HEALTHY living used to be a dreadful proposition, given the awful rubbery taste of what usually passes for health food. Rachel and sister Barni changed all that with The Sexy Chef, a fastfood catering service offering delicious and yes, healthy fare. Rachel herself still possesses the same whistle-bait figure she has diligently maintained since her That’s Entertainment days and along with sister Barni gloriously showcased it, if we may add, in a recent cover shoot for MAXIM Philippines. Yogurt, anyone?
And here's a revised and updated version of a 2006 feature story I wrote on The Sexy Chef for the Manila Bulletin that remains relevant. Ah, the things a writer can do with his blog.
DOUBLE THE FLAVOR, DOUBLE THE FUN
By EDWIN P. SALLAN
Pasta Bolognese. Chicken Barbecue. Beef Steak. Burritos. Brownies.
When it comes to food choices, these are just some of what most of us would consider as all-time favorites. But how many people would actually equate these dishes with healthy eating? Well, singer slash actress Rachel Alejandro and her equally talented sister Barni would.
Since 2004, the sisters from the famous Alejandro clan are running a health food delivery business called The Sexy Chef. And while it may seem puzzling to see some of your favorite pasta, rice dishes and even pastries among its regular menu, these ladies are giving the assurance that these usual “guilty pleasures” are really nothing to feel guilty about.
“Based on the South Beach Diet developed by Dr. Athur Agatston of Miami, Florida, the Sexy Chef caters to the diet’s first two phases,” says Barni. “Phase One is designed around ample servings of lean protein, beneficial fats and a healthy amount of vegetables while Phase Two re-introduces healthy carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and fruits.”
As “the sexy chef” in The Sexy Chef, Barni knows exactly what she’s talking about, says sister Rachel. “For more than 10 years, Barni has been cooking special meals for me,” the popular chanteuse enthuses. “Packed in Tupperware, I would take these meals with me for my concerts and tapings.”
“As terrific cooks go, Barni is right up there with mom and my lola. I just can’t get enough of her dishes,” Rachel continues. “You know, I’ve been singing for more than 20 years and as a creative person, I also want to try other things. I always believe in going after something you love and I know this is something that Barni would always do even if she wasn’t paid for it. So I decided to invest in her talent
Barni, who was a pre-school teacher for seven years, has always enjoyed cooking, initially as a mere hobby, and eventually, as a venture worth pursuing seriously after going to culinary school. Learning about the South Beach Diet made Barni realize that “with a little research and creativity, healthy cooking can result in really, really tasty dishes.”
The secret is really no secret. Using low-fat ingredients, sugar and salt substitutes like Splenda and PanSalt and leaner portions of meat that effectively trims off the fat, Barni has come up with a menu that is both delicious and nutritious at the same time.
And unlike most other so-called health food that is hardly flavorful and often costs an arm and a leg a pop, The Sexy Chef’s offering are surprisingly affordable. “Our two week South Beach Premiere Package only costs P875 a day inclusive of breakfast, lunch, dinner, two snacks and dessert,” says Barni. “For those who are unable to commit to an entire two-week program, we offer daily affordable Fit Meals for only P140 consisting of lean meat, a vