Specialty of the Week: An Interview with Chef Carsten Radke

Date Published: June 23-29, 2014 Cagayan de Oro Times

w_carstenWhen I was twelve years old, during my school summer break, I enrolled in a basic chef’s course. I can remember putting on my double-breasted jacket and toque, memorizing new cooking terms, and listening to the instructions from a fascinating chef who introduced me and other wide-eyed students to the smells and flavours of cooking. Today, the glass doors where I stirred my first minestrone soup open for me again.

This haven is La Vetta. It is an exquisite restaurant and wine bar offering French Mediterranean Cuisine. And the inspiring man in the kitchen is Carsten Radke, La Vetta’s Executive Chef and owner, who now, minus his chef’s whites, sits down to talk with me about his career and business.

Q: Please share with us some of the important points about your life story.

Chef Carsten: I am born in Berlin; I had my culinary studies in Berlin. I left Berlin very young and then travelled and worked around the world as a chef. And then at 2005, I came to the Philippines where I met my wife, got married and now, we have three children.

Q: Aside from the culinary arts, what are your other interests?

Chef Carsten: When I was young I played soccer a lot, and I went cycling – even professional cycling; mountain biking and a lot of snowboarding during winter. Over fourteen years, I did snowboarding. And then later in the Philippines I started playing golf because it became too hot for the other sports. Seriously, no soccer anymore, everything became too dangerous and too hot. Golf is acceptable. [laughs]

Q: When you go out to eat, what do you look for in a restaurant?

Chef Carsten: I look really for the quality of the food. It has to have life inside. And I mean it has to have different flavours and aromas and a nice presentation. It has to have correct cooking methods, meaning the chef should know what he’s doing; the meat should be tender and juicy and not over-cooked, for example. When I spend a lot of money I look also look at the ambiance. For example, just recently, we’ve been to Hong Kong and we ate in this very small ugly place but the food was stunning. You know what I mean? [laughs] No ambiance at all but the food was amazing.


Q: What is your favourite dish to eat and what is your favourite dish to prepare?

Chef Carsten: My favourite dish to eat changes always, Angela. It’s always a phase, I have a phase where I like to eat sweet things for maybe, three weeks. Kind of in small cravings for sweets – so I create dishes in that direction, I eat a little of my own food from that. And then after that, it’s done! We’re all satisfied and after that I start having a craving for pasta dishes or maybe pizza. It depends really, there’s no favourite dishes existing for me because my whole life is about food. So it’s kind of always available in different directions but I always have a certain period of around you can say, two weeks, three weeks where I crave for certain flavours in my dish. And my own food, what I like to eat a lot is a lamb racks.

Q: Out of your restaurant’s menu, what do you recommend always to clients? Why?

Chef Carsten: It depends on what kind of customers we have. Plenty of Filipino guests are very happy with our steaks because they are cooked perfect, and they are very tender and juicy. This is good for foreign guests who are more exposed to different kinds of international cuisine and Mediterranean food.

Q: What Filipino dish do you think can make it to the international restaurants? Why?

Chef Carsten: Very difficult question, [laughs] I cook for my family at home, I cook for them adobo. Maybe not in a one hundred percent authentic way but I made some minor adjustments regarding Mediterranean food. I believe the adobo dish and maybe the kinilaw has some potential, and you can implant it on an international restaurant.

Q: Any plans for the future? Any message to those who want to pursue a career in food service?

Chef Carsten: It’s a tough business. Days can sometimes become very long, it’s maybe a little difficult to socialize because you are working on holidays like Christmas and New Year but you have to be aware of that before you start your culinary career, which something I think is hard. Because for example, there’s a lot of cooking on TV, like Master Chef and Hell’s Kitchen, and cooking became a big run, very popular, but it just shows the glamour side which is less than one percent. So people are just seeing it from the TV and thinking they want to do it, but the way to get there, it’s a long way, and sometimes it gets very tough and hard.

Q: La Vetta is Italian, and it means the summit or the peak. What do you think makes La Vetta stand out from other restaurants?

Chef Carsten: The way La Vetta prepares its food, meaning the way everything gets cooked. We have very fresh dishes because we use many different herbs… and things you want prepared gets prepared only in that moment you order. There’s nothing in the food warmer. I think that’s a very big difference from all the other restaurants.

