“Even the most prolific writers have a tough time writing about themselves, so you can imagine how difficult it was for me to do the same. While I do write about a vast range of topics, it was challenging to describe myself and recount my endeavors from a first-person point-of-view.
Thankfully, my dear friend Rodolfo A.G. "Jojo" Silvestre came to my rescue and wrote a very touching piece. Through Jojo’s words, I hope that you can get to know me a bit better.”
Reggie's Story through the Eyes of
Rodolfo A. G. "Jojo" Silvestre
If she were a movie star, or someone with pretensions to being part of the industry, Chef Reggie Aspiras would have one appellation and her fans are sure to agree to it - Chef for all Seasons, Chef for All Reasons.
The two words have to be paired. Seasons because she has all kinds of specialties that suit any holiday or commemoration, from New Year’s Day to Valentine’s to Lent. Extend that to the summer break all the way to Independence Days, and if you asked her for a July 4 All-American feast, she is sure to give you more than hot dogs. She would even concoct a new dish for you, perhaps call it “Remembering Studio 54” pizza pie, or “Brad Pitt minus Angelina” stew. And she would have a reason for calling them that way.
Talk about ingenuity, substitution, and last-minute preparations, and it is 100% certain Chef Reggie just has the right dish for you, although she is not one to boast about it.
If the proof of the pudding is indeed in the eating, one can add a line about results of her culinary explorations the proof of her versatility and preparedness.
This time, let’s talk about your kitchen girl scout. That would be Chef Reggie. She is ever ready to help you with a solution. She would not be known as the Kitchen Rescuer for nothing, but there is more to Chef Reggie than being the last resort when all patron saints fail.
Chef Reggie is one of the reasons the world of culinary arts has remained so inviting to our young people. Many years ago, she gave a try at it, and Chef Reggie has prevailed. If there be a need for a proof as to the viability of a career in the culinary arts, it would be this girl, lady, kitchen maven.
And to think that she started as a playmate and companion to her yaya, an observer to her mom, and of course, an apprentice in the family kitchen. Those moments, well, that was when a historian would have said, And the rest is history. Or make that Philippine culinary history.
But to go back to our thesis, Chef Reggie, for sure, can answer to all kinds of titles. In the 1960s, one lady came into the Philippine movie scene and hers became the face that refreshes. That was Susan Roces. A similar name would be most apt for Chef Reggie. And it would not have to do with her face because Chef Reggie is sure to brush the compliment aside. But of her many dishes, adapted or invented, thought out at the last minute or contemplated on and improve through decades, they are, for sure, the specialties that refresh. For two reasons. There’s always something new that Chef Reggie is sharing with us. What she serves you on her table, no matter if classic, or a legend of a fish dish, or the 12th version of lechon, will always make you smile.
We’re not talking yet about what she has to tell you, because then, Reggie is sure to not just make you grin. Instead, she is sure to elicit that laughter of yours that’s exclusively for the bedroom.
The thing about Chef Reggie is in her real or virtual company, whether in her class, or whether you’re watching her on television, or you are reading her latest recipe, is she brings out the real in you, and the real in you, she believes, will always be the best in you.
Forget about resumes, because, again, the proof of Reggie’s expertise is in tasting what she has prepared for you or trying out yourself the recipe to end all recipes. But if you must insist on knowing who this wonder woman of the kitchen is. Well, here goes—a smorgasbord of accomplishments and credentials:
Chef Reggie Aspiras started to cook at six and gives credit to her culinary mothers: Sylvia Reynoso Gala, Avelina Florendo, Nani Labrador, and Beth Romualduez. It was Beth Romualdez who encouraged her to take further culinary studies in Europe.
Fresh from Europe, she worked as a creative consultant for The Plaza Catering under the guidance of Millie Reyes. She later opened Reggie’s Bistro at the Shangri-La Mall; It was then that she realized that running a restaurant was not her cup of tea. She ventured into teaching and in it found contentment. In line with her goal of sharing the joys of cooking, Chef Reggie, as she is fondly called, opened the Reggie Aspiras School of Culinary Arts in 1991.
She continues to excel in her craft and is one of the country’s paramount Chefs with an expansive culinary repertoire that ranges from classical / continental, Asian and dietary cuisine. The chef is also food writer & stylist, restaurant and catering consultant, brand & product consultant, chocolate & confectionery artist, gourmet food caterer, cake designer, and a specialized instructor in the culinary arts.
Chef Reggie was a Chef Consultant for special projects for The United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Trade Office in Manila and is a Member of the Council of Chefs under the USDA’s Fil- Am Food Heritage Foundation. Through her career, she has worked as a Chef Consultant for special projects for San Miguel Purefoods, the largest food conglomerate in the Philippines.
She has also done work for the Spanish Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy in Manila and has internationally represented the Philippines as an ambassadress for food.
Not known to many, Chef Reggie’s first love was baking. This landed her in the cover of Lifestyle Asia’s November 1993 issue where she was named one the best baker-artists of Manila.
