Do Clothes Maketh The Man?

If you plan to visit a Department of Foreign Affairs passport office wearing shorts, be prepared to be turned away.

In our hot and humid climate shorts are far more comfortable than long pants, but at the DFA they’re banned.

Sorry Michael Douglas - no entry

Sorry Michael Douglas – no entry

The DFA has strict rules on how their customers should dress. Their policy states: “no slippers, no sandos, no shorts, no spaghetti-strapped blouses (whatever they are), no micro-mini skirts.”

In this day and age it seems odd that the DFA should have such Draconian rules. It got me thinking about how other countries tackle the issue of what people should wear when visiting government offices?

After some brief research, it seems the Philippines might be unique in this regard. There’s no dress code for visitors to government offices in Hong Kong, Singapore or Australia. And, in the US, they wouldn’t dare for fear of a lawsuit.

So why here?

Of course one could always challenge the rules. A 12 year-old British boy did just that a while ago when he wore a skirt to school in protest against rules which ban boys from wearing shorts.

Chris Whitehead wore a girls’ knee-length skirt to classes as a protest against his school’s strict uniform policy which bans boys from wearing shorts during the hot summer months.

Please come in

Please come in

He also addressed 1,368 pupils at morning assembly wearing the black skirt, which boys are permitted to wear due to a loophole in the policy.

He said: ”In the summer girl students are allowed to wear skirts but boys are not allowed to wear shorts”.

Headteacher Robert Campbell said the ban on shorts was imposed following consultation with students, teachers and parents.

But he added: ‘What Chris has done is raise the issue in an entirely legitimate way. I think it will be right to start thinking about uniform again in September.’

And a few years ago a ban on a New Jersey schoolboy wearing flowery skirts to school was overturned after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed his rights were being violated.

So what about the DFA? A local official humm’d and ha’d when asked if a man wearing a skirt would be allowed into their offices.

At first the answer was no, but it was pointed out that a kaftan-style dress was de rigueur for many Muslim men and Scottish men wear kilts, which is essentially a long skirt. Finally, the official said men dressed like this would be allowed in.

No issues at the DFA for a Scotsman

No issues at the DFA for a Scotsman

And what about a man dressed in women’s clothes and wearing high heels? Yes, it seems he’d be allowed in too.

A man dressed as a woman - no problem

A man dressed as a woman – no problem

But a man wearing shorts? Perish the thought!

One hot, one cold

This week I’d like to return to the topic of soups. I’m something of a soup addict and among my favorites are shrimp bisque and Vichyssoise.

An inviting bowel of cool Vichyssoise

An inviting bowel of cool Vichyssoise

Bisque is a smooth, creamy and highly seasoned soup that originated in France.  It can be made from lobster, crab or shrimp.

It has a smooth consistency achieved by pureeing and an alcoholic beverage such as white wine, sherry, or cognac is usually added.

Soaking up the bisque with crusty French bread

Soaking up the bisque with crusty French bread

It’s thought the name is derived from Biscay, as in the Bay of Biscay, which lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border.

Ritz-Carlton in New York - birth place of Vichyssoise

Ritz-Carlton in New York – birth place of Vichyssoise

Although its name is French name, Vichyssoise (visheeswaz) appears to have Its origins in the US. It’s thought to have been created in 1917 by Louis Diat,  a celebrated French chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Celebrated French chef Louis Diat

Celebrated French chef Louis Diat

In a 1950 interview with the New Yorker magazine he said “In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato and leek soup of my childhood which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how during the summer my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz”.
Diat named it ‘crème vichyssoise glacée’ (chilled cream vichyssoise),[ after Vichy, a spa town near his birthplace in France that is famous for both its exceptional food and its springs. The new item enjoyed ‘instant success’. American steel magnate, Charles Schwab, was the first to sample vichyssoise and asked for a second serving.

Vichyssoise is not only delicious, but very cooling – just the job in the hot weather we are currently experiencing.

