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!

A Night at the Opera

It’s not everybody’s cup of Chinese tea, but I happen to like Peking Opera.

In the 1980 and 90s when I made frequent visits to Beijing (Peking), I was often able to fit in a ‘night at the opera’.

Males often sing female roles in Peking Opera

Males often sing female roles in Peking Opera

Peking Opera is recognized as China’s national opera. It’s a performance art incorporating singing, reciting, acting and martial arts. It arose in the late 18th century and was fully developed by the mid-19th century.

Although widely practised throughout China, its performance centers on Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The art form is also preserved in Taiwan, where it is known as ‘Guoju’. It has also become popular in many other countries including the United States and Japan.

The famous heroine Mu Guiying in traditional Peking opera

The famous heroine Mu Guiying in traditional Peking opera

Alas, it does not have much of a following the Philippines. I once suggested to a member of the local Chinese community that we stage a Peking Opera to raise funds for the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation. He said I shouldn’t bother as he doubted anyone would show up. A pity.

Peking Opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera’s characteristically sparse stage.

Opera star Kang Wansheng preparing for a performance

Opera star Kang Wansheng preparing for a performance

Peking opera is sung and recited using primarily the Beijing dialect, and its librettos are composed according to a strict set of rules. The operas tell stories of history, politics, society and daily life and aspire to inform as they entertain.

The music of Peking opera plays a key role in setting the pace of the show, creating a particular atmosphere, shaping the characters and guiding the progress of the stories.

Costumes are flamboyant and the exaggerated facial make-up uses concise symbols, colours and patterns to portray characters’ personalities and social identities.

Performers us their skills of speech, song, dance and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements.

A painted 'mal' face, or 'Jing', in a Peking Opera play

A painted ‘mal’ face, or ‘Jing’, in a Peking Opera play

Peking opera was denounced as ‘feudalistic’ and ‘bourgeois’ during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and replaced by revolutionary opera. But after the Cultural Revolution, performances started again.

While still popular among the older generation, Peking Opera is struggling to attract younger audiences though it is attempting to widen its appeal by improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements and performing new and original plays.

With many Filipinos going to China on holiday these days I thoroughly recommend a trip to the local opera house if they get the chance. It’s quite a spectacle.

Brown Windsor Soup

On the eve of British Food Month in Manila, it’s apt that this week I’m featuring a truly iconic British dish – Windsor Brown Soup.

British Food Month, organized by the British Embassy in association with numerous top Manila hotels, will give Filipinos the chance to experience the different aspects and wide variety of British dishes without having to go abroad.

Queen Victoria served Windsor Brown Soup at Windsor Castle

Queen Victoria served Windsor Brown Soup at Windsor Castle

Running from January 13 to February 9, it’s part of “This is Great Britain” campaign – a five month celebration of the best of British business and culture.

No doubt Windsor Brown Soup will be on the menu.

Brown Windsor Soup

Brown Windsor Soup

This classic British starter is a hearty meaty soup much favoured during the Victorian and Edwardian eras in Britain. So hearty was this soup it has been said it did much to “sustain the British empire!”

Queen Victoria loved it and served it regularly at Windsor Castle as well as at state banquets. It’s a delicious, nourishing, thick and beefy dish which can be enhanced with a drop of Spanish sherry or brandy.

Queen Victoria - loved Brown Windsor Soup

Queen Victoria – loved Brown Windsor Soup

The popularity of Brown Windsor Soup went into steep decline after World War II due mainly to post war rationing and the lack of quality ingredients.

But now it’s undergoing something of a revival in Britain and it’s started to appear again on menus in hotels and restaurants up and down the country. Perhaps because of a feeling of nostalgia for the “good old days” or just because it’s a damn good soup.

Either way, it’s a great dish and I really would like you to try it. Your family and friends will be intrigued by its unusual taste.

Soups make tasty and filling snacks. I usually have a bowl for lunch every day with a slice of crusty bread. I make around two to three liters at a time and then portion it out into microwave boxes and freeze it. Keeps for weeks.

Brown Windsor Soup can be a meal in itself if served with crusty farm bread or perhaps even with a cup of rice.
I’ll be making a batch this week using this recipe:


Oil for frying (personally, I prefer to use lard)
300g steak, cut into small pieces
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small leek, well rinsed, trimmed and roughly chopped
Good knob of butter
2 tbsps flour
1tsp tomato purée
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Good pinch of thyme
1 small bay leaf
3 liters beef stock
Sea salt and ground black pepper
2tbsps cream sherry or brandy


Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and fry the meat and vegetables over a high heat until nicely browned, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and flour, stir well and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomato purée, garlic, thyme and bay leaf, and gradually add the beef stock, stirring well to avoid lumps. Bring to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 2 hours until the meat is tender.

Save a few pieces of meat and blend the rest of the soup in a liquidiser or with a stick blender. The soup should be rich in flavour and a nice brown colour; if not, return it to the heat and simmer it a little longer to concentrate the flavor.

Add the tender cubes of meat, check the seasoning, and pour in the sherry or brandy just before serving.

Bon Appétit!