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When you meet Chef Reynaldo Lim, he comes across as bigger than life. And I’m not talking about physical size, mind you. Although he is rather like a tall and happy Buddha with a bouncing belly to match. But I am actually referring to his large and ebullient personality — he has a childlike charm and infectious vivacity, you just want to hug him. And he is a joy to watch in the kitchen, sometimes serious and stern but most of the time laughing and having the time of his life. His Dom Deluise-ish character and the great fun he derives from cooking is deliciously expressed in the food he serves. Aside from reigning over the kitchen, he also oversees the table decor, choosing the right floral arrangements and decorative touches and even the plateware for the occasion.

The Grub Club had the privilege to have been the beneficiaries of his fabulous food. We could tell how passionate he is about his food because every time a course is served, he would come out of the kitchen and hover over us, checking to see if we were digging in, if we liked the food or not. And if he caught one of us pausing, chatting, and generally not giving due attention to the dish before us, he’d loom over that person and ask “Why aren’t you eating? Don’t you like it?” Which gets that person promptly shoveling the food in his or her mouth and nodding approvingly, mouth too full to speak. If satisfied, Chef Lim would take a generous sip of wine and smile appreciatively. Fortunately, every dish was superb and sumptuous. But the scene sorta reminded me of a Mother Superior standing guard over students during final exams and saying “No talking! Eyes on your own paper!” Hilarious!

Chef Rey’s cuisine has been described as Continental/French with a strong Asian influence. He prefers to describe it as “Western comfort food with Asian overtones”. Just imagine fresh king prawns with aligue (crab fat) and pineapple relish, served atop a hefty serving of Arroz a la Cubana. Or his dessert of Zucchini Cake with Lychee Buttercream icing. He learned his craft at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and apprenticed with David Bouley at his restaurant in Manhattan. From there, Lim was everywhere — on the Today Show, with Lufthansa as its Star Chef, and for more than a decade, in Beijing’s premium dining spot The Courtyard. In 2010, he left the Courtyard and is now part of the team of chefs of Tjioe Catering (pronounced “chew”) with his friends Edwin Tjioe Tan and Chef Jeff “Jaine” Teh. (Find out more about them at their website — http://tjioethecaterer.ph/)

No doubt, Chef Rey Lim amused my bouche no end. Chef Rey Lim reigns supreme!

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