Here are the recipes I use for both soups.

Bon Appétit!

Shrimp Bisque

  • 600gr large shrimp, peeled and deveined (keep the shells and heads)
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup good quality Cognac or brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk cream
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the milk and cream and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.

Vichyssoise

2 Leeks, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup thinly sliced potatoes
2 1/3 cups chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/8 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

Gently sweat the chopped leeks and the chopped onion in butter until soft, about 8 minutes. Do NOT let them brown.

Add potatoes and stock to the saucepan. Salt and pepper to taste; do not overdo them. Bring to the boil, and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.

Puree in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Cool. Gently stir in the cream before serving.

Marking the 27th death anniversary of Rafael M Salas

Marking the 27th death anniversary on Monday of Bago City favorite son Rafael M Salas with a wreath laying ceremony at the RMS Youth Center were Bago City officials, family members and trustees of the RMS Library Society. (l-r) Patty Gomez, Atty. Raymundo Pandan, Thelma Watanabe, Raffy Salas, former Bacolod City mayor Joy Valdez, Clrs. Bernadette Soncio and Joy Matti, Bago City mayor Ramon Torres, Amb. Menchu Salas, Clr. Sonya Verdeflor, Philip Abello, Robert Harland

Marking the 27th death anniversary on Monday of Bago City favorite son Rafael M Salas with a wreath laying ceremony at the RMS Youth Center were Bago City officials, family members and trustees of the RMS Library Society. (l-r) Patty Gomez, Atty. Raymundo Pandan, Thelma Watanabe, Raffy Salas, former Bacolod City mayor Joy Valdez, Clrs. Bernadette Soncio and Joy Matti, Bago City mayor Ramon Torres, Amb. Menchu Salas, Clr. Sonya Verdeflor, Philip Abello, Robert Harland

Fastest Ever Production Bentley

The remarkable growth of the Philippines economy is evident by the large number of luxury cars one sees on the roads here. And that’s not just in Manila.

And when I say luxury, I mean real luxury. Thanks to the foresight of a number of astute businessmen, who could see the good times ahead, the luxury car market is booming.

One such successful businessmen is Robert Coyiuto Jr, chairman of  Bentley Manila and PGA cars. He’s built his luxury car business into the biggest of its kind in the country.

A visit to the posh PGA showrooms in Mandaluyong is like stepping into an Aladdin’s cave of the world’s finest automobiles – Bentley, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini.

Among the many outstanding cars on offer at PGA is the racy and outlandish Bentley Continental GT Speed. Already one of these beauties has been snapped up.

W O Bentley - the man who started it all in 1919

W O Bentley – the man who started it all in 1919

Alas, I’ll never be wealthy enough to own a Bentley Continental, but I’ve always admired the designs Bentley and independent coach builders have come up with over the years for this particular model.

As a child in the 1950s I was really taken with the Bentley Continental fastback coupé body by H J Mulliner. To me, one of the truly classic car designs of all time.

1954 Bentley R-type Continental Fastback

1954 Bentley R-type Continental Fastback

In 1968 I worked as executive assistant to impresario Robert Stigwood, manager of Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. His pride and joy was a white 1958 Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Drophead Coupe, once owned by the fabulously wealthy Aga Khan. It was a beautiful car and he would sometimes let me drive it.

So I’ve always had a soft spot for the Continental and was therefore intrigued to hear that this week at the Geneva Motor Show (March 6-16), Bentley will unveil it’s latest Continental GT Speed. The company has added a bit more muscle to the car which it describes as the ‘fastest ever production Bentley’.

The Bentley Continental GT Speed - an electrifying combination of luxury, power and performance.

The Bentley Continental GT Speed – an electrifying combination of luxury, power and performance.

Bentley has increased the two-door’s 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine just a bit. It now packs ten extra horses, up to 626 bhp, along with 605 lb-ft (820 Nm) of torque.

That upgrade gives the car’ a top speed of 331 kph. Zero to 60 mph takes just 4 seconds.

Bentley has also made some minor styling revisions. The front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser are painted to match the body color for the first time. Red brake calipers peek through the 21-in Speed wheels, which get a dark tint finish, as do the head lamps and tail lamps.

Chrome “Speed” badges on the front fenders and a new Candy Red color option round out the short list of exterior revisions.

Inside, the hand-finished cabin includes diamond-stitched leather upholstery, drilled pedals and a unique shift knob. Owners can also have the ‘engine spin’ metal dashboard trim in a dark grey tint to match the grille insert.

Bentley has used the moniker ‘Speed’ since the 1920s. The high-performance Bentley Speed Six were sports and luxury cars in production from 1926 to 1930. The Speed Six, introduced in 1928, would become the most successful racing Bentley.

Many of these beautiful cars are in private collections around the world. Hong Kong billionaire, Sir Michael Kadoorie, has an exquisite 1930 Bentley Speed Six Mulliner Drop Head Coupe in his extensive car collection.

The Great Scotch Egg Robbery

I was amused by a story in Britain’s Daily Mail last week of how an entire police force in southern England
became the butt of jokes after appealing for witnesses to the theft of a packet of Scotch eggs worth 1.65 British pounds. (Php122).

Scotch egg halved and served with mashed potato, gravy and vegetables

Scotch egg halved and served with mashed potato, gravy and vegetables

A woman was caught on CCTV walking into a shop and picking up these traditional British snacks before eating them and leaving without paying.

The police apparently spent a month investigating the crime before launching an online appeal in a bid to identify the woman.

Scene of the 'great Scotch egg robbery' in southern England

Scene of the ‘great Scotch egg robbery’ in southern England

However, the petty nature of the offence led dozens of web users to mock the force for its over-zealous policing.
Police has now deleted the appeal, after a witness came forward claiming to know who the thief was.

Amusement aside, I was reminded at just how delicious Scotch eggs are – that’s probably why the woman couldn’t resists them.

A Scotch egg consists of a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. There are also mini versions using quail eggs.

Fortnum and Mason, the famous London department store which supplies members of the Royal family, is said to have invented the Scotch egg in 1738.

They are usually a picnic food and home-made, though they can also be served as a main course with gravy and vegetables.

Although it’s a traditional British snack, similar dishes exist around the world including here in the  Philippines. Kwek-kwek are eggs with orange breading sold as street food dipped in vinegar, sweet and sour sauce or gravy.

Kwek Kwek on sale

Kwek Kwek on sale

In the Netherlands and Belgium, Scotch eggs may also be called vogelnestje (‘little bird’s nest’) because they contain an egg.

Brazil also has a dish that is very similar, if not a version, of the Scotch Egg called ‘Bolovo’. It also features an egg in the center but the dough does not contain any meat.

When I’m making pica-pica, this is my Scotch egg recipe.

Scotch eggs - tasty pica-pica a food

Scotch eggs – tasty pica-pica a food

500gr       sausage meat
5              hard boiled eggs, with shells removed
1              large raw egg
Dry breadcrumbs
Pinch of salt, ground pepper, nutmeg
Small quantity of flour
1 tablespoon water

Dust the hard boiled eggs in a little flour. Mix the nutmeg, salt and pepper with the sausage meat and divide into five equal portions. Place on a floured surface. Wrap/mould the sausage meat around the egg, making sure there are no gaps. Beat the egg and water together and coat the meat-covered egg with this and then breadcrumbs (you may have to press the crumbs onto the meat).

Deep fry in hot oil (360F/185C) taking care as you put the eggs into the oil. Cook for about 5/6 minutes. If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, they can be cooked in oil in a frying pan, turning frequently to ensure the meat is fully cooked. Drain and serve hot or allow to cool and keep in a refrigerator for a cold snack later.

English Pork Sausage Meat

1kg          lean pork
500gr       pork belly (fat)
400gr       fresh breadcrumbs
2t             sage
1t             thyme
S&P

The Scotch Egg Challenge takes place in England each year

The Scotch Egg Challenge takes place in England each year

Remove any bones or rind from the pork, and pass through a mincer. Mix in the bread and season generously. Pass through the mincer again. Fry a little of the mixture to test for seasoning adding more herbs and pepper if necessary.

Delicious!

Embracing the Legacy of Rafael M Salas

Rafael M Salas

Rafael M Salas

An illustrious son of Bago City, who rose to international prominence as a leading figure in the United Nations, is to be honored by the city today.

Through a city ordinance, March 3, the 27th death anniversary of scholar, author, poet, statesman and academician, Rafael M Salas, has been declared an annual commemorative celebration of his life and work.
This year’s special day is themed “Embracing the Legacy of Rafael M Salas’.

The day’s activities will include a program of poetry readings, children’s quizzes, a painting competition and  presentations remembering this remarkable man.

For 16 years, until his untimely death in 1987, Salas served as the Under-Secretary-General and first Executive Director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

His tenure was an unprecedented success with the UNFPA growing from a small trust fund into the world’s largest multilateral provider of population assistance.

Salas was born in Bago City on August 7, 1928. From a very early age he showed his ‘can-do’ qualities excelling at school and actively participating in school councils.

Rafael M Salas with Pope John Paul 11

Rafael M Salas with Pope John Paul 11

In 1950 while at UP gaining his Bachelor of Arts degrees magna cum laude, and Bachelor of Law degree cum  laude,  he was elected by an overwhelming vote to the post of president of UP Student Council and Philippines Student Councils Association.

He went on to head the Students Magsaysay-for-President Movement. So impressed was Magsaysay that when he became president he created the Presidential Council on Youth with Salas as chairman. Salas was 25 years old.

In 1955 he earned a Master’s degree at Harvard. The succeeding  years were marked by a number of high- level government and business positions. In 1962 he was name as one of the ‘Ten Most Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines.’

In 1966, at the age of 37, he was personally picked by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos as his Executive Secretary to handle administrative and social matters.

Rafael M Salas with President George H W Bush

Rafael M Salas with President George H W Bush

This lofty position was comparable to a prime minister in other countries. In this role, Salas was the chief administrator of the country making him second only to President Marcos in authority.

He immediately set about initiating a series of much-needed reforms that resulted in making the whole workings of the government more efficient.

President Marcos also made Salas the Chief Action Officer of the National Rice Sufficiency Program. He went about his task with his usual enthusiasm and efficiency and succeeded in transforming the Philippines from a rice importer to a rice sufficient country – an event that had not happened in some 80 years.

But in 1969 he quit the Marcos government over major policy disagreements. At the same time, Salas received a renewed offer from the Unite Nations to head up a new agency, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Rafael M Salas with former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

Rafael M Salas with former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

He took up his new position with his usual efficiency and distinctiveness and quickly demonstrated his extraordinary ability to get things done.

Population experts described him as one of a few figures who transformed the obscure field of family planning into an accepted component of developmental science, helping planners overcome initial opposition to population control in underdeveloped, Roman Catholic and Marxist countries.

He was affectionally known as ‘Mr. Population’ by the international community.

In recognition of this achievements, Salas received some 33 honorary degrees and academic awards from institutions in 28 countries.

He died on March 4, 1987 in Washington, DC from an apparent heart attack as he prepared to return to the Philippines shortly after the People Power Revolution of 1986 that swept Marcos from power. It was speculated at the time of his death that Salas would make a run for the presidency of the Philippines.

In a letter of condolence to his family, then Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar said Mr. Salas’s “energy and dynamism were an inspiration to his colleagues and many admirers around the world.”

One of the Filipinos who expressed admiration for Salas was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who said: : “Rafael M Salas was, indeed, a true Filipino. He had the depth and the brilliance to transform his country and his people. He is the best president of this country; the best president we never had and will never have.”

Salas was a voracious reader – at least one book a day. He left behind a fascinating library of some 11,000 books which are now housed in the Negros Museum and form the RMS Library Society led by former Bacolod City Mayor Joy Valdez.

The very first Porsche

In my column last week I showed a picture of a 1948 Porsche 356 with the caption stating is was the first Porsche.

Most petrolheads will give you the same answer if you ask them, but we are all actually out by some 50 years.

Fedinand Porsche as a young man

Fedinand Porsche as a young man

Last week the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen marked its fifth anniversary with the unveiling of the rediscovered and unrestored very first Porsche, the P1 built in 1898.

A diagram of the P1

A diagram of the P1

But don’t blame the petrolheads for getting it wrong. Many regard the 356 as the first because it was the first model to bear the name Porsche. Previous cars built by Ferdinand Porsche did not carry his name.

On June 26, 1898, Ferdinand Porsche’s Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model better known as the P1, rolled onto the streets of Vienna for the first time.

A year later Porsche scored his first racing victory when the P1 won the gold medal in a race against a field of other electric vehicles in Berlin.

With three passengers on board, Porsche steered his P1 across the finishing line 18 minutes ahead of the next competitor. More than half the participants failed to finish due to technical difficulties.

Porsche also came out on top in the efficiency test, as the P1 recorded the lowest energy consumption in urban traffic.

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

In 1902, as Porsche put his first all-wheel drive passenger car into production, the P-1 was parked in a warehouse. And there it gathered dust for the next 116 years.

But now it’s the centerpiece in the museum of a new, permanent exhibit detailing the early history of Porsche and its founder.

Porsche stamped P1, standing for ‘Porsche 1’, on all the major components. It’s important historically, not only because it was the first car to be built by the founder of the Porsche company, but also because it contains a number of remarkable technological features.

A quick look under its wooden frame reveals a novel octagon-shaped compact electric motor weighing only 286 pounds and capable of 3-horsepower output. However, the P1 ran off more than 1,100 pounds of lead-acid batteries, giving it an impressive range of 49 miles or three to six operational hours

The P1 had a 12-speed controller with six forward gears, two reverse gears and four braking gears. There was also a mechanical hand brake and an electrical short circuit brake activated by pressing on the steering wheel rim.

The company could have spent a fortune restoring the P1, but decided to keep it was it was. Little remains apart from the chassis and the heavy, wooden dashboard.

The tires, seats, body and floor are all gone, and what’s left looks more like a hay cart than a car, but the museum has fitted what remains with a translucent blue plastic body to give some idea of what the P1 looked like in its glory days.

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

The P1 was unveiled last week by Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche to a gathering of invited guests and goes on public exhibition from Saturday.

Something to complain about?

I never cease to be amazed at how tolerant Filipinos are. While they’re usually quick to moan about corrupt politicians, the government or the ‘Gates of Hell’ traffic, most Filipinos seem reluctant to complain if they’ve had a bad meal or poor service in a shop or restaurant.

Maybe it’s because Filipinos are non-confrontational. They don’t want to embarrass someone in public. So if they get served a steak which is as tough as a doormat, many locals will just leave it and never come back to that restaurant.

A bad meal? Call the manager

A bad meal? Call the manager

We picky foreigners are less tolerant. But there are ways to complain here that usually get results without having to be confrontational.

What do you if you have a bad meal in a restaurant? Most of us will complain to the wait staff, but, as we all know, better to ask for the manager. No need to raise your voice or be confrontational. If you are in a decent restaurant, the manager will know what do.

But if the manager does not resolve the issue and you feel strongly about your complaint, you can always write to the owner. These days a letter is more likely to be noticed than a phone call or email.

Of course this doesn’t always work.

Several months ago I took my family to Shakey’s in Bonifacio Global City. I had my usual order of cheese and anchovies. I counted just five specs of anchovy, valued at perhaps two pesos, but my bill for the ‘extra anchovies’ was Php42. Wow, that’s quite a profit.

The waitress was not terribly interested, so I decided to put pen to paper and write a light-hearted letter to Shakey’s CEO. I’m still awaiting a response. Some hope.

On the other hand, I had an issue with the French Baker in Makati because the multi-grain bread I was buying had gaping holes when sliced. I dropped the boss a line. Almost by return a hand-written letter arrived saying the fault would be rectified. And it was.

When I feel I have a genuine complaint, I like to have it sorted.

At one of Manila’s airports recently, I felt I was ripped-off when offered a taxi which turned out to be an expensive ‘luxury’ van. I accepted the ride as it was hot and my young son was not well, but I did feel I’d be conned so I complained to the hire car company. No response.

No need to raise your voice

No need to raise your voice

Next was a letter to the airport’s management. Almost instant results. Shortly thereafter an apologetic letter from the car-hire company and a promise this would not happen again.

And I’ve just started what I hope will be a constructive dialogue with a computer maker. I had the misfortune to buy three of their laptops. Two have conked out and the third is on the blink. So far no response from the company’s local president.

Large companies may seem powerful and faceless, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for what we’re given. We all have a voice, and if we’re not happy, we can use it to complain to get what we want.

But if your complaint falls on deaf ears, you can always try something more creative. United Airlines told Canadian singer Dave Carroll, whose expensive guitar was broken by baggage handlers, to bog-off. So he wrote a protest song and posted it on You Tube.

United passenger Dave Carroll fighting back

United passenger Dave Carroll fighting back

So far, the song – “United Breaks Guitars” – has had 14 million hits and has been a public relations nightmare for United.

Porsche offers bright future for Pinoy trainees

The first Porsche training facility established outside Germany – the Porsche Training and Recruitment Center Asia (PTRCA) in Manila – recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

And to mark the occasion, Porsche importer and distributor, PGA Cars, hosted a glittering birthday party  graced by Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, which also saw the graduation of the PTRCA’s tenth batch of 16 certified Porsche Service Mechatronics.

The PTRCA's tenth batch of 16 certified Porsche Service Mechatronics with the center's 5th anniversary Porsche 911 training car.

The PTRCA’s tenth batch of 16 certified Porsche Service Mechatronics with the center’s 5th anniversary Porsche 911 training car.

The idea for the center was born in 2006 when PGA Cars chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr., noted an exodus of Porsche-trained Filipino technicians for the Middle East. They were being pirated by dealers in the region – obviously impressed by Filipino ingenuity, hard work, and skill – not to mention a firm grasp of the English language.

Coyiuto discussed the matter with former Porsche AG chairman of the board Dr.Wendelin Wiedeking at a Porsche importers’ meeting and proposed to set up a Porsche technical training school in the Philippines.

At the birthday party. PGA Cars chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr. (right) with Bacolod guests Chef Stessie Hecita and SunStar writer Robert Harland.

At the birthday party. PGA Cars chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr. (right) with Bacolod guests Chef Stessie Hecita and SunStar writer Robert Harland.

Crucially, Coyiuto envisioned the PTRCA not just to train Mechatronics, but to provide opportunities for the marginalized sector of society. Aware that a disturbing 33 percent of Filipinos live below poverty levels, PTRCA partnered with Don Bosco Technical Institute (DBTI), with a long-standing track record of providing education to this undeserved class.

Hertz Pura, global certified Porsche trainer for the PTRCA, says: “The educational foundation trainees get at Don Bosco is excellent. This is a perfect stepping stone to become Mechatronics.”

The PTRCA dips from DBTI’s talented pool. A two-stage selection process for choosing the final “Porsche Service Mechatronics” begins with DBTI selecting, twice a year, 35 of the best students of the current crop. Out of these, the Porsche trainer selects 16 qualified students per class.

