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We talk to Miko Calo to understand what needs to be done to ensure that chef collaborations go swimmingly

There certainly is an art to creating a menu and crafting a dining experience. I for one have been to several chef collaborations, be it a four-hands or six-hands event, and let’s just say many have left a lot to be desired. With too many cooks in the kitchen (literally), there are bound to be some clashing of opinions and challenges in ensuring a cohesive menu.

Often, brilliant chefs showcase famous menu items from their respective restaurants during these pair-ups. However, as thrilling as this may be for diners to experience a guest chef for the first time, those who are loyal patrons of said chef would have attended the unique event just to dine on something they’ve already relished, perhaps even on more than one occasion. Alternatively, each chef may be cooking up a dish from a varying cuisine, one that may not match or complement what their counterparts are preparing–I’ve been there, and it’s a strange journey for the palate.

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What makes these collaborations between culinary greats so fascinating and remarkable is when they hone their talents as a unit—to craft a tasting menu that takes diners on a well-planned adventure towards the same direction. When talented minds come together and are able to coax out the best from one another, magic truly happens.

I think you’d agree that when joint dinner services go well, they become dining experiences that remain cemented in our brains as all-time-favourites. When working in unison, well-choreographed and thought through, these chefs produce unbelievable pairings and reveal eye-opening points of view that keep us diners wowed.

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So, we thought to ask chef Miko Calo of Metronome, who recently had a spectacular four-hands dinner with chef Bettina Arguelles, what she thinks it takes to make an event like this successful. Here is what she has to say:

What makes a four-hands dinner successful from your perspective?

A successful four-hands dinner can be judged by how clean the plates are after each course! But, from a more technical perspective, it would be by how well the “theoretical” dish in my head was executed on the plate, and how well the menu progresses.

How do you ensure the menu is not disjointed and that the progression of the meal makes sense?

For my most recent collaboration with chef Bettina Arguelles in Sofitel, we started with a common experience: we are both French-trained Filipina chefs who worked our way up the ladder, and both worked abroad. We talked about our respective dishes and then tweaked and adjusted until it made sense and was as cohesive as possible.

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What is your experience like in collaborating with other chefs to create one menu?

It is exciting and difficult at the same time since it's a step out of my comfort zone. It is also fun since I get to work with other talents and get to know more people. In a way, it's also comforting because we get to share similar experiences. There is a common understanding of how gruelling and demanding this profession is.

Why do you enjoy doing four-hands dinners and collabs with chefs?

I enjoy learning from other chefs and seeing how they put things together and play with flavours as well, it’s like a behind the scenes experience. 

How do they challenge you?

Creating new dishes is always an exciting challenge for me, so creating new items while taking into consideration the meal that comes before and after mine poses another level of difficulty.

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How do you create tasting menus? What is the process like?

Creating tasting menus for me always starts with a theme or a goal. Then, I determine the availability of produce and seasonal ingredients. There are other details to consider, like if I'm making a menu for a special wine dinner, then I have to make sure that my ingredients go well with the cépages, wine styles, etc.

Tips to working with your partner chefs during these collaborations?

I always start with an open mind. Communication and willingness to adjust and compromise are also important. 

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