A bite of genius

by Geraldine Rullan-Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

A wave of déjà vu swept over me as I watched Grappa’s executive chef Clint Nuyda prep the fresh pasta and seafood in the Gourdo’s Bonifacio Fort Strip store in a recent Ballarini cookware launch.

He not only resembled my kitchen genius brother, Benedict, with medium locks framing a tanned face, his bespectacled face bore the same intense concentration as he bent over ingredients with a transfixed gaze.

It brought me back to our Baguio kitchen where Benedict and I jostled over counter space, a sink overflowing with both our pans, pots and kitchen gadgets and the window always blowing in a fresh breeze to cool our cheflike tempers.

The aroma of a truffle cream sauce prepped for mushroom filled fresh ravioli pasta broke my reverie. As I bit into the delicate ravioli, beyond al dente perfection, as only freshly made and freshly rolled pasta dough can promise, I was stripped of all my pasta-making bravado. Having never made fresh pasta, all my stellar pasta dishes paled in comparison. I had to look at Nuyda in another light, thinking maybe he really is my kitchen genius brother, who continuous to break culinary boundaries in our home kitchen in Seattle.

The truffle in the cream was a highlight to the mushroom, a tantalizing note to the freshness of all the ingredients. Many a chef has bribed the palate with an overpowering dose of truffles, throwing all caution to the wind. Nuyda’s judicious use of such a delicate and pricey ingredient is a telltale sign of his experience with it.

He next served the capelli d’angello al salmon, with the fresh smoked salmon contrasting with tender angel hair noodles blanketed with creamy mushrooms.

It was rustic and chic all in one bite, a squeeze of lemon drawing out the fresh, briny salmon to the fore. For a finale, the prawns all lined up like letter Cs atop mashed potatoes was visually stunning and as I bit into one, saltiness, creaminess and sweetness all enveloped my palate and the Cs single handedly disappeared from my plate.

The heady feeling one gets after an exceptionally good meal had to be replicated and, as I headed to Grappa’s a couple of weeks later, I was once again stunned by Nuyda’s corn-mousse filled ravioli.

It sounded simple: make corn mousse by grating
fresh kernels from a cob, stuff it in fresh pasta and shape into ravioli then top with fresh cream and truffles. For a repeat of corn mousse pasta, I really would have to learn to make it at home since Nuyda makes different ravioli every week at Grappa’s.

If I were to indulge in a fresh pasta treat with a twist of genius, I would be better off trooping back to Grappa’s to have a taste of a new filling that Nuyda will dream up, a filling I am sure no one else has thought of.

After finishing the Hotel and Restaurant Management Extension Program at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), he worked side by side with Wolfgang Puck at the Spago’s, chef Makoto Tanaka at the Mako’s Restaurant and chef Eric Klein at the Maple Drive all in Beverly Hills. Klein brought Nuyda to the SW Steakhouse in Las Vegas, Nevada and he later returned to Beverly Hills to work with Chef Suzanne’s Goin L.A. Tavern in Brentwood and Raphael’s in Studio City. After having worked the culinary greats that side of the world, he has come back to Manila to share decades of experience and learning with local chefs.

For more of Nuyda’s cooking, visit Grappa’s Ristorante at second floor, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City.

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