EXCLUSIVE: Margarita Forés Shares What It's Like Meeting Her Heroine, Martha Stewart
Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016 Margarita Forés’ culinary journey goes full circle as she meets and cooks for the woman who has inspired her career, Martha Stewart
Before she became Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016, Margarita Forés was simply a talented cook who loved to arrange dinners for her friends in her New York apartment. Guided along the way by a book titled Entertaining, she discovered her passion for food was becoming more than just a hobby.
A few decades and many, many accolades later, it might just have been providential when Chef Margarita was tapped to cater a lunch for the author of that same book, lifestyle legend and entrepreneur Martha Stewart during her trip to the Philippines for her talk at the ANC Leadership Series.
“It was a very emotional experience for me because when I started 31 years ago, she was a real inspiration,” Margarita tells Metro.Style. The fact that they were both in New York at that time they were starting some parts of their own culinary journeys is quite an amazing coincidence, too.
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My heart stopped a bit yesterday. It was an absolute honor to prepare a lunch spread showcasing the best of the Philippines for Martha Stewart @marthastewart , who helped inspire my passion for the last 3 decades of my life. I brought my 33-year old yellowing copy of her book that was a life-changing read and source-book for me. Teary-eyed and emotional, I had her sign my book. I came full circle. Maraming Salamat for the trust, Secretary Berna Puyat @bernsrp. To Manila Mayor @iskomorenodomagoso, it was an honor. Thank you @ancx.ph for bringing her to our shores @eiconthemove_ @lala.ventura . To @therealmarketman @lechon_diva @risachocolates @roast_coffee @pcaluag @elunion, it was my honor to do this with you, and to team @cibodimarghi you are the wind beneath my wings! @marthastewart48
Entertaining was Martha’s first-ever published book. And while that book jump-started Martha’s omnimedia career, turning her into a household name for everything lifestyle-related, Entertaining was also sort of a catalyst for the path that Margarita was set to take. “Her first book really influenced the passion that I was building during my early 20s in New York,” Margarita says.
While talking to Metro.Style, Chef Margarita still had goosebumps and was still a bit teary-eyed talking about her catering experience for the lifestyle icon. “This chance to cook for her was really, really special for me,” she quips. Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno hosted Martha's welcome lunch at the National Museum of Natural History and it was the very first meal that Martha had in the country.
The menu for the occasion was a carefully curated selection of Filipino dishes that was meant to give Martha a taste of Filipino food while not overwhelming her since this was her first real meal of the day.
“The cornerstone of the menu were the two lechons so I didn’t want her to get too overwhelmed with the first meal she was having,” Margarita shares.
That day’s lunch included Binakol na Manok, Lumpiang Ubod, Laing, Ulang at Talangka, Bistek Tagalog, Lamb Adobo, and lechons from Pepita’s Kitchen and Zubuchon. The chef adds, “It was also great to have an expert like Joel Binamira (of Zubuchon) at the table because when we served the Binakol, he explained that in the Philippines, when people come from a long trip, one of the very first things we serve is coconut water.”
“We also did the flowers, the décor. We actually produced some very special piña tablecloths just for that event, just so she could actually feel pineapple fiber and the beautiful products in the Philippines.”
Chef Margarita mentioned, though, that for this event, she was not her typical chill and in-control self. “You were like in Panicsville!” Sec. Romulo-Puyat told her after the lunch. “I was super flustered. It was like doing your thesis defense in front of your teacher that you’ve learned from for so many years and she’s actually gonna eat your food and see how you set the table,” Margarita jokes.
In spite of the stress, Margarita still couldn’t help but gush over the experience, saying, “I’m glad to have been following all her work all these years. She influenced a life from so far away from her own realm in New York.”
Chef Margarita described Martha as a subliminal quiet influence during the early part of her career and after interacting with her heroine, her culinary journey just came full circle. She says, “When I had her sign my book, I told her, this book has been with me for 31 years. And when she wrote in the book, 'continue to entertain,' it just sealed the deal for me. It was like a reaffirmation of all my work.”
Coincidentally, just a few days after the lunch with Martha, Margarita celebrated the 22nd anniversary of her very successful restaurant chain Cibo and it looks like after meeting the lifestyle icon, she’s ready to do even more things.
“It also nice to know that she doesn’t sleep a lot because I’m the same,” Margarita says in jest. “It’s something that I appreciate so much that you can look up to somebody and you can just continue to be inspired.”
Photographs from @margaritafores, @eiconthemove and Chris Lopez