Who : Benedicto Cataggatan Jr.
What : Chef
Where : Spice Quest
Age : 27
1. Where did you learn how to cook?
I started cooking at age 10. Every time I went into the jungle with my friends, hunting for exotic foods and fishing, was like bonding with them. Then I started to bring condiments like salt and pepper. Then we cooked together.
2. How many years have you been cooking?
I actually don’t call myself as a professional chef, because I never went to the culinary school. In 2004 I left to my family in my province and I started to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken in the city of Manila. When my contract finish at KFC, I worked in 5 star hotel Mandarin Oriental Manila. Then I continued to work hard in other kitchens from different places in The Philippines. I learned a lot of cooking techniques and different kinds of dishes. Now it’s been 9 years that i’m working in kitchen.
3. With which ingredient do you prefer to work with?
I love working with tropical ingredients. Because it always has the flavor of freshness in it, which i think is one of the key aspect of having excellent food.
4. What is your favorite dish to prepare and why?
I don’t have any particular dish that I would say my favorite to prepare. I just put love and care with any dish that i’m familiar to cook with. And feel great whenever I see satisfied faces of the people who eat what I prepared.
5. What is your favorite dish to eat?
I love exotic foods and vegetables and i’m also really excited with fresh seafoods.
6. What do you think of our Surinamese cuisine?
Well, as a cook I think that the Surinamese cuisine should focused more on natural taste of the ingredients and also very tropical taste. I’m already 6 months here in Suriname and I adapted easily with the cuisine because it has so many similarities with my own cuisine. For example cooking with root crops and fresh tropical vegetables is very familiar with the cooking.
7. What could be better?
It is good to infuse in other cuisine with any local cuisine, but I think the best thing is to promote and make use what is traditional. Because it will define our own identity.
8. Is there a platform for chefs needed?
Yes I think so, because being a chef needs a lot of good qualities. One of the key platform, I think, is having a positive attitude towards the job. And that you must also have a lot of patience and good sense of management.
9. Do you think the Surinamese cuisine is evolving?
I myself still need to learn a lot, and I don’t have any standards for me to say if a particular cuisine evolving. With my own assessment I can say that the Surinamese cuisine is great and world class.
10. What direction should we go with the Surinamese cuisine/kitchen?
Just follow what your heart tells you. The Surinamese cuisine is very broad and we can do many things to make it greater. We just need to be creative and put passion in everything we do.