Perhaps the only place we will ever see Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero hamming it up — and even then, still a tad restrained — is in the kitchen.
Not everyone knows the young lawmaker likes to cook. Local lifestyle media got a glimpse of his lighthearted side when Chiz was introduced as the first-ever endorser of Frabelle Foods, a fast-rising all-Filipino brand of processed food products. Proudly proclaiming his love for Frabelle’s masterpiece line called Yummy! Hotdogs, the senator then went on to demonstrate the preparation and cooking of his own recipe, Chiz Yummy Spaghetti.
“(Cooking) brings about a sense of satisfaction that’s immediate. Right after you finish a dish and people like it, the fulfillment is instant. You see their response right away,” Chiz explains. “It is so unlike, well, legislation. And exactly the opposite pa. Where in the other too many cooks will spoil the broth, ‘ika nga, in real cooking, it’s just between the kusinero and the ingredients and whoever’s going to eat. That’s it!”
Judging from the way he deftly handled the kitchen implements and mixed the ingredients, the man had clearly progressed beyond “prito-prito lang ng mga hotdog,” to making meals on his own, especially for his two kids. Credit may go to his cooking teachers for developing his skills in the kitchen, but it was his mom who lit the spark of interest.
“As a young boy, I bonded with her mostly in the kitchen. We cooked breakfast together. She taught me stuff, like how to correctly cut a chicken into pieces, how to debone and clean a fish. Kaya excuse me, marunong akong magsaing kahit walang rice cooker,” Chiz reveals.
Generously sprinkling ground black pepper to the sauce, Chiz expounds, “I guess you can say that my mom’s Bicolano flavors have crossed over to mine. I not only enjoy cooking spicy dishes as well, I’m right now mulling the possibility of launching my own cookbook featuring ‘Bicol-ized’ Filipino dishes such as spicy tinola and spicy adobo.”
Chiz is the second child of Sorsogon Rep. Salvador “Sonny” Escudero III and Evelina Guevara-Escudero, a recently-appointed member of the University of the Philippines Board of Regents, who graduated with a Home Economics degree in UP. Mom Evie is currently president of the UP Home Economics Alumni Association, as well as the UP Alumni Association Hostel and Canteen Services Inc. since 2008. She served as lecturer at the UP College of Home Economics from 2007 to 2010, and has been teaching at the high school and college levels of the OB Montessori College from 1996 to present.
Raised by such accomplished parents, Chiz has apparently never outgrown the propensity to learn. Two years ago, for example, he decided to take a short culinary course at the First Gourmet Academy in Quezon City. He shares, “I studied with my brother, my brother-in-law and my neighbor under chef Mats Loo. For three months, he taught us the basics — like how to sauté a fish. I had fun. It brought me back to the days of being with mommy in our small kitchen, at 10 Kitanlad St. in Quezon City, near the Welcome Rotonda.
“I had so much fun, that after my three-month course in FGA, I’ve started taking lessons from Chef Reggie Aspiras, with whom I now cook on a dish-to-dish basis, like adobo, paella and tinola, and some Spanish dishes, like cochinillo, which I haven’t perfected yet. My kids love my version of paella which I cook in a brick oven; they affectionately call it yellow rice.”
Some may say the recently-single father of twins would be busy dating when he finds the time, but Chiz begs to differ. Finding time to personally cook for his twins is a priority, he says, and in fact he is quite adamant about making sure they get the best of everything, especially when it comes to food.
“I always zero in on what’s good for them,” he stresses.
This is partly the reason he readily say yes to endorsing Frabelle Foods. Chief among the reasons, he discloses, is his friendship with Frabelle’s Francisco “Kiko” Tiu-Laurel, who affirms the senator’s admission that his services were gratis. “Kaibigan ko naman si Kiko. Plus pinatikim niya sa akin ‘yung products, and masarap talaga.”
Chiz says he was truly “pleased” with the taste of the brand’s hotdogs, as well as his other favorites (“the Frabelle Hickory Smoked Bacon and the Frabelle Yellow Fin Tuna”), but what helped seal the deal was the knowledge that he would be helping an all-Filipino brand. “Here’s a Filipino brand at par with world-class products. Hindi lang sa hindi pahuhuli sa lasa ng international brands, but because it’s meticulously-prepared, hitsurang malinis, lasang malinis, puwedeng-puwede pang manguna,” he explains.
The senator admits being a stickler for cleanliness in his own kitchen, and will not settle for food products that are less than hygienic.
On that score, Frabelle Foods attests to its own high standards. Company information declares “it sets the utmost standard of perfection with its zealous commitment to go beyond the status quo in terms of food preparation. While the current business trends in food processing include cutting corners to save costs, this brand takes pride in adhering to the old-world classic disciplines of food processing such as the natural smoking of meat and the blow-torching of sugar in hams, combined with its cutting-edge Fresh-Lock Freezing Technology, from which all of its meat and seafood products are maintained fresh and tasteful.”
Investing in quality has certainly paid off for the company. Recently, the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) granted it an AAA accreditation, based on its plant’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification and all of its products’ Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification, which were obtained in record time.
Not only that, Frabelle Corp. is now considered a “game-changer in the value-added meats industry” even though Frabelle Foods, its flagship brand, was launched only in late 2011.
This time, the brand’s attention to taste and quality is being blared through its first TV commercial, which features Escudero talking about the brand campaign called “Sadyang Pinasarap.” The ad highlights the brand’s edge in terms of the products’ high quality, authentic food processing procedures and top-of-the-line technology.
Frabelle Foods products include: Yummy! Hotdogs, which notably undergo a 100 percent natural smoking procedure using imported wood chips; Longganiza Hamonado, with its smoky flavor that goes well even in lasagna; Pork Ham Tocino, which is made from ham leg; Hickory Smoked Bacon and Honey Ham, which are sweetened with pure honey straight from the bee farm.
These products, ranked high in quality and taste by some consumers, also merit a plus for their friendly prices. This is another aspect Chiz approves of: “Everyone has a right to eat good, world-class food,” he concludes.