Since 2003, Chef Reggie has been writing a widely read food column aptly titled “Kitchen Rescue” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the premiere English-language broadsheet in the country.
She is the author of the best selling book “Kitchen Rescue: Excerpts from the Philippine Daily Inquirer” which was released in 2005 and “Kitchen Rescue 2: The Unedited Version” which was released in 2007. In the same year, she was hailed as Queen of the Kitchen by F&B World, the country’s only food service industry magazine at the time.
This later led to Aspiras having her own column in F&B World; her F&B column was formerly called “Know Your Ingredient.” Of late Aspiras has taken a liking for doing one on one interviews; the shift in concept led to the renaming of her of her F&B column to “Table Talk.” She is no stranger to the world of glossy magazines as she was a contributor to the Philippine Tatler and MEGA Magazine.
Chef Reggie is no stranger to television, appearing in several programs and for two seasons, hosted her own show called Venus Cooks for Mars, The Food Show, on the Makisig Channel 76; a network that caters exclusively to men’s interests; the show’s concept being the first of its kind.
In 2008, she became the first tri-media food personality in the Philippines, hosting her own radio “food” program called Kusina ni Reggie on DZXL 558, Radio Mindanao Network.
She was chosen to be the celebrity chef endorser of Purefoods Blue Label Corned Beef, Sky Broadband, Magnolia Butter and Glad Non-Stick Foil.
The chef spearheaded “Eating Your Way to Wellness” seminars at the St. Luke’s Global Medical Center, alongside Dr. Joven Cuanang, Ms. Marilen Lagniton and the hospital’s nutrition team. She has also made it her mission to learn and share natural and holistic therapies, specifically in the realm of healing through food.
In 2011, Chef Reggie released Kitchen Rescue Book 3, the Directory- the Chef’s Lifeline to Cooking, Eating and Loving; which has been hailed, as, “a foodie must have.”
In an effort to do their share for the survivors of typhoon Yolanda, Chef Reggie spearheaded Kusination; a food emergency response team comprised of volunteer culinary professionals who setup a kitchen at Villamor Airbase in partnership with the DSWD to feed the evacuees who were brought to Manila to escape the wrath of the storm’s aftermath. The group is determined to continue to be a First Kitchen / Food Emergency Response Team, in the event of any calamity.
Chef Reggie formulated and launched a Gourmet Rellenong Bangus with the tag line, "Enjoy the Feast not the Fat," in partnership with Fisherfarms, the largest exporter of milkfish in the country. The Products will available overseas, in time for Christmas of 2014.
Together with the oldest distillery in the Philippines, Destileria Limtuaco, Chef Reggie’s Aromatic Seasoning Wine was released in 2016. A one of a kind spirit made from Philippine rice wine, local herbs and spices.
She has also released her diverse food line that ranges from: Seasoned Vinegar; Candied Fish; Porky Pops; Ready to hEat and Ready Cook food… with more in the pipeline.
Working with Regal Films alongside Director Jose Javier Reyes, Chef Reggie was the Food Consultant for the movie Recipe of Love, released in 2018. She also personally trained actor Christian Bables to prepare him for his role as Chef Calix.
Another exciting undertaking is her Edible Botox Menu that she and Dr. Vicki Belo collaborated on.
2019 is an exciting year for Chef Reggie. With Anvil Publishing by her side, a series of books and cookbooks will see print. Titles to look forward to are Notes from My Kitchen Series and her very own Travel Diaries from a cook’s perspective.
Her Kitchen Rescue Books, a compilation of her articles from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, will soon be updated to include her more recent works.
Her father, Sunshine Joe, as he was called by everyone for his joyful mien, was the first Secretary of Tourism. As a tribute to her father, Aspiras has become a staunch advocate of culinary tourism.
In partnership with Aileen Clemente of Rajah Travel Corporation, they have laid out programs to showcase native cuisine to foreign travelers by means of designing unique and specific experiences for guests who desire to discover what true Philippine hospitality is all about.
They have also launched Kitchens of the World—these are highly personalized culinary tours that focus on learning secretly guarded recipes from the masters, set in their own private kitchens. These culinary sojourns are personally designed by Chef Reggie and offer one of a kind dining and cultural experiences - for the cook, the epicure and the curious.
As Clemente labels it, “Kitchens of the World, is at par with our other gold standard tours.”
WTF! What the Food is the New Food Show that Chef Reggie stars in and will soon be aired online, through inquirer.net.
Last year, Chef Reggie was hailed as an Icon of Industry by Yummy Magazine in their 10th Year Anniversary Issue.
To date, she remains one of the most influential chef’s in the country. Aspiras continues to share her love and passion for food through her: socio-civic involvements, cooking classes, food columns, local culinary heritage and international food tours, books, television appearances and the numerous restaurants she consults for where she translates her clients dreams to a plate. Impressively doing so in a fun, lively and non- conventional fashion—filled with a lot of heart and humor.
