10 courses, 10 years of flavors

Milestones are best celebrated with those dearest to your heart.

And that was what esteemed chef Chele Gonzalez did exactly—he gathered chef-friends from both here and abroad for an exclusive two-day dining event last Nov. 11 and 12 in celebration of Gallery by Chele’s 10th anniversary.

Chele marks his 10-year milestone with his chef friends. Photo from Chele’s Facebook page.

With the support of the Embassy of Spain, Chele was able to mark a decade of culinary excellence with fellow luminaries: Virgilio Martínez of Central in Peru, Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz in the Basque Country, Julien Royer of Odette in Singapore, Josean Alija of Nerua Guggenheim in Bilbao, and Manila’s very own Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma, and Margarita Forés of Cibo di Marghi, Grace Park, and Lusso. 

This once-in-a-lifetime collaboration was not only a fitting celebration for a decade of culinary excellence but was also an opportunity for cultural exchange and a deepening of bonds rooted in one common thing: an unassailable love of good food. 

10 courses, 10 works of art

Gallery by Chele celebrated its 10th anniversary with an exclusive two-day dining event last Nov. 11 and 12. Photos by Peanut dela Cruz

When dining at Gallery by Chele, as in other restaurants of renown the world over, you expect only the best done in the most unexpected of ways. 

For the first night of the two-part anniversary dinner with a P20,000 price tag, guest chefs were Virgilio, Andoni, Julien, Josean, and Jordy. 

The usually intimate restaurant was transformed into a buzzing hive of activity, with the chefs going from table to table like newlywed couples do, checking in on and explaining the dishes to the equally excited guests. 

It seemed only fitting for a Chele dish to have opened our palates for the feast that awaited us. His Tiradito made of yellowfin tuna, kinilaw, and pickled arosep or seagrapes is one of the very first ceviches they offered at Gallery in 2014. 

Chef Chele Gonzalez’s Tiradito—yellowfin tuna, kinilaw, and pickled arosep or seagrapes.
Chef Chele’s Pearls—scallops cooked in cashew milk with a hint of lime, and topped off with mustasa oil and edible flowers. Photo from Chele’s Facebook page

The dish was paired with a glass of Veuve Clicquot, Yellow Label Brut, NV, Champagne, France, a champagne that complements the taste of the ocean with its fresh, full-bodied, and crisp flavor. 

Next in line was another Chele creation from the Gallery’s archives. Called Pearls, it was scallops cooked in cashew milk instead of the usual gata (coconut milk) with a dash of lime, and topped off with mustasa oil and edible flowers. 

A glass of Josmeyer, Riesling, Le Kottabe, 2022, Alsace, France, was the perfect wine pairing for Pearls. A biodynamic wine, it has a very citrusy taste that balances the richness of the cashew milk.

Dish number three was one of our table’s favorites, chef Josean Alija of Nerua’s Grilled Oyster with caviar, pil pil, and anchovies. Compared with the other dishes on the menu, this one wasn’t a stunner—but the interplay of flavors more than made up for what it may have lacked in the looks department. 

It was one of the best grilled oysters I’ve had, with a deep smoky flavor that highlighted instead of mask the taste of the sea. The pil pil transported us to the wild coastlines of the Basque Region with its distinct aroma and flavor—garlicky, peppery, with a hint of spice. The texture of the pil pil was impeccable, too, with the emulsion so satisfyingly rich and silky.

Next on the menu was Zurrukutuna, another peek into Basque cuisine courtesy of chef Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz. The soup, which looks a bit like sopa de ajo at first glance, is made of sea urchin, chicken stock, and sopako, a kind of dried bread used only in soups in Spain’s Basque Country. 

Andoni shared that the best part of the dish, however, is the unassuming green pepper, which is grown by an old lady who lives only 200 meters away from Mugaritz.  The Zurrukutuna was complemented by Wildeberg, Terroirs Chenin Blanc, 2021, Paarl, South Africa, a white wine with a warm, fruity taste that’s perfect for seafood dishes. 

The next dish was almost too pretty to devour. Coral by chef Virgilio Martínez of the famed Peruvian restaurant Central—the 2023 World’s Best Restaurant—reminded me of a dainty ikebana or bonsai, with its muted violets and greens. 

Chefs plating Coral by chef Virgilio Martínez of the famed Peruvian restaurant Central

Tasting it was a whole different experience, however. Far from being delicate, Coral was all about textures: the pleasant chewiness of the octopus (That was one perfectly cooked octopus!), the crunchiness of the codium which is a kind of algae, the mild, slightly sweet oceanic flavor of the seaweed lettuce, and the smooth feel of the seagrapes against the tongue. 

Coral came with a glass of Chateau Chasse-Spleen, Blanc, 2019, Bordeaux, France, whose fruity notes balanced the taste of the sea. 

A 500-year-old recipe satisfied our taste buds next. Aptly named 500, Chele’s adaptation of a recipe that predated the discovery of the Americas rewarded us with a medley of Spanish and Moorish spices that complemented the subtle flavor of the local red snapper. The dish was doused in a clear yet unbelievably flavorful broth and topped with pickled onions and a dash of lemon. 