And true to its claim, this fine dining destination at Rosario Strip, Limketkai Center continues to whip up gourmet meals for its clientele. And with an Executive Chef who also trains young visionary soon-to-be-chefs, La Vetta never fails to impress food lovers – I should know, for I stayed a little longer with my family, and enjoyed my favourite from the menu. Scallops with bacon strips, anyone? 



The Mayor Talks Fatherhood

cg_timesWaiting outside the mayor’s office, I saw how buzzing it was. I came straight from my high school class and it was already the few minutes before the end of a day’s work, but truly, he is a very busy man still to keep his appointments with many people waiting in line to meet with him.

So when it was finally my time and I entered his office, I was a bit worried that he would already be tired and worn out. Yet amazingly I was greeted by a very friendly and smiling Honorable Mayor Oscar Moreno. Despite being the leader of a busy city, he was very willing to step out of his “pure government business” position for a couple of minutes to sit and talk about his views on fatherhood.

So I started with
Q: Aside from being the Father of Cagayan de Oro City, you are also a father. How many children do you have and what are their ages?

Mayor Moreno: “I have three children; the eldest is Sean Oliver and he is 38. The second is Imee Rose, 36, who was named after Imelda, her maternal lola and Milagros, her paternal lola. And then the third one is Oscar Jr. and he’ll be 34.” The Mayor was slowly speaking, giving me time to write and even spelling out the names so I can get them correctly.

Q: What is your most vivid memory of being a father? What are the moments with your family you hold most precious?

Mayor Moreno: “My most vivid memory as a father is of course the graduations and looking at your children happy… conquering themselves. And of course, enjoying each other’s company. I think my precious moments with my family are the holidays: Christmases, New Years, birthdays, anniversaries…”

I want to also have an idea of the mayor as a child, so I asked
Q: What is the name of your father? What is your most vivid memory of your father?

Mayor Moreno: “Emeterio Sr. When he would attend to his patients; he was a rural doctor. I could see how committed he was, attending to his barrio patients.”

Q: Was becoming a lawyer- then a governor and a mayor- the dream of your father for you?

Mayor Moreno smiled and answered: “I don’t know, but I’m sure he just wanted me to succeed. I failed him in my younger days and he was quite frustrated but I tried to make up to him. And I think he was happy with what I have been but I could sense his disappointment when I got married immediately after graduation.” [laughs]

Q: As the Mayor of the city, what programs do you have for the young children of Cagayan de Oro to help them have a better future?

The government servant within the father came out and Mayor Moreno said excitedly: “Education, Education, Education. What we’re doing is addressing the annex high school problems. We’re coming up with separate and independent campuses for the annex high schools. The barangays wanted to have their own high schools so hopefully they will have their own building and they will no longer be using the facility of the elementary schools. I hope to relieve the congested schools. I want to address the education of the young, because education cannot be compromised.”


I knew I could not stay long as much as I wanted so I asked him a little personal question.

Q: Mayor, you have a daughter. As a father, how did you react towards suitors? What is your most important advice to young girls like me?

Mayor Moreno smiled: “Of course, I did not resent suitors. I wasn’t against my daughter being courted because it was part of growing up. And what’s important was she grew up normally, and that’s all that mattered. So my advice for younger girls is grow normally. Grow as normally as you can. And of course, it’s not unusual to have your first crush, or your first love, but do not engage in activities that are beyond normal boundaries. Grow normally and don’t forget the boundaries.”

So knowing that my time was up, here was my final question.
Q: What are your tips for fathers like you? Any Do’s and Don’ts you want to share with them?

The Mayor, in his wisdom, said: “I’m not a perfect father, I’ve had my mistakes and how I wished I could have done better. So I guess my advice to other fathers is: Don’t lose your patience”. [laughs]

I laughed with him and then thanked him for his time. Getting ready to leave his office, and holding on to my clipboard with questions and notes, I heard him remark, “You ask very mature questions.” I just smiled because actually I was nervous with my first interview. Well, Mister Mayor, thank you for sharing with us and allowing us this chance to get to know you on a special level. The very best of Father’s Day to you! 