Friday, February 26, 2016

Joanie witness Jamie's Italian backdoor!

  (My two girls at the Antipasti Section which is my favourite section)

How do I begin? This is my long overdue post that I have been meaning to finish so I can share to people and inspire them through my journey.

In December 2014, I arrived in Sydney for another leap of faith. Throwing myself into the wind always fascinates me and gives me indescribable excitement -- Not knowing what would the result be, I just brought with me my big desire to finally live in my dream place to settle, Australia! Along with the big hope for it to materialise... and it DID!

  (Rita Sadik - Jamie's Italian Marketing Manager at that time)

One of the attempts exploring what shall I do in this country whether to pursue advertising or cooking? Through my creativity I was given the chance at Jamie Oliver restaurant called Jamie's Italian to experience how the restaurant runs. Marketing Manager of KeyStone Group gave me the chance in Canberra where it is less busy and more time for the staff to show me things at the restaurant. She was also amazed how a big fan of Jamie Oliver I am so she also invited me to appear on a video promo of Jamie's Italian for Australian kids!

  (Video shoot at Randwick for Jamie's Italian promo)

  Here is the link of the video:  

I stayed in Canberra for a few weeks and rented an Airbnb room in the apartment of Jonathan who is a very kind young gentleman who made me feel like a friend and family at his house. Everyday of my stay at Jonathan's place, he or his Mum who lived few blocks away will drive me to the Civic where Jamie's Italian is. And going home, he and his Mum will pick me up at Jamie's and we all go home together.  Me and Jonathan shared dinner everyday and most of the time I cook as I enjoy doing it even after a tiring shift from my internship. And when I left Canberra, Jonathan and his Mum drove me to the Bus station to bid farewell. His Mum gave me 20 AUD as I miss the bus trip schedule and she just paid me a new one. Such a really good person! I am very blessed to find genuine people like Jonathan and his Mum. 

  ( Jonathan and his Filipina Girlfriend arrived that day )

(Chef Jim and General Manager Liam of Jamie's Italian Canberra)

When I started my experience at Jamie's Italian, I immerse with the Store Manager Liam and Executive Chef Jim on my first day. The succeeding days, I also met a lot of Korean staff (as the head chef is Korean) and some cool Aussie Chefs that taught me valuable knowledge in a big international restaurant operation. To get me by, I had my free chef uniform, apron, daily food and new found friend Chef Stephen who is very enthusiastic about Filipino people. How does it feel to experience to the restaurant when I am not a chef and no experience in any big kitchen. Just given the chance to see and explore it is a huge privilege.

Everyday I would hear the word "BEHIND" and that is how you alert people in a busy kitchen that someone is behind them so they will be cautious or will give way. My experience varies from burning my palm with a hot metal pan at the fish section, shopping inside a freezing walk-in fridge with all the supplies, then carrying big vegetable crates that are heavy for the antipasti section,  and lastly I sliced my finger a few times using the Mandoline. I am now friends with the blue bandage! The training and quality control on food and supplies are pretty impressive, hats off! 

  (Chopping and Peeling Gazillions of Beetroots with a Korean Girl)

  (The Pasta Section Chef and new found friend Chef Stephen)

The people in Jamie's Italian Canberra are very passionate and true to the philosophies of Jamie Oliver, one good example is the admiration of Chef Stephen to Jamie as the most humble celebrity chef on the planet and a very hands-on restaurateur to his staff. Stephen and I shared a lot of blurbs about Filipino swears that he is keen learning and on my last day at work at Jamie's, we had a joy ride adventure at late night around Canberra as Chef volunteered to drive me home! And to return the favour, I let him join me and Jonathan have our late night dinner that I quickly prepared!

  (Cooking the Famous Osso Bucco)

But as a petite woman, I felt it was really exhausting to go home tired everyday, sweaty and smelly. This made me admire people who work in the kitchen as a full time chef, hats off big time! Also it made me realise that my cooking style is not a skill-based talent in comparison to the professionals and I surrender that being a chef is truly a male dominated job that most men are more capable of doing than women. Take for example the grilling section whom I personally consider that it's like the feeling of burning in hell! Tremendous hotness! Not to mention carrying heavy crates and butchery! My conclusion is, my cooking is more of a talent based on passion  and I consider myself as a Culinarian than pursuing a professional chef career. Jamie's restaurant has taught me a lot of unforgettable preparation and recipes on his signature dishes that are now part of my repertoire of my favourite dishes to make!

