Power of collaboration

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“While the idea of innovating and working on new concepts can be a lot of fun, it can also be a lonely path to take until one of my favorite words takes over: COLLAB, short for collaboration.” – Chef Don Colmenares

There is always something new happening, a concept born, a different technique applied or a new equipment designed in the world of food and the culinary industry. When I was a student in college, I learned the basic skills needed to make it in the kitchen, guided by the philosophies of Alain Ducasse, a French chef who earned accolades for his three-Michellin star rated restos and his desire to share his passion for cooking by putting up culinary schools.

Our mentors constantly reminded us that learning, studying and researching do not stop and should not stop after we step out of school. In this day and age, we are very lucky to have the internet and social media for information on new restaurant concepts and culinary ideas coming from all over the world that trying out new ideas–from what I read and experiment with on things I come across online– can be much fun and an exciting direction to take.

While the idea of innovating and working on new concepts can be a lot of fun, it can also be a lonely path to take until one of my favorite words takes over: COLLAB, short for collaboration.

Before I opened Berbeza Bistro in Bacolod City toward the end of 2018, I would represent our province in culinary events in Manila to do cooking demos on Negrense cuisine with a twist. Collaborating with everyone involved was half the fun of the undertaking. From the organizers who needed to know what it was that would make the demo unique all the way to the suppliers of the tangigue needed to make the ceviche, I have come to appreciate the power of everyone coming together to create something worth remembering.

Chef Don, 4th from left, with Chef Nico Millanes and mentor, Malaysian Chef Cheong Yan See, and the Korean delegates during the 2016 Madrid Fusion in Manila.

Whenever I felt unsure about where I was taking my twists, my colleague, Chef Nico Millanes would work together with me in the kitchen and we would end up complementing each one’s presentation. As we needed extra bodies for the culinary event that happens every year at the Negros Trade Fair, we would reach out to our alma mater, Enderun Colleges, and our school would allow students to assist us, assigning those who were from Negros, as they are given the opportunity to participate in celebrating our roots through food. 

Chef Don and Shuni Osano, right, with coffee master Thomas Sproten of Coffee Culture.

Again, coming and working together has been the natural thing to do. If it was not for my collaborations with my Malaysian mentor Chef Cheong Yan See and Chef Cyril Ermita, six months after opening Berbeza, the idea of having a six-course Asian-inspired sit-down event would have remained a concept. That special dinner which will always be memorable to me, grateful to the foodies of Bacolod, who packed the resto, open-minded and forward looking to new dishes off the regular menu.

Chef Don calls this “lambpenada”, an empanada stuffed with lamb kaldereta, tamarind sauce and edible flowers; right photo, opera cake with local tablea chocolate, langka coulis and a shot of Mt. Apo coffee.

Berbeza’s most recent collaboration with coffee guru Thomas Sproten and up-coming young chef Shuni Osano where we featured coffee alongside the entrees of another six-course dinner was, in hindsight, a very daring event to host but nonetheless, it was accomplished because we simply did it together. 

I decided to come home to stay in Negros to cook and be a part of the industry that I am very passionate about because I really feel that there is so much all of us can do together to connect the dots of the food sector and our respective culinary aspirations. For my second article, I am grateful to be given this opportunity to share my journey with everyone. 

Thank you for your feedback on my very first article! Some of you have said you wanted to read about easy recipes that I can share. Please check out my Tiktok page and follow Chef Don where I have been posting short videos showing my favorites. NWI

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