Boracay was both challenging and rewarding. When I started, our restaurant ranked 65th out of 300 on TripAdvisor,” shared chef Chryso.
Sadly, he is among those displaced in the tourism industry. “During my time, the restaurant made it to the top 20. We also opened the banquet service component of the hotel business.”
He has also worked for Shangri-La at The Fort and Somerset Alabang.
“The toughest training I had was from one of my culinary idols, Nathan Griffin, of the Raging Bull, Shangri-La at the Fort. His dedication to quality, safety, and sanitation were so intense. The Shangri-La culinary team is an outstanding training ground for any eager chef,” enthused Chryso.
A couple of months after losing his livelihood, another personal tragedy occurred: his grandfather passed away.
“Dad, as we call him, was my No. 1 fan. He would encourage and motivate me to excel. He was entrepreneurial, self-sacrificing, and street-smart,” said Chryso.
As a tribute to his grandpa, Chryso put up Slow Burn Mnl, together with his brother Dale and good friend Matthew Ignacio in September last year, just a couple of weeks after his lolo’s passing.
Dale and Matthew handle the business side, while Chryso lords it over the kitchen.
Slow Burn Mnl offers three kinds of party trays: Turf & Surf, fall-off-the-bone smokin’ barbecue ribs, easy-to-peel butter garlic shrimps, French beans, cherry tomatoes, and truffle umami rice (full tray (P1,499), half tray (P899); Surf & Surf, is ideal for pescatarians as it consists of seared fresh salmon served with Slow Burn secret sauce and squid ink rice (full tray (P1,599), half tray (P999); and The Mix, a combination of the Turf & Surf and Surf & Surf so customers can have all the elements of both platters/trays in one (full tray (P2,200).
Chryso’s signature truffled umami rice is mixed with different kinds of mushrooms and spices topped and drizzled with truffle oil. Customers have the option to choose between the umami rice and squid ink rice.
Relatives and friends were their first customers. Soon word got out, and they started getting inquiries from people they hardly knew. And through the help of social media, their network grew.
“We hoped for it, planned for it. But we were still surprised by the wonderful feedback and reviews. The rate of customer satisfaction with the food has just been amazing, and this drives us to continue aiming for excellence and consistency,” enthused chef Chryso. “Shout-out to our parents, Nardie and Liza Morales, relatives and friends who supported us all the way.”
The name Slow Burn is a reflection of chef Chris’s approach to cooking good, quality food: meticulous, deliberate, and carefully prepared. Not hurried, not fast, not convenient.
Chef Chryso’s passion and dedication to his craft are evident in every party tray that leaves Slow Burn Mnl’s kitchen.
It's all in the family
Though chef Chryso started late in the kitchen (he was 18 and already in culinary school), he knows his food well.
“I grew up in a foodie family,” shared Chryso. “My family would go on culinary trips here and abroad just to explore and try each province or country’s culinary offerings. My favorite culinary destinations are Thailand for the uniqueness and intensity of their food, and Hong Kong as their dishes are full of umami flavors.”
According to Chryso, he got his skill of seasoning dishes properly from his mom, Liza Hernandez-Morales, a veteran in the food and hospitality industry. She is currently the institute director of Le Cordon Bleu-Ateneo.
“She doesn’t cook every day as she has her career to take care of, but when she does, it’s always special. She makes the best kare-kare, callos, and embutido,” he added.
Slow Burn Mnl will be launching two new platters to complement its Turf & Surf and Surf & Surf offerings.
“We also plan to branch out in south of Manila as we have a lot of customers there,” he added.
To this day, Chryso can’t believe that he’s now a proud food entrepreneur, exactly what his grandfather wanted him to be.
“My dream is to be able to share the Slow Burn Mnl dishes with all those people who are close to my heart but have passed on before Slow Burn came about. Cheers to you, Dad (lolo)!” added Chryso.