  (A Vietnamese Chef having his last day on my first day of Internship)

  (Chef Pavo is the substitute head chef)

Jamie's Italian became an instrumental tool unleashing the real desire of my heart. As of today, I am back in advertising and I believe it's in my blood. I turned my back a few times, but I do believe I have my professional skill and talent on this field as an Art Director that I need to flourish more here in the Aussie land and with new and inspiring creative people who believed in my talent. Now I am excited to begin that new threshold.

  (My Bagno Selfie with my Chef Uniform)

Until my Jamie Oliver Selfie story at the Sydney Easter Show that you really have to read on ;p

big hug,
joanie  xxx

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Joanie meets Jamie after 5 Years!

Five years ago I met Jamie in London as one of the most peculiar experience in my life. The article about my experience whom I wrote for his website and my blogsite is still a tangible testimony of a very beautiful encounter with my idol. Who would have imagined and not many will be given the chance to meet there idol twice in an up close encounter.
At the  2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - my partner brought me there to see his cooking demo. We were lucky enough to get some good seats for us to comfortably see Jamie as he did his demo. And we were also fortunate enough to have a taste of the food that he cooked for everyone who are sitting there as his audience. The rest of the crowd who were standing weren't lucky enough but happy to see him anyway.

 I love Woolworths as a brand and I enjoy doing my grocery in their Double Bay branch where I live a few steps away. I really like this activation that they did that really resonated to me as their target market and as s big fan of Jamie Oliver.

Though it was a good experience, I still feel disconnected to Jamie on that said event. As a fan I yearn to get up close, and since Woolies did not provide that privilege -- I opted to go grab Jamie and took my one helluva chance of having a selfie with him. If I will do a TV commercial about this experience, the storyboard above will be my story.

Hence, what I did may not be good in the point-of-view of his bodyguards but Mr. Oliver was very kind enough to stop and did two selfies with me. My recommendation is for Woolies to make some exclusive photo op next time with backdrop and all -- plus the branding of course! Jamie is a big person and he doesn't come to Australia so often so Woolies as a big brand I reckon they can afford to make something like that. Or at least their now Ad agency Saatchi will make good ideas than Leo Burnett.

Oh well... this is it for now, can't wait to write my story about Tim Cahill and the event I attended at GLUE store, an Australian brand that Timmy has his own personal line.

big hug
joanie xxx

Friday, June 05, 2015

Australia my home sweet home!

Good morning matey!

Finally I am saying these words HOME sweet HOME in a place that I always want to be -- Australia! I moved here since December of 2014 and since then a lot of things happened. Some kinda roller coaster ride if I say so. To begin with, I had my Internship at Jamie's Italian in Canberra, witnessed the Sydney Easter show with Woolworths cooking demo and met Jamie Oliver for the second time!

There are good news but also had bad news - My Mum passed away last April. What a sad birthday month it was and I couldn't find words to write anything here in my blog about my good news. In spite of that I know Mum is in a happy place and she will be more proud of me now.

So now back to all the back log I need to do and one of them is to write this post to say I am happy to make tons of meat pies this winter and probably looking forward cooking more Pavlova, Lamingtons Meat Pies and other Aussie delights. On top of that, Greek cuisine will be a new learning as I want to be a good loving partner to my Greek man as I never get tired cooking for him everyday of our life together :)

This is it for now and I am looking forward to write another Jamie Oliver story and more adventures here down under!

big hug,
joanie  xox

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Felice San Valentino

About ten months ago I submitted an essay for World Nomads Travel, I thought of sharing this interesting piece I wrote in time for Valentine's day. The essay should contain how travel has become a meaningful portion of your life. 

I have been to many places here on earth and I could have probably write the story about how I met this guy while hiking in Montserrat and our tapas adventures in Barcelona with his friends. I was really fascinated because of what he does in life about being involve in earth sustainable energy. He used to be my constant skype date friend, Kyrke. He is by far the most intelligent, kind-hearted and gentleman I have ever met in my whole life. I do miss him heaps.

I could also probably write about my long distance best friend who is a good saxaphone player and an aspiring painter from Miami whom I met in Saigon for one of the OPEN MICS I had in my cafe. I couldn't imagine how a young boy named Ian and I crossed paths and built a friendship that encapsulates care and love no matter the distance. He's been my constant adviser to all my hurtings. The wisdom of this young boy is by far the most valuable and mature-level than any older men I've met. I do miss him heaps along with his music.