Bacolod guest Chef Stessie Hecita at the wheel of a Porsche Cayman S

Bacolod guest Chef Stessie Hecita at the wheel of a Porsche Cayman S

The nine month training program includes theoretical and practical lessons as well as advanced learning using the Porsche Integrated and Workshop Information System diagnostic tool with instruction from Hertz Pura.

Pura also notes that while similar educational institutions have been set up by other car companies in the country, the PTRCA is the first to assure high-paying job placement for its deserving graduates.

The center’s newest 16 graduating students from the 10th batch are already set for deployment – mainly to the Middle East and Latin America. Porsche Centers in the South Pacific and other emerging markets have also signified their intent to source talent from PTRCA.

“While we are grateful for being able to touch and change lives for the better, we continue to look at ways where we can be of service in uplifting not only people’s lives, but their dignity as well,” states Porsche Philippines Managing Director Roberto Coyiuto III.

Since the center was launched in 2008, some 159 trainees have graduated.

In search of the perfect French Fry

For some, the McDonald’s French fry is perfect. It’s straight, skinny, salty and golden brown.

McDo says it’s known for producing what it proudly refers to as the ‘gold standard’ as far as French fries are concerned. The company’s internal surveys have shown that 30 per cent of customers come to their restaurants just to eat the fries.

But as good as they are, for me real French fries (or ‘chips’ as we call them in England) are homemade, thick, crispy and full of potato flavor.

French fries as served at Britain's White Rabbit pub. At Php45 a fry, they must be the country's most expensive

French fries as served at Britain’s White Rabbit pub. At Php45 a fry, they must be the country’s most expensive

Some of the best French fries in Bacolod can be found at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club (Marapara) in Bata Subdivision. Two fried eggs and a plate of their ‘chips’ make a delicious snack.

And some of the worst fries can be found in a certain so-called top class hotel, but I’d better say no more.

But first, why are they called French fries when they aren’t French at all?

It seems that when the Americans went to Belgium during World War I, they saw soldiers cooking potatoes in oil. As the official language of the Belgian military was French, the Americans called them ‘French fries.’ I suppose Belgian fries doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. As for the French, they call them pommes frites – “potato fries”.

A British 'delicacy' - a French fry sandwich. AKA a 'chip butty'

A British ‘delicacy’ – a French fry sandwich. AKA a ‘chip butty’

So how do you make the perfect French fry?

Unlike the US and Europe, here we do not have the luxury here of choosing which species of potato we’d like. In our supermarkets – it’s potatoes, take it or leave it. A pity foreign supermarkets like Tesco or Walmart are not allowed to operate here. They’d give the local boys a run for their money.

So, we have the potatoes. What next?

Wash your potatoes, and peel them. You can leave the skins on, but I refer them without.

Then soak them in cold water. This removes much of the starch thereby reducing the chances the fries will stick together. And you’ll also get a crisper fry.

The next little wrinkle is to fry the potatoes twice. The first time, called “blanching,” involves lower-temperature, longer-duration frying to thoroughly cook the potato. The next step is to brown and crisp the outside at a higher temperature.

Take a large saucepan or wok and fill it halfway with vegetable oil and heat to around 250F. It’s important to use a thermometer because it’s vital that the first frying is done at a lower temperature than the second.

Add your fries in batches that will not overcrowd the pot. Fry them gently until they are cooked through but not browned at all, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove them from the oil and drain them on a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Cool them to room temperature before proceeding.

One chef says he blanches his fries until they whistle to when they’re ready to come out. “Because,” he says, “the inside starts to steam, and it whistles like a steam whistle.”

Just before serving, heat the oil to 350-400F and add the blanched fries in batches. Cook them until they are golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, then remove, season and serve immediately.

They should about the best homemade French fries you’ve ever had.

Bon Appétit!