How Breast Cancer Survivor and Food Writer Cyrene de la Rosa Honors Breast Cancer Awareness Month with FoodOctober 17, 2017
- Bea OsmeñaWords
This Saturday will mark the 4th ‘Around the World in Small Plates’ fundraiser event for breast cancer support group iCanServe Foundation, a food event that brings together some of Manila’s most celebrated chefs in October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) in order to spread breast cancer awareness and raise funds for the projects of the iCanServe Foundation. Having been organizing ‘Around The World’ for the Lifestyle Network since 2012, food writer Cyrene de la Rosa tells us that it is easily one of her most fun and exciting projects that takes 2-3 months of planning.
[In 2012] Lifestyle contacted me to curate a [food] event for them . . . When we were discussing the requirements . . . I suggested, ‘Why don’t we just do a charity dinner? And instead of . . . [giving] like 20 to 30 percent or less to the beneficiary, I can design it in a way that we give most of the earnings to the beneficiary . . . They agreed and they asked me to recommend a charity so I said yes to iCanServe. That’s how it started.”
iCanServe has some significance to de la Rosa, who has been a survivor since 2010 (she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009). Though she admits she was never a very active member, she relied on the support ofiCanServe ‘sisters’ (as they call themselves) and fellow-survivors and foodies entrepreneur Bettina Osmeña and food consultant Beth Romualdez, and eventually Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala (founding president of iCanServe), throughout 2009-2010. Breast cancer was in fact what indirectly led her becoming a food writer.
“I ended up writing by chance. After I got sick, I stopped working for maybe a year and a half,” de la Rosa explains. “When I called [a friend] to ask for suggestions on where I can apply, she said ‘Oh, I follow you on Facebook’—my food adventures on Facebook. She said, ‘I’ll set you up with [an] editor.'” De la Rosa was surprised by the offer but said okay and went for the interview. Her first article, she said, was a list on the top 5 chocolate-centric cookies, and after it had done so well, the editor gave her a weekly food column. Ever since then, she has been in food media and continues to contribute articles when she can alongside producing different projects year-round.
The first 2 ‘Around the Worlds’ happened in 2012 and 2013, after which they decided that they needed a 1 year break in between, making the subsequent event on the 2015, leading up to this year’s 4th installment of the food fair. De la Rosa is in charge of tapping the chefs, and works with them closely to flesh out a dish that will fit into the menu and best represent the chef’s skills (and because the theme of the ‘Around the World’ event is international cuisine, each booth represents a different type of cuisine). After we had met de la Rosa last week for the interview, she had a tasting with Miguel Vecin of Bar Pintxos and Raul Fores Made Nice Supper Club to taste-test and help develop their small plates. “A lot of [the small plates] are only available for the dinner,” de la Rosa tells us.
De la Rosa reveals that one country that is new to the roster is Saudi Arabia. “Chef Tina Legarda of Bamba is representing Saudi Arabia. She’s making a chicken dish . . . [that’s] like their adobo. She made a modern version. It was very good. Even the plating was perfect,” de la Rosa says. “Some of our dishes will also come with a pairing beverage. In [Chef Tina’s] case, [the] chicken dish . . . comes with a yogurt drink on the side. It’s just a shot and she’s making that herself.”
“I ask [all the chefs] to prepare a dish, but in smaller portions. The reason behind that is because we have more than 15 booths. I think when we started, I had 21 to 24, but we trimmed it down to 20 this year, only because most of the people complain that they don’t get to try everything, [and] I found it unfair for some chefs’ dishes not to be tried by everyone. So I said ‘Okay, I’m going to go for just 15-16 savory this time, then the others are beverages.’ It’s similar to a tasting portion, like in a degustación dinner, but the difference is you need to get the food yourself, so you also have a chance to burn down some calories before you try another thing. My aim is for everyone to try everything.”
The event itself will be food-centric, meaning no performances. “Everyone is so engrossed with the food and trying everything,” that it is difficult to pay attention to a program, says de la Rosa. The configuration of this year’s venue, 8 Rockwell, also would not work with a performance since the Penthouse circles around a column in the middle. Instead, it creates a natural flow for a food event of this type as it encourages visitors to circulate the venue as they explore 20 different food and drink booths.
“[This year], I was able to curate the beverages also,” de la Rosa reveals, visibly excited at this new addition to the event. “For the first time I have a gin bar, and my wines are from Sommelier Selection. So I have a mini-‘Around the World’ for wines, and a mini ‘Around the World’ for gin . . . I’m not sure if the people who are coming are into alcohol but I thought it was something different.”
Other chefs that are involved include Claude Tayag, Sandy Daza, Josh Boutwood, Carlos Rodriguez-Garcia, Jason Go, Nicco Santos, Dedet Dela Fuente, JP Anglo, Ginny De Guzman, Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara, Robby Goco, Chad Ogden, William Mahi, and Carlos Franco, for a total of 17 delicious dishes to look forward to.