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Prize-winning Kobe beef in the hands of Manila’s top chefs

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 31, 2020 5:00 am

Wagyu Studio’s Live Kitchen Sessions will feature executive chef Yoji Kitayama collaborating with chefs Margarita Forés, Josh Boutwood, Miko Calo and Chele Gonzalez for four nights in January.

Grand Prix-winning Kobe beef prepared by Manila’s best chefs?  Sounds like a foodie fantasy, but it will become reality in January, when Wagyu Studio holds its Live Kitchen Sessions, a series of four-handed events in which Wagyu Studio executive chef Yoji Kitayama will collaborate with chefs Margarita Forés of Grace Park, Josh Boutwood of The Test Kitchen, Miko Calo of Restaurant Metronome and Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by Chele in creating unforgettable tasting menus that will highlight some of the best wagyu in the world.

 Cheers to collaboration: (from left) Wagyu Studio executive chef Yoji Kitayama with chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by Chele, chef Miko Calo of Restaurant Metronome, and chef Josh Boutwood of The Test Kitchen

“These first Live Kitchen Sessions are very meaningful for us,” says LA Clavano, managing director of Wagyu Studio. “We want not only to celebrate the remarkable culinary talent we have in the Philippines, but also to commemorate the arrival of our Grand Prix Kobe wagyu from three-time Kobe Beef Grand Prix winning farmer, Kyuko Tanaka. This is a historic first for the Philippines.”

Agrees chef Kitayama, “We have worked very hard to establish our reputation as a restaurant for high-quality Japanese and local ingredients and produce, but now, these sessions are all about having fun. It is my honor to work with these amazing chefs.”

It is a privilege indeed for Filipinos to be able to taste wagyu of such high quality, which is rarely exported outside Japan. The 320 kilos of A5 beef arrived at Wagyu Studio in the first week of December — accompanied by the golden trophy it won in Kobe — and by the time we visited the restaurant on Dec. 15 to interview three of the four chefs (Forés was held up by a prior engagement), it was already half gone and going fast.

Going for Gold

Chef Josh Boutwood of The Test Kitchen was one of the first to snag his share of the prize-winning beef. “Oh, I stole some wagyu from them!” he laughs. “Because I wanted to cure it like a Bresaola. When we came to do the initial talks with Yoji, I said I really want to take some of this wagyu back to The Test Kitchen, put it in our curing room for a while, but I really need it today, otherwise there's not going to be enough time for it to be ready by Jan. 14. So they agreed, I got this nice little piece of grand prix-winning beef, and it's right now hanging up my curing room drying out beautifully.”

 The trophy awarded for the Grand Prix-winning Kobe beef at Wagyu Studio

Boutwood, who says he normally likes to wing it in the kitchen, is taking no chances with this prize ingredient. “It's a beef that does not merit any mistakes,” he says, so his strategy is to practice first on some American wagyu.

Boutwood already has a menu in mind, “but it's very much in its infancy,” he says. “We want to introduce quite a few non-beef dishes to the menu.” To go with his cured beef, he plans to also lightly cure a yellowtail Hamachi filet and cook it in Wagyu Studio’s Josper grill.

“Wagyu has a high percentage of fat, so we want to take that fat and create a spread for our bread, which is most probably going to be a brioche style, and pair that with additional beef fat as a butter itself on top of the grill,” Boutwood says.

He’s also thinking of doing an egg dish with beef and gold: “I’ll get some gold leaf — kind of like a pool of gold sitting on top of raw beef — but we'll do it in a way that we’ve done in the past where it’s seasoned with just the juices of fruits and vegetables.”

Breaking Down Barriers

Chef Miko Calo of Restaurant Metronome is also taking an unconventional route by going for an offcut of the cow: the knuckle. “I was talking to Yoji about it and he said it's also one of his favorite cuts because it’s more on the gelatinous side,” she notes.

 Wagyu Studio partners (from left) LA Clavano, Mico Clavano, Carlo Alvarez and Lui Clavano

Calo plans to do a spinoff of her beef-cheek dish at Metronome. “We're going to finish it in the Josper, but I'm going to make a sauce Bordelaise with a little bit of truffle in it. I'm going to go almost like full-on French with the way I treat the meat. But the most interesting thing about it is, we're going to serve it with chopsticks.”

Calo says this fusion is a way of breaking down barriers. “I feel it kind of takes out the rigidity of cuisine, because honestly, we all kind of take inspiration from each other. Even if people think I'm such a classic girl, when it comes to food, there's so much Asian in my DNA that it’s never going to be classic.”

Calo is no stranger to wagyu, having prepared it a lot when she worked at Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Singapore. At her current restaurant, Metronome, she has a Miyazaki sirloin dish that she sears in the plancha and serves with a shallot confit and eggplant confit glazed with miso.

The chef’s approach to the prized Kobe is having utmost respect for the ingredient. “That's the thing with French and Japanese cuisines, there's so much respect for the ingredients and making them speak for themselves,” she says. “So it's just cooking it properly and treating it properly, and it will give back to you tenfold.”

From El Bulli to Wagyu Studio

Like Calo, chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by Chele has also worked with Kobe beef before. “The first time I tried Kobe was in El Bulli, 2008, where I was working,” he tells us. “At the time nobody knew too much about Kobe or wagyu, so this Japanese family, very rich, who goes every year to El Bulli, they brought several steaks to Ferran Adria. And then he gave me a piece, and it was totally the best I’d tried.”

 Gold standard: Chef Yoji Kitayama’s Sando

Thus, Gonzalez is excited and inspired to work with the ingredient. “I already have a lot of ideas,” he says. “For example, I want to have kind of like a tataki, so a carpaccio. I want to make a wasabi ice cream. And then I want to put maybe some scallops so you have something sweet and maybe something crispy as well.”

 Must-try: Wagyu Studio’s sukiyaki

For his main course Gonzalez plans to do something very simple: a dish his mom used to make at home. “We have a signature recipe of how to fry French fries with extra olive oil,” he relates. “It takes two hours, like a confit, and all the extra olive oil goes inside the potato, and then at the end it becomes crispy, but you taste all of the extra olive oil. So I’m going to do a steak with my mom’s fries, maybe a couple of other things. Just freedom; eat free.”

* * *

The Live Kitchen Sessions: Volume One will be held at Wagyu Studio’s Live Kitchen with Margarita Forés of Grace Park on Jan. 13, Josh Boutwood of The Test Kitchen on Jan. 14, Miko Calo of Restaurant Metronome on Jan. 20 and Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by Chele on Jan. 21. Each of the four nights will only have one dinner seating for 16 guests. Proper social distancing will be practiced and all health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced.