Bay Area chef, blogger win 3rd Kulinarya finals

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Justin Hulog, winner of the 2012 Kulinarya Amateur Division, receives his trophy.

Justin Hulog, a food blogger and an MFA student at the San Francisco State University, and Thomas Weibull, the executive chef at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, emerged winners from the 3rd Kulinarya Finals, a live cooking showdown hosted by the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco and its attached agencies on an annual basis.

Hulog, one of three competitors in the Amateur Division of the Kulinarya Finals, served up a green mango chicken sisig that bested entries from Ross Tordecilla, who works in the financial services industry, and Joycelyn Sembrano-Vergara, a group billing coordinator for the Westin St. Francis Hotel.

Tordecilla, who hails from LA, presented a braised beef kaldereta for the competition. Vergara, a Daly City native, prepared traditional chicken afritada.

Competition for the Professional Division was even fiercer, as each of the three competitors was required to present three dishes: an appetizer or soup, a main entrée, and a dessert.

Hulog, one of three competitors in the Amateur Division of the Kulinarya Finals, served up a green mango chicken sisig that bested entries from Ross Tordecilla, who works in the financial services industry, and Joycelyn Sembrano-Vergara, a group billing coordinator for the Westin St. Francis Hotel.

Tordecilla, who hails from LA, presented a braised beef kaldereta for the competition. Vergara, a Daly City native, prepared traditional chicken afritada.

Competition for the Professional Division was even fiercer, as each of the three competitors was required to present three dishes: an appetizer or soup, a main entrée, and a dessert.

Entries from the six competitors were assessed and ranked according to creativity, taste, and presentation. The five-man panel of judges, selected for their expertise in and exposure to both Filipino cuisine and the local culinary scene, was composed of Francis Ang, the executive pastry chef of Fifth Floor Restaurant; Lynne Bennett, staff writer and test kitchen director for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Food & Wine Department; John Birdsall, Senior Editor at CHOW.com, a national online food magazine based in San Francisco; Christina Dunham, the contributing lifestyle editor for Gastronomique en Vogue, a food and fashion magazine; and Arnold Eric Wong, the consulting executive chef of E&O Asian Kitchen.

Kulinarya: a Filipino Culinary Showdown is an annual event organized by the Philippine Consulate General and its attached agencies (DOT, DTI, PNP, PCMB) to build awareness and appreciation of Philippine cuisine and culture, as well as to highlight existing and emerging Filipino-American culinary talents in the Bay Area and encourage them to exercise their creativity and skill in elevating the quality of taste and presentation of Philippine dishes.  It also serves as a vehicle to promote the country’s tourist products and services.

Local talents from the Bay Area and beyond converged at the venue to brighten up the proceedings. Triathlete JR Calanoc and comedienne Fe de los Reyes hosted the Amateur Division competition, while Chicago-based chef Ron Bilaro, host of The Filipino Channel’s “Eat and Ron”, came in as master of ceremonies for the Professional Division and for an on-the-spot cook-off between former Kulinarya winners, Chef Albert Rivera (Professional Division) and Arlene Nunez (Amateur Division). Local student Mika Gorospe wowed the crowd with her voice during the intermission, performing two Tagalog love songs.

As the winner in the Professional Division, Weibull will receive a cash prize of $1000, a free Kulinarya tour to selected culinary destinations in the Philippines that includes a round-trip ticket to the Philippines via Philippine Airlines and two nights’ stay at a deluxe hotel in Metro Manila, and an all-expenses paid trip to the annual EAT Vancouver World Culinary Travel Expo with the Philippine Department of Tourism in San Francisco, where he will have an opportunity to showcase Philippine culinary delicacies before an international audience.

Hulog, the winner in the Amateur Division will receive $500 in cash and a free Kulinarya tour to selected culinary destinations in the Philippines that includes a round-trip ticket to the Philippines via PAL courtesy of Pacific Air Leisure Services, and two nights’ stay at a deluxe hotel in Metro Manila.

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