She’s The Boss: A Woman Now Heads The Kitchen At The Raffles And Fairmont Makati
As we celebrate Women’s Month this March, it seems fitting to announce that Raffles and Fairmont Makati’s new Executive Chef happens to be a woman. In an industry traditionally dominated by men, it’s about time that Chef Anne-Cecile Degenne has become the first woman to be hired as an executive chef of an international five-star luxury property in Metro Manila and the Philippines.
Originally from the Bordeaux region in southwest France, Chef Anne-Cecile began her culinary journey at the one-star Michelin restaurant Campagne et Gourmandises in Biarritz, France. She then moved to the Eden Rock Hotel in St. Barthelemy as the Executive Sous Chef; Jolie Restaurant in New York as Executive Chef; and back to Eden Rock Hotel as its Executive Chef.
In 2014, Chef Anne-Cecile took a break from the hotel industry to participate in Top Chef France Season 5 where she made it to the top six. She also worked with culinary legends such as Jean-George Vongerichten in his New York restaurants, and cooked for the likes of Serena Williams, Beyoncé Knowles, Jay-Z, Bono from U2, and the iconic Mick Jagger, to name a few.
Chef Anne-Cecile then made the move to Asia, first with AccorHotels (which also owns the Raffles and Fairmont Hotel) where she opened Spiral at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza and Xperience Restaurant at Sofitel So Singapore, where she became Singapore’s first female executive chef. She also served as Head Chef at the Hotel des Arts Saigon MGallery in Vietnam, where she was responsible for opening all the hotel’s dining destinations, before joining the Raffles and Fairmont Makati at the start of this year.
In her new role as Executive Chef, Chef Anne-Cecile leads all of the property’s culinary operations, and aims to focus on introducing innovations and creating exceptional new dining experiences for guests. One of those memorable experiences was an intimate Chef’s Table lunch for select guests recently held at the Owners Lounge at the Raffles. Hosted by the Raffles and Fairmont Makati Managing Director David Batchelor and Director of Communications Monique Toda, the lunch formally introduced Chef Anne-Cecile to the public, where she showcased her culinary talents in a superb five-course French lunch she whipped up herself.
Chef Anne-Cecile thinks Philippine mangoes are the best in the world, and she made sure to use them in a light and refreshing Lobster Salad with Mango, Thai Curry and Basil to start the meal.
Lobster Salad, Mango, Thai Curry and Basil
Our second course was inspired by dishes she fondly remembers from her childhood in France, as represented by foie gras seared and served with raspberry and buckwheat. An odd combination to read on paper, but it was a delicious treat for foie gras lovers like me, with the raspberry adding just the right hint of acidity to cut through the natural richness of the foie, and with the buckwheat crisp adding a nice textural crunch.
Seared Foie Gras, Raspberry and Buckwheat
The third course was my favorite—lightly seared Emperor’s fish served on top of butter-rich clam juice infused with fennel and truffles sauce.
Emperor Fish, Fennel and Truffles Clams Juice
The fourth course was a hearty dish of Australian Wagyu striploin topped with Wagyu fat-fried croutons and watercress.
Australian Wagyu striploin, watercress and sirloin
And last but not the least was a refreshingly light Calamansi Meringue Tart for dessert.
Calamansi Meringue Tart
When asked about her initial plans for the improvement of the Raffles and Fairmont Hotel’s culinary offerings, she shared that she is in the process of adding more interactive stations at Spectrum, as well as working on expanding its Indian and Chinese selections. She is also currently working with the new Mirèio chef to introduce a menu of more homestyle, Provençal fare by the end of March. Rather than be daunted by the work ahead, Chef Anne-Cecile declared, “I very much look forward to working and collaborating with our chefs to discover new, delicious dishes and share new experiences.”