A passion for cooking fires up chef Gino Ortiz
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
WHILE most kids dream of becoming firefighters and astronauts, Gino Ortiz knew at an early age that he was born to cook. “Food has always been a big part of my life,” he said.”I grew up watching my mom and grandma cook all the time, and I always used to ask them for tips and techniques on how to do it. Our family also owns some restaurants, and when I was younger my cousins and I used to work there during the summer.”
Immediately after high school, Gino studied the craft at the International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu and pursued his apprenticeship at the old Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manila. He briefly worked as sous chef in the five-star Fairways and Bluewater Resort in Boracay, before returning home to help supervise his family’s restaurant biz, and to start something of his own, as resident chef of the recently launched Bad Boys Wngz.
Bad Boys Wngz debuted three months ago at the Weekend Food Market in Banilad Town Center, and from then on has been part of food bazaars and fairs around Cebu. Together with biz partners Andrew Asiniero and “wingman” David Santos, they’ve been hopping around the city introducing their brand of juicy chicken wings flavored with Gino’s signature sauces: mild buffalo, garlic parmesan, and “suicide” – meaning extra spicy – served with potato mojos in compact on-the-go boxes.
“The first day of operation (in the weekend market) actually got me worried because I didn’t think I would sell that much buffalo wings in one day, but I was really surprised with the result,” he said. “And I think that’s the greatest aspect about being a chef – watching people eat and enjoy the food made. Nothing brings us more joy than seeing a happy customer.”
And it doesn’t end there. He continues to work on creating more sauce flavors and food products for Bad Boys Wngz. Being creative in the kitchen, Gino said, is something he likewise loves doing. “Using the imagination, making a new dish and seeing it brought to life – it really hits the spot,” he said.
Beyond the kitchen
On the side, Gino hosts the Bad Boys Hottest Wings Challenge every Tuesday in Cable Car, where contestants have to finish eight spicy wings under three minutes.
While he spends the day being in the kitchen engrossed in one recipe after the other, at night the 26-year-old chef enjoys hitting the club with friends – giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “work hard, party harder.”
For those dreaming of going on the same path, Gino only has this to say: “Don’t limit yourselves with a cook book. Experiment, make it your own, and develop your style. Remember the basics and never stop learning – and I guess the most important is that you should never lose your passion.”
Photography: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Assistants: Charlyn Pepito and Sunshine Gelbolingo, USJ-R Mass Comm Interns
Locale: International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu