By Tito Mike
The Seda Hotels recently treated its guests to an amazing culinary journey through a series of weekly dinner buffets showcasing Philippine regional cuisines.
For every Friday of June, all Seda hotels featured dishes from Luzon, the Visayas and most recently, Mindanao.
However, Seda Centrio in Cagayan de Oro has a leg up with its newly appointed Executive Sous Chef, Benzar Joe Aradani. Born into a Christian-Muslim family with an Indonesian father and Filipino mother in Jolo, Sulu, he had his primary and basic education in Zamboanga City, and tertiary education in Cebu City where he had to give up his medical technologist course because his wife was on the way, and he had to provide for his family immediately.
Starting from the very bottom at a variety of menial jobs, he rose from the ranks to become a Japanese cook in a Japanese Restaurant, later moving to Cebu Midtown Hotel, and thence as a Chef de Partie for their banquets in Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort in Lapu Lapu City, and as a sous chef at the Waterfront Mactan and Marriott Hotels.
Bacolod Chicken Inasal
Later, he stepped up as executive chef and executive sous chef for one of Manila’s most exclusive restaurants along Tomas Morato, and Midas Hotel and Casino along Roxas Boulevard over the next two decades. He’s also had stints as corporate executive chef at SAHI Group Hotel, and culinary consultant with various restaurants and hotels in Baguio, Boracay, Davao, Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro.
With his all-around background and 33 years of experience in many noted culinary centers in the country’s three island groups, Chef Ben has the personal knowledge, skills and chops to elevate Seda Centrio’s cuisine to the next dimension.
Flavors of the Philippines Centrio
I personally experienced this at Seda Centrio’s Misto restaurant on June 23 when his savvy with the island’s signature favorites was on full display: Lato (sea grapes) salad from Zamboanga, Pork Humba (Cagayan de Oro), Squid Sambal and Chicken Piyanggang with Palapa (Jolo).
Seaweed Salad or Ensaladang Lato is a favorite Zamboangueño salad of edible seaweed (also known as sea grapes) featuring two varieties of Lato: the small circular variety, and the bigger oval shaped ones. Piyanggang Chicken from the Tausug tribe of Sulu, is a dish traditionally stewed in its flavorful sauce, then finished on the grill.
Humba has traditionally been a local culinary favorite of Kagay-anons. Originally a braised pork dish from the Visayas, Kagay-anons have their own local favorites such as the humba of the late ‘Aling Violy’ Wabe in her Humbaan ni Aling Violy at the Cogon Market which is tender pork stewed in pineapple and her secret ingredients (cited as Best Food Discovery-Savory Award in the Northern Mindanao 2019 Big Bite Food Festival), and the “hubuy-huboy” (quivering) humba of the late Zita “Z.C.” Cosare-Vequilla at the iconic Z.C. Eatery along Pabayo Street. Credit should also be given to former Barangay Iponan Anthony Brellita for organizing their Iponan Humba Festival open cooking competition now on its 15th Year promoting humba as one of the barangay’s delicacies.
Kinilaw nga Isda sa Sugbu
During Seda Centrio’s first iteration of the Flavors of the Philippines featuring Luzon dishes on June 9, Chef Ban flexed his culinary magic with all-time culinary classics from the country’s biggest island with Pangat na Pompano and Bicol Express (Bikol), Bagnet and Camaron Rebosado with Malunggay (Ilokos), and Kapampangan Chicken Asado (Pampanga).
The second Flavors on June 16 featured all-time favorite dishes from the Visayas (mainly Cebu), where he spent his formative culinary education honing his chops on Cebuano specialties such as Pork Kilawin with Sweetened Pineapple, Kinilaw na Isda, Ensaladang Talong, and Sutukil (Sugba-Tinola-Kinilaw) favorites such as Sinugbang Liempo (Grilled Pork Liempo), Sinugbang Pusit with Tomato and Onion, and Sinugba na Tuna Belly with Fried Garlic, Chili, and Onion.
Chef Benzar Joe Aradani joined Seda Centrio in November 2022 as Executive Sous Chef and is charged with managing culinary operations, developing and curating the menu, upholding standards, and acting as team leader.
At Seda Centrio, Chef Ben uses the freshest and highest quality ingredients, and his menus reflect his commitment to sustainability. Guests can expect to be delighted by his creative combinations of flavors and textures, as well as his attention to detail.
Whether you’re a foodie or just appreciate good food, Chef Ben’s dishes are sure to impress. His passion for cooking is contagious, and he is always eager to share his knowledge and expertise with others. His passion to delight guests is reflected in his innovations where he tweaks traditional dishes for a modern twist, or new concoctions inspired by his constant desire to challenge himself. (with Karl Antic)