Speaking of her achievements though, Chef Reggie is quick to quip: “God has been extremely good. My career continues to be immensely rewarding. I have been blessed beyond anything I could ever imagine; above all else, I have granted the joy and the privilege of being a mother, to my beautiful son, Diego.”
At the top of their game
Margaux Salcedo, F&B World 2007
Glamour and Grit
Chef Reggie Aspiras is like whiskey-not easy to fathom as first sip. The range of impressions of her runs the gamut from mataray to kenkoy. I've heard a story of her pausing in the middle of a cooking demo to look at someone causing a distracting noise in the eye to very sternly say, "Are you done?" There s another story of her at a party, sporting glitter tattoo and wheeling herself around in an office chair, being extremely funny. Quite the woman, she is apparently complex. Some are easily intimidated. Fortunately, I wasn't and after half an hour of warm-up gab, I saw something beautiful. And like appreciating a Chivas 21, you savor all its worth.
Aspiras' beauty begins with her multifaceted personality. At first, she appears to be an austere woman, sizing you up to determine her level of conversation with you and acting accordingly. But then, when she is informed that she is to be our cover for the issue, the immediate reaction of “how do you want my hair, up or down, straight or kulot?” albeit presented jokingly reveals that she is, in hear heart, a girly girl. She even joked of having a chef’s jacket that is apparently all formal in the front but really a sexy, backless number.
But don’t be fooled by the glamour façade – Aspiras runs deep. Although she was already impressive at 25, celebrated by the press as “the newest chef-babe in town,” she did not rest on her laurels. This culinary genius continued and still continues to hone her craft by experimenting, experiencing and educating herself on all aspects of culinary arts. We all know her from “Kitchen Rescue,” her weekly column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that answers everything from the difference between Chinese parsley and cilantro, to finding the most reasonably priced virgin coconut oil in Metro Manila. Her articles have since been compiled into a bestselling book also titled Kitchen Rescue. Aside from becoming a bestselling author, Aspiras is launching a weekly cooking show called Enjoy Every Bite with Reggie Aspiras on Studio 23 which showcases her one-of-a-kind personality and kitchen expertise to an even wider audience. Not only is she a chef, she has now added a “TV personality” feather to her cap.
But not everyone knows of the other feathers, which could fill up an entire book on their own. Reggie Aspiras, in fact, has specialized training in chocolate artistry, cake decorating, food preservation, curative teas, healing with whole foods, and even in macrobiotics. Plus, her diverse exposure to cuisines includes specialized training, not only in French cooking, but also in Spanish, Venetian, Florentine, Royal Thai, California, traditional Indonesian and Balinese, and even traditional Nonya cuisines. So for anyone who wonders how this powerhouse of a woman got to be called a culinary expert, eat that!
Was it a difficult journey to arrive at where she is today? Aspiras describes it like a roller coaster ride having its share of highs and lows. But she emphasizes her gratitude to God because she says, cliched as it may sound, whenever a door was closed, God did open a window. She thought her book would never come out. For some reason, her negotiations with other publishers kept on falling through. Then when she had stopped thinking about it, her sister’s publishing company rang her up and voila!, a bestselling author was born.
This gratitude is an overriding theme of the interview. Aspiras cannot seem to stop thanking the Lord, her mentors, her readers, her students, for helping her achieve what she has. In fact, at a point in the interview, she gets teary-eyed as she admits. “I feel really blessed. I feel truly special.” She claims to be at a point in her life where she is absolutely comfortable in her own skin. This maturity is owed in great part to her son Diego, the most adorable giant of a two-year old. She says he has made her realign her priorities to its proper order. “It used to be cooking then everything else. Now it’s family – my son – then cooking then everything else. There is nothing like motherhood.”
Her independence, zest for life and passion for cooking make her truly inspiring to women everywhere. In fact, it seems her mission is to inspire. If her calling was just to become a chef extraordinaire, it would have been so easy for her to just cook. But instead, she decided to teach. Several years ago, Aspiras set up the Reggie Aspiras School of Culinary Arts. Teaching is something that she would never stop doing, not even to open a dream restaurant. “It is my students who keep me going,” she says. There’s a different satisfaction to knowing that you have passed on an art to a new batch of chefs or food lovers and that, in some way, you have helped them fulfill their own dreams.
At her school, Aspiras does not just teach cooking but “creates hearts that yearn to cook and love the process.” She further elaborates, “Mine is not a professional chefs’ school but more of one that gives leisurely courses to professional cooks, restauranteurs, caterers, mothers.” She adds, “It is more for food enthusiasts who take the business of serving meals at the heart of their homes and establishments seriously.” Indeed, while she means business, Reggie Aspiras is all heart. Because, as the woman in her has shown throughout the years, during her food demonstrations, classes and especially in her food writing, cooking is never just a matter of taste. It is all about love.