Chef Chele’s 500 included a note on how to enjoy the dish in two ways.

Sitting on one corner of the plate was a dollop of majada, which in some Spanish-speaking regions is a mixture or sauce made by mashing or grinding ingredients. For Chele’s 500, the majada was a mix of almonds and raisins, keeping true to the Arabic influence of the dish. 

500 was served with a note printed on a paper with burnt edges, with Chele suggesting two ways of eating it. You can eat the dish on its own, taking a spoonful of the fish and the broth together. Another way is by mixing in the majada to make the broth thicker and more savory. 

Roserock by Drouhin, Pinot Noir, 2021, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon, with its tart and citrusy notes, was the ideal wine for this dish backed by a 500-year history.

Chef Jordy Navarra’s Sour Fruits—homemade soy milk topped with a variety of mushrooms foraged from Rizal and a sauce made from green mangoes and kamias.

Chef Jordy Navarra then delighted us with Sour Fruits, a unique dish made of homemade soy milk topped with a variety of mushrooms foraged from Rizal and a sauce made from green mangoes and kamias. We were advised to scoop from bottom to top to fully enjoy the clash of sour against earthy, the chewiness of the mushrooms against the velvety smoothness of the taho.

Sour Fruits was served with Frédéric Brouca, Samsó Suelle 2021, Faugères, France, a fermented red wine with strong musky and floral notes. 

Chele’s Iberico Char Sui was served next which was roasted premium Jamón Iberico with kamote puree, kailan leaves, and smoked pork jus on the side. I could not imagine how Spain’s prized ham can be cooked à la char siu but Chele made it work. The rich, nutty flavor of the jamón went well with the meat’s crisp, caramelized skin that’s characteristic of a char siu roasted well.

Chef Chele’s Iberico Char Sui. Photo by Peanut dela Cruz

Accompanying the dish was a glass of Dominio de Atauta, 2019, Ribera de Duero, Spain, whose layered aromas of ripe berries with hints of lavender, rosemary, and chamomile, tempered the smoky goodness of the jamón. 

The night’s last savory dish, Kampot Pepper Crusted Pigeon, was a scene stealer both in taste and in presentation. Chef Julien Royer of Singapore’s Odette made use of pigeon brought all the way from Brittany, France. The pigeons were on a strict chestnut-only diet giving their meat a delightful nutty taste.

Encrusting the pigeon are kampot or Cambodian peppercorns in three different stages of maturity, each lending the dish with its own peppery nuance. The green ones gave the crust a lighter flavor, while the dark peppercorns had the strongest taste, whereas the red ones had a fruitier note. 

Kampot Pepper Crusted Pigeon by Chef Julien Royer of Odette

Taken together, the three kinds of kampot gave the dish a peppery and fruity taste on top of a satisfying crunch, a perfect contrast to the nutty profile of the pigeon meat. Completing the dish were solliès figs from Provence, black garlic, pickled onions, and a sensational pigeon jus mixed with garlic, thyme, onion, and fig leaf oil.

As a nod to the “pigeon post” or the use of homing pigeons to deliver letters in bygone years, Julien attached a note to each of the pigeons served. In it he expressed his delight in being able to share Odette’s signature dish which is a homage to his French heritage with a hint of Southeast Asian flavors.  

Served with the dish are pigeon baos and a glass of Señorio de San Vicente, 2016, Rioja, Spain, which has a citrusy, floral finish.

For dessert, we were first served Pintos by Chele, which are corn tamales with cashew and burnt milk ice cream. This was accompanied by a glass of Château Suduiraut, Premier Cru Classé, 2020, Sauternes, France, the sharp sweetness of which balanced the subtler flavors of the tamales and ice cream. 

Chef Chele’s Sungka, a medley of local sweet treats

Exactly three hours and 10 dishes later, a wooden sungka board was brought to our table, but instead of shells, seeds, or stones, each pit contained an iconic Philippine sweet treat.

Among the delicacies included were coconut macaroons, squash yema, macapuno, bukayo, ube pastillas, coffee polvoron, cashew nuts, peanut brittle, tamarind candy, milk pastillas, mango dipped in chocolate, kamias candy, cacao and pinipig.

 A heartfelt thank you

Zurrukutuna by chef Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz

 “At the heart of our celebrations is a belief that our friendships, both here and abroad are what make Gallery by Chele a better restaurant,” said Carlos Villaflor, the restaurant’s executive sous-chef. “Gallery by Chele: A Decade” is about building bridges that go beyond all borders.”

As if the 10-course dinner wasn’t enough of a thank-you gift, guests were given a Gallery by Chele tote bag containing keepsakes such as a souvenir book and a strawberry jam from Odette. 

“This event goes beyond just celebrating our 10th anniversary,” said Chele. “It’s our way to say thank you to our close friends who’ve had a hand in shaping what Gallery by Chele is today.”

Associate Editor

The new lifestyle.