April Fool’s Day: Pinoy spaghetti finds a champion in Alan Ducasse

We’ve always been dismayed that the food of other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam get all the accolades while our complex culinary heritage is passed over.

Despair no longer, for we have a champion in world-renowned chef Alan Ducasse.

Pinoy or “kiddie” spaghetti has captured the taste buds of this mutli-Michelin starred chef to such an extent that he went on a Jeffrey Steingarten-esque hunt for the perfect Pinoy spaghetti flavor; ordering spaghetti from fast food joints such as Jollibee and Pancake House to the home-style family cooked recipes of his Filipino friends.

Ducasse, who was in Manila a few weeks ago to give a lecture and raise funds for Yolanda victims at a culinary school here, had a secret agenda: to perfect and serve a dish so common and yet so interestingly Filipino in flavor that the locals never give it a second thought.

“The number of plates we needed to clear after each meal from Mr. Ducasse’s hotel room was staggering. He must have had at least five different kinds of spaghetti sauces during meals, which was served with spaghetti he had specially made. Mr. Ducasse left nothing to chance; only the spaghetti sauce changed. The noodles and cheese were always the same,” said culinary student Chiqui Eng Joy, who was covered in semolina flour.

Ducasse was so enamored by the tangy, sweet flavor of our local spaghetti that he tasted over 40 different varieties in the two days he was in the country, often insisting that his staff also sample the various spaghetti sauces and fill out a short comment card that would describe the meat to hotdog ratio, sweetness and, surprisingly, color.

According to staffers who had to fill out the cards, Ducasse preferred the spaghetti with just a small sprinkling of hotdog on top the meat sauce, which had to be red-orange in hue — according to the chef, an important factor in distinguishing the Filipino style from the Italian.

“I must have tasted 15 different sauces,” said one Ducasse staffer. “Chef Ducasse was very exacting. He wanted us to be able to distinguish the difference in using banana and tomato ketchup in the recipes just by scent alone!”

The staffer added that the chef loved the taste of our spaghetti so much, he even learned the steps to Lito Camo’s “Spaghetti Dance”. 

A restaurant in Manila will soon be serving the perfected sauce recipe as part of its lunch menu later in the year and Ducasse has expressed interest in featuring it in his restaurants abroad including La Trattoria Toscana, his only restaurant in Italy, saying that the Filipino style spaghetti is a good counterpoint to the traditional fare that the restaurant usually serves.


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