Text: Deneb R. Batucan
WHEN she’s in the kitchen, there are no genders. There are only seasoned chefs who work hard to put out great-tasting food that people would always come back for. Women, men, it doesn’t matter. For her, if you have enough talent to lead in the kitchen then you deserve every ounce of respect from your staff.
Chef Linda Hou has been creating food masterpieces in Michelin-star restaurants in China for 21 years and have been with Waterfront in 2007 for a year when she worked as the assistant chef to the current Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino general manager, Anders Hallden.
Today she is the highly driven executive chef of the hotel, bringing in inspiring work from a challenging kitchen filled with talented chefs. Together with her executive sous chef, celebrity chef Tristan Encarnacion, their leadership and skill have taken the hotel’s scrumptious food to a whole new level.
Chef Linda is trained in French, Western and Italian cuisines — these being her forte. But it is in food fusion that she finds her challenge. “When we work at many hotels, it’s a different city and different country and different taste and flavor. We need to do some fusion to attract the people so they will like your food. If we only do authentic (French cuisine), go back to France now,” she said with a laugh.
But in fusing different kinds of cuisines, it’s important to have the traditional knowledge of food to come up with a superb combination. Fish should be attached to citrus. Herbs like rosemary and thyme are almost always partnered with meat. “You should have these kinds of knowledge so you can combine dishes together,” Chef Linda said.
With fusion comes the demand of learning new flavors and new techniques. And this is exactly what Chef Linda always tells her staff. “We need to increase. We need to find new things to do. If not, you’ll just stay in your box, never open,” she said. “You need to see all the information from outside. What’s in fashion now, what people like. You set the knowledge and combine with your skill.”
Being the leader in the kitchen, Chef Linda never worries that almost always she is the only rose among the thorns. “If you work in the kitchen, there is no woman. You need to do the same preparations, same hard work as a man,” she said. “Most of my staff are always men. Every day I face many men, different kinds because they have different personalities, so I also learn every day.”