But it's LOVE that made me decide to write one peculiar and movie-like story of my life that happened for real. It was one beautiful day in Firenze that has changed my life from four years ago, here's my essay...


“I’m a L’Aquila survivor. This is my second life.” The man about six feet and four inches tall whispered his pick-up line while we were basking under the Tuscan sun on the benches of the crowded piazza of Santa Maria Novella.

Just a few inches away each other, I slowly turned my head and gave the man a curious glance. He immediately had me with his aviator-style Carrera! Slowly he pulled down his Carrera and revealed his grayish green eyes that looked straight into my eyes. My vision panned down through his beak-like nose with a diamond bling. Shortly after it led me to stare at his glaring gold chain necklace. I was stricken and quickly remembered Naples’ infamous pickpocketing documentary.

I was surprised when all of a sudden he uttered “It’s true that everyone from Naples is a natural pickpocket and every tourist is a target” My heart was beating fast than it ever had in my entire life! I hugged my bag tightly and I was thinking of an escape before Mt. Vesuvius erupts! He continued talking. “Many rich tourists in Firenze are splurging money for shopping. If they will lose a few hundred euros, it will not affect their savings!” The way he delivered his lines sounded like a typical southern accent with matching hand gestures. 

I was petrified when he moved closer to fill in the gap we had. He wrapped his arm on my waist and tried to put his hand inside the pocket of my coat while saying these things: “People asked me how many smart pickpockets are there in Naples? My answer was, how many dumb tourists are there in Naples?  Same with the tourists in Ponte Vecchio, they could hardly feel the hand that goes inside their bags or pockets.” Then slowly he moved away. I breathed with the sigh of relief.

He smiled at me and gave his hand and his name. He said that he is from Pompeii and was studying at L’Aquila when the earthquake happened in 2009. He is one of the survivors from the school that collapsed in Abruzzo. He later moved to Firenze to finish studying. He once again said, “It’s also true that it’s my second life. I almost died saving a friend. My second life is meaningless if I let my friend die.” 

I was speechless. No words came out my mouth and I just reached his hand and tightly shook it and gave him nothing but a genuine smile. He invited me for a glass of Spremutta after. It’s been four years since then. I will never forget the day that I thought I had an encounter with a pickpocket but later I found out that it was my heart that was stolen.  

Sometimes love does not stand the test of time. Sometimes we are separated by the distance and by our different dreams so we have to part ways. Sometimes those things  happen for a reason but it doesn't make me love the person less but forever I will remember that I smashed into something good that I was able to hold on to for four years.

Since December I arrived in Australia, I am more fierce than I was seven years ago. I am more detemined and eager to chase my dreams and be in the place I always want to settle and where I can cuddle an angel's arms and be on his wings to take a flight to a journey called life and love.

Until my next post about the Australian Dream...
Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

big hug,
joanie  xxx

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Middle Earth

This poem was written and inspired by the American boy I met in Vietnam. I believe that no matter how big the age distance is, there is something that bridge the gap two stranger.

I was inspired and smitten about a BOY's big love passion about life and the adventures it bring...

Where would you be? Said He.

In a place where humans are less. Said I.

Where you can find friends and make love above the grass. Said I.

Where paths are unfamiliar but will leave you with an awe. Said I.

Where the wood gate welcomes you by. Said He.

Maybe. Said I. Or it could be an arc that may transport us by. Said I. 

In a dimension where the blue meets the green. Said He.

Where we can fly in a cotton-like sky and be mesmerized by the ice. Said I.

Where we can break the ice and kayak with surprise. Said He.

Surprise? Are we? But the surfers can be. Said I.

The surfers and me. With your lovely and mighty beauty. Said He.

Beauty?! I will jump in the lake of lies. Said I.

You'd want to jump in the abundance of middle earth  in its vast peculiarity...
Where textures and patterns are unfathomably real...
But only one thing my dear... 
sheep are many and the Maori are not the majority. Said He.

Of rings and hobbit, we all want to be... in  place called the land of the kiwi. Said I.

Monday, July 28, 2014

With Locals (Vietnam)

I have recently tried something interesting that led me to write and share  here in my blog. I know all of you guys are aware of the idea about home-cooked meals and sharing it to people as a paid meal is becoming a popular thing these days. Though it is not a new idea, it created a bandwagon globally! I myself have done this thing seven years ago when I opened my tiny 24 square meter avant-garde apartment in Manila and welcomed a hundred of couples and cooked them some lovely honest to goodness meals!  It is indeed called “The Artist Chef” intimate dinner for two.

Given this digital age, the idea has evolved into the next level – there are two websites that I know who are doing this thing in Southeast Asia. One is plateculture website. This site invited me to be part of their community of cooks and I currently offer a unique global cuisine dining experience on their website.  But one day, I wanted to experience this idea through a deeper Vietnamese style of cooking and I wanted other people to cook for me. I didn’t try plateculture as I have heard more buzz about this website called “WITHLOCALS” and I have been seeing blogs and links about this dining experience through local food.

I decided to bring my Italian friend and her boyfriend to try this local food in a different kind of experience since they just moved to Vietnam. I carefully looked at the roster of passionate cooks they have on their website who offer different things. Some you can find a street-food style and some are very unique in terms of experience but they are not situated in Saigon. Then I finally stumbled on this cook named “Tuan Tu.” His cooking seems to be my style of eating  & dining and that’s one of the reasons why I chose him. He is a bit pricey but I still went for him because I think his style is something that will up the ante of Vietnamese cuisine. I was looking for something that you cannot find in a restaurant but still has the charm of an honest to goodness home-cooked meals! I want something different and a serendipity dining experience.

The dinner meal cost is 30 USD per person and it’s a whopping 90 USD in total that I had to pay. The website asked for my deposit and the rest will be paid in cash to Tuan. I will recommend and guarantee that it is 100% safe to do transactions on this website. So I prepared my balance, which is 1.6 million VND before I headed to this hidden apartment in an alley right in the heart of the city center. I came in first so Tuan offered me if I like wine, without a doubt I said yes for an Australian Shiraz versus the Chile wine he had on his other hand. My two friends arrived and we appreciated the atmosphere of Tuan’s high ceiling apartment. I was expecting he would put us on rooftop with all the set up but he said rainy season is unpredictable and the rooftop is being renovated.
Moving forward to the meal Tuan served, we were welcomed by the traditional Fried Vietnamese Spring Rolls. We had 3 pieces each and it tasted good and yummy but honestly the dish has no difference with the one I tasted at Ngon, Hoa Tuc and the rest of other low and high-end restaurants in the city. Tuan also poured some wine to the glasses of my friends and served each of us with a small bowl of clam soup. It was very aromatic and comes with 3-5 pieces shells, some coriander and tomato. But still I didn’t find the kick that I was looking for.

Finally the main dish came out, the crab with tamarind sauce.  It was good and true to the taste of the dish! It is exactly how it supposed to be with a bit of the white wine flavor. But it lacked bread so we looked for it and wondered why we didn’t have. We asked Tuan and he said wait for a few minutes. I think they still have to buy outside. Lastly we were served with the last plate, which is the chicken rice.  The chicken lacks taste and the plain rice did not go well with the chicken so I just tasted a few bite and didn’t finish the dish.  

To wrap the meal, 3 glasses with cube mixed fruits were served and accompanied by a pot of Japanese Tea. It was a pleasant meal and we even had these photos that we took after the dinner. But wait until you get the bill. I was expecting to pay my 1.6 million vnd balance and what surprised me was the bottle of wine that cost 580k vnd and that’s 27 USD! I didn’t realize drinks weren’t included so you guys should read carefully the details of your bookings. It would be nice if I he told me about the price of wine that was served so at least I wouldn’t get surprised because it’s not a pleasant surprise. But it was nice to have a free pot of Japanese tea.

Over all the cost is a bit pricey for the quality of meals that were served and with the size of serving. It is a whopping total of 120 USD for 3 people or 40 USD each! It’s ok to pay that big amount but with something that is really unique and will surprise you. Taste wise it was good; it’s just so happened that it didn’t meet my expectations.

End of the story, it’s worth trying the website “WITHLOCALS” to validate the experience. It’s not a bad try with Tuan as well; he is nice and spent a lot of time talking with us. Maybe I will try something cheaper another time. Who knows it might surprise me again next time. There are a lot of passionate cooks and activities on that website and I encourage travelers or expats to try the unique experience the website is offering. It’s not just about the food; they also have some fun activities that you can check out. I would attest that their idea of giving travelers a website portal that enable them to experience an authentic local moment whether on food or local activities is such a brilliant thing on the planet!

Hope you share this story to more travelers as a heads up :)

Visit the website to explore more on your own...

big hug,
joanie  xxx

Monday, March 24, 2014

Enjoys living my AsiaLIFE!

(November magazine cover of AsiaLIFE)

Hello Blogger!

I often fluctuate in terms of writing something on this blog, but definitely I do not forget about it. I maybe lazy writing here recently but I'm quite busy writing about my life above the rainbow sky. Today, it is fairly different as I sit on a sturdy chair with a bit of sun shining upon me against this frosted  glass window in my office. I am simply happy to say that I am back in advertising as a Creative Director in a Digital Ad agency :)

(Chefs from different restaurants in Saigon from  4 countries)

The last quarter of 2013 has its good and not so good ways to end it,  and it has been a roller coaster ride since I came back from Italy. But I must say, that was one helluva ride! It's a once in a lifetime chance that not everyone on this planet can have - I am one of those lucky ones.  To start with the not so good ones -- after an era of running a quaint cafe in Saigon, things must come to an end. I fully believe that I put my heart and soul with that business and I have used all my talents and personal resources just to make it rise, but it has been very challenging to put patches on the given holes. I did try to put all my concepts in terms of menu, events, design, public relations and how I managed the people -- but it was tiring at some point. My frustrations rose to the maximum level and it took its toll on me that made me realize I don't want to have a business like this at this point of my life. When this cafe decided to be sold, it was a sigh of relief and a call for me to move on to another phase. It was a remarkable experience to give a good legacy to a meek cafe and put it in the landscape of Saigon's bar and cafe scene through the nicely design advertisments and conceptual music and food events that I did. It became a buzz to mostly expats which is the cafe's target. I'm glad that most of friends  gave me a tap on the back with all my efforts. I am also forever grateful to those who supported me in many ways. 

(Poulet marinated in Ginger & Cumin with fettucine with the marinade 
as a sauce plus the Raspberry & Strawberry campote dip for the fowl)

True to the saying that "when God closes a door it opens a window" and even before the cafe I was running ended, I got a work offer from a digital advertising company and the food styling that I set up has started to flourish. It also began to get good projects before the year ended. The nicest way to give an exclamation mark for 2013 was,  the moment AsiaLIFE magazine invited me to join their annual cook-off video episode and be part of the magazine cover story. It was a milestone for The Artist Chef :)

(Verdict from Richard Mr. Sterling - An American food and travel writer)

It was the most amazing culinary experience I've ever had! This gave me a validation of how master chef contestants would feel. Real time cooking, on the spot recipe concoction with the given ingredients that would define Saigon for 2014 - all in front of the rolling camera. My recipe represents a mini thanksgiving meal. Saigon is a melting pot, from that idea I put up a few different cuisines I have learned from foreigners. I put it on one plate that can be eaten and be shared the Vietnamese style. This invitation is not about the competititon beacuse there isn't any prize! It is about the experience I had with the top caliber chefs in Saigon (including a chef who worked for a Michelin star restaurant in Chicago) with real toques on their heads. Hats down towh all them specially the most humble and fun to be with French chef Mr. Thierry!

(Chef Thierry - Executive Chef of Boat House Saigon in Thao Dien Village)

In life we are given moments that sometimes we don't understand but we have to embrace it the moment it's there. It will make sense later on, believe me. Whether it's about your career, life or love - follow your heart... I usually do and it makes sense. I have no regrets of the things that happened in my life...whether that specific moment or person who came my way for a long time, quite a while or short-lived, I have embraced them with full stamina or I simply gave my all. I followed every beat of my heart bravely that's why I got buckets of stories to tell everyone that could be familiar or unfamiliar.

People would ask me, what do you do for a living? What is your profession? What is your passion? What is your dream? To simplify my answer that I myself often struggle to answer -- Well... I am an advertising chic who got a decade of creative advertising expertise and a culinarian slash food stylist whenever and wherever. I also have a huge passion for traveling because I want to embrace different cuisine, art, culture and people who will nourish my being. I still dream a lot of big things in my advertising, art and culinary journey and I will definitely share it once I achieved them again...

Hurray to the surprises of 2014!  This is my galloping year -- I believe so :)

Until the next dabble of words about exciting stories whether off to renaissance life again or back to some down under adventures or to to jump from the sky in a place called middle earth, lets see...

You can watch the video of the cooking episode with the link underneath:
AsiaLIFE Annual Cook-Off Challenge

big hug,
joanie  xox