Dining

Manila's 'It' Crowd Had a Private Chef Prepare Holiday Meals at This Secret Location

Surprisingly, the ‘it’ dining place this season was at Noel de la Rama's home.
IMAGE NOEL DE LA RAMA
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The holidays saw a number of loved ones come in and out of many of our own homes.

But one home in Manila that was perenially full was Noel de la Rama’s. Night in and night out, he catered private dinners for some of Manila’s prominent society figures at his newly renovated Makati condominium, with interiors designed by Junie Rodriguez. As an alternative to dining out, de la Rama’s intimate dining in setup drew in enough diners to fill a blackboard with his dinner bookings for a whole month.


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Take a look at some of the people he served and the beautiful dishes he offered below:


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T&C got in touch with de la Rama, the one-man team who has been serving up memorable holiday dinners.

There are two sides to my work. In New York, I am a personal chef and caterer. I go to my clients’ homes, where they host intimate dinners for their friends. In Manila, I also teach at a culinary school and do some consultancy work in restaurants. But at home, I run a private dining space.

All my menus are bespoke. I can guarantee that clients and their guests will be the only ones in town having my food. After client consultation about food allergies, aversions, and preferences, I come up with an appropriate menu for their party. I’ve been doing so many holiday parties, reunions, and brunches at my place this year. By the time I left New York for Manila in September, my December work calendar was already fully booked.

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It’s best to contact me for an event as far in advance as possible, since I can only do one event a day. I’m a one-man team—I plan the menu, shop, prep the ingredients, and bake.

Since this is the first time I’m spending the holidays at my new place, I will be hosting my family for New Year’s. After a hectic month of non-stop events, I’ve decided to relax that night since I’ll be busy again from the 2nd of January onwards.

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I started my business out of practicality. When I went back to pastry school, I quit my day job because the hours were brutal. After putting up with 14 hours of work and school daily, I had to choose between the two. So I began working part-time as a personal chef to make a living. From word-of-mouth and some very loyal clients, I’ve managed to keep the business going for over 25 years in both New York and Manila.


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You may say that my cooking style is old school. My cooking foundation is classical French. I cook food suitable for everyday meals—easy and accessible, but with my own personal touch. I’ve been a personal chef since the ‘90s and to this day, I’ve adhered to the farm-to-table concept and seasonal cooking. I like to respect ingredients and keep true to their original flavors and textures.

I’m not a traditional caterer. I don’t offer Set Menus A, B, or C to clients. Instead, the clients' menus will reflect themselves as hosts. I only help them make it happen because who wants to serve the same offerings that their neighbors had at the last party?


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My main source of inspiration is my current mood. I wake up with a particular flavor profile in mind and have it guide me. In New York, I am given carte blanche over the menu. The only thing the client advises me on is the choice of protein. From there, I base the meal. I can prepare a French, Mediterranean, or even Far Eastern spread at any given day. Sometimes, I create the menu while grocery shopping in the produce section, or navigating my way through the food stalls at the farmer’s market in Union Square.

Another influence—and indulgence—is travel. It broadens my flavor palate and I get to understand food better through its history and background.


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Contact [email protected] or message @nrdelarama on Instagram.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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