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EXCLUSIVE: Heartwarming Holiday Food Stories From Margarita Forés, Mateo Guidicelli, Sandy Daza, And Claude Tayag

On a breezy and beautiful day in early December, hosts of Metro Channel’s lifestyle shows gathered at Maggie Wilson’s home to film an episode of Tim Yap’s show Tim’s Table premiering on Christmas Day itself. Among them, influential chefs Margarita Forés, Sandy Daza, Claude Tayag, and one intrepid foodie celebrity Matteo Guidicelli revealed to Metro.Style the special dishes they prepare, gift, and enjoy with their loved ones during the holidays.

At Tim’s Table with the Metro Channel hosts and Tim Yap


A bountiful spread for the premiere of Tim’s Table


Family feasts from Margarita Forés

For Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016 and now host of The Crawl Italy, her family’s Noche Buena feast is highlighted by recipes from her grandmother. They have turkey, roast beef, and baked beans with pork and bacon that also happen to be a staple for their New Year’s Eve dinner. “Beans signify bounty,” Margarita shares.


Margarita Forés runs a growing number of restaurants, including the Cibo chain, Lusso, and Grace Park


Because the Forés family doesn’t want their household help working on Christmas Day, whatever is easy to prepare is usually served in their household. “We have things like a nice pâté or dips. We always want to have a pasta so long noodles for good luck as well,” Margarita recounts. Christmas Day is usually a more laid-back affair with Christmas Eve leftovers making a comeback. “We make a nice salad from the turkey, or we make what we call Ropa Vieja from last night’s Cocido. Christmas Day is easier, it’s more casual,” she adds.


Margarita celebrates Christmas with home-cooked dishes


For her holiday indulgences, Margarita loves a nice Galantina or the many desserts she receives as gifts. “There are two or three aunts of ours who make the best fruitcake and we always serve it with some nice gorgonzola cheese. It’s a very interesting way to enjoy fruitcake,” she says.

As for her own Christmas food gifts, Margarita admits that, together with her home cook, she makes a mean Parmesan Cassava Cake which she sent out as her Christmas gift this year. “We’re also doing our Pili and Pecan Mini Tarts and I began sending out my Salted Egg Brazo de Mercedes with Candied Red Peppers, so that should be a nice new tradition for the coming holidays,” she adds.


Margarita and The Crawl Italy co-host Matteo Guidicelli with Tim Yap


Recovering from the busy holiday season, Margarita shares, “It’s always nice to start with a good New Year’s resolution. Most especially for me because it’s a few months before I turn 60. I have to prioritize my health and wellness regimen and be true to my resolutions as I turn into the New Year.”


Matteo Guidicelli’s Filipino-Italian Christmas

This popular actor and co-host of The Crawl: Italy celebrates two different cultures during the holiday season. “Christmas is spent in Cebu where I’m from,” he shares. “So of course, there are the basic Cebuano stuff: lechon, puso which is the Cebuano rice wrapped in banana leaf—and then there’s my Italian side.”


Matteo Guidicelli celebrates his Italian culinary roots during the holidays


Matteo’s Italian holiday table includes pasta, lasagna, lenticchie or lentils which are supposed to bring good luck, and zampone which is stuffed pig’s trotters. “We also always have this Christmas Italian cake called panettone and pandoro,” Matteo adds which are also what he and his family give as gifts. “My grandpa started the tradition of giving panettone for Christmas years back. Then my dad continued it, so I’m continuing it. It’s my family tradition to give either panettone or a bottle of wine for Christmas.”

Matteo and his family recently opened Da Gianni Cucina Italiana in Alabang


Claude Tayag’s Kapampangan traditions

This artist, chef, and host of Chasing Flavors comes from a large family, as the ninth of 12 children. “Noche Buena is very Western. We serve a lot of carvings. I make the ham, my sister the roast beef, my other sister a turkey, and of course it’s served with all the trimmings,” he explains. To celebrate their Kapampangan roots, Claude insists that Ensaimada and Tsokolate-eh are a must at their Noche Buena table.


Claude Tayag is well known for his by-reservation-only Bale Dutung in Angeles City, Pampanga


For Christmas Day lunch, only two things are served at the Tayag table: a lechon and Nilagang Pascu, a local Kapampangan dish. Similar to traditional cocido, Nilagang Pascu is an elaborate dish with beef, chicken, vegetables, ham bones, and chorizo. “What makes it special is the way we eat it,” says Claude. He makes a dipping sauce for the nilaga which is a concoction of calamansi, patis, chicken liver, and Claude’s special addition of bone marrow.

“My biggest indulgence in the holiday season is Chinese ham with tamales,” admits Claude. He describes Kapampangan tamales as savory and subtle. Ground rice or masa is cooked in chicken broth and coconut milk, and is topped with chicken cooked in atsuete, peanuts, and garlic. “We eat it as a snack and what makes it even more indulgent, is when I put slices of Chinese ham on top!”


Claude Tayag comes from a big family of expert cooks in Pampanga


“I love giving Halayang Ube which we make at home” says Claude of his favorite holiday food gift. “Not only is the root crop itself special but we make it with carabao’s milk, real butter, and sugar.” He says the richness of the carabao’s milk is really what makes his special Halayang Ube “nakakakilig sa linamnam.”



Grandma’s holiday cooking by Sandy Daza

Sandy Daza, host of Casa Daza and FoodPrints, usually serves up a roast or a superior graded beef with all the trimmings for his Noche Buena celebration with family. But for Christmas Day, his menu is a homage to his grandmother.

Sandy Daza, chef and owner of Casa Daza at UP Town Center


“We continue my grandmother’s tradition with all the cousins. More or less, we serve the same dishes she did when we were growing up,” says Sandy. These dishes include lechon, embutido, relleno, Russian salad, and cannelloni. He relates, “I like to stick to those traditional dishes because it brings back memories. But I also like to bring new and different things.” If there’s a potluck gathering, Sandy says he likes to bring something that may be unexpected, like Chicharon Bituka or Pancit Malabon from Nanay’s in Malabon.


Sandy Daza makes roast beef for Tim’s Table


For Christmas food gifts, he highly recommends the Cheese Rolls of Joy San Gabriel and Chef Judy’s Chiffonelle Cake. “I don’t want to brag about the food that we make, but Casa Daza empanada are really good,” says Sandy. “They’re beautiful kaliskis empanada with a deliciously hearty filling.”


The holiday premiere of Tim’s Table airs December 25 at 8:30 pm on Metro Channel, channel 52 on SkyCable and channel 174 on HD.