SPAIN – Michael Lopez’s exceptional skill, hard work, and more than a decade of experience in ham slicing have earned him the title of first Filipino maestro cortador of cinco jotas hams, one of the priciest and famous Iberian ham brands. One leg can cost around 30,000 pesos.
Iberian bellota hams, whose curing process takes place for three years, come from pure-bred pigs exclusively fed with bellota or acorn.
“The pigs only and exclusively eat acorn. It’s the acorn that makes them a cinco jotas, which we have here, and the best ham available. The size is very important so you can savour it. It has to be very thin, very transparent,” said Restaurantes Cinco Jotas store manager Silvia Garcia in Spanish.
Lopez has been invited to carve this most prized Spanish gourmet for the most exclusive crowd and sometimes to the surprise of foreign and Spanish audience who wouldn’t expect a Filipino like him to master an art practically exclusive to Spaniards and more so represent Spain in international gastronomy congresses.
“Pag nagsimula ka nang mag-demonstrate, alam nila ang ginagawa mo, na magaling ka namang mag-explain so nakukuha mo yung respect,” said Lopez.
Recently, Michael, with his brother Mark, was invited anew to UEFA Champions League to slice hams for the V.I.P. crowd of Europe’s most prestigious football tournament.
Five-star hotels in Madrid like Melía have also regularly availed of Lopez’s services because of his work ethic and excellent work quality. They also trust Lopez because they know he will never tamper a fine product like the Iberian ham.
Lopez also participated at the international food fair Madrid Fusión Manila held for the first time in the Philippines last April.
“Na-enjoy ko nang husto kasi na-appreciate ng tao ang trabaho mo lalo na yung sa Pilipinas, sa Madrid Fusion Manila, enjoy na enjoy kasi Filipino ang kaharap ko,” said Lopez who considered the event a dream come true and even offered the Filipino crowd a free crash course on ham carving.
“Kailangan talaga super nipis ang hiwa (at) maganda, paano mo i-te-take advantage the entire piece. In different parts of the ham, mayroong different kinds of techniques,” advised Lopez.
Lopez added that one will get thick, gristly slices or worse cut one’s self if someone’s not skilled enough to slice the ham. He also stressed the importance of using a stable ham stand and special knives.
Lopez disclosed, in an exclusive interview with TFC’s Balitang Global, that he is excited to demonstrate once again the fine art of ham carving to fellow Filipinos as he is set to slice jamón ibérico de bellota cinco jotas for Chef Jessie at Rockwell in October. ABS-CBNnews.com
Here’s the related TV report in Filipino aired on TFC Balitang Global: