Pinoy chef at the helm of Harvard Faculty Club

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July 2, 2014

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Behind the exquisite dining experience at the Harvard Faculty Club is a Filipino executive chef.

For three years now, Chef Rolando Abaquin has been at the helm of this kitchen in one of America’s oldest and most prestigious institutions – Harvard University in Cambridge.

He was Columbia University’s executive chef for 10 years before taking over Harvard’s most elegant in-campus restaurant.
Abaquin says he has served some of the world’s most popular celebrities.

“I met Vice President Binay, like a year ago I think. Also Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, a lot of celebrities. Yeah, Matt Damon. Ayan, we did it here,” Abaquin said.

But before rubbing elbows with celebrities, Abaquin started out as a dishwasher in a New York restaurant in the ‘80s when an opportunity came and turned his life around — a sous chef asked him if he wanted to learn how to cook.

“So I tried and then give me all these books, and learn from that, and then after a few weeks, I start making all the sauces, soup,” he said. “And within six months of training I became a sous chef.”

Thirty years later, today, the Pinoy chef offers quality dining to the Faculty Club’s meetings, conferences, special events and even wedding receptions of up to a thousand guests.

Chef Abaquin’s most popular dish came from his own mother’s recipe called “Makati Style Chicken Skewers”. The marinade uses a Pinoy favorite, banana ketchup.

“We have some Filipino dish also. Like we make some skewered chicken, with banana ketchup,” Abaquin said. ”That’s one of the favorite also in the club right now.”

Abaquin said that the Faculty Club serves other Filipino dishes.

“We serve adobo, we also do noodles and lumpia, but we don’t use much pork, we use chicken,” he said.

Dinner guest from New York, Joji Jalandoni said, “Excellent, masarap, considering, tapos sabi ko nga naku this is really a very… a one step up for us na ang pagkain masarap. He did a very good job.”

Before moving to the US, the Bicol-native chef was an agriculturist in the Philippines.

His degree in agriculture from Bicol University comes in handy when it comes to providing quality meals to the Harvard community — he grows his own herbs in an on-site organic garden.

“Right now I’m very happy here,” he said. “The environment, and also it’s Harvard! It’s nice to be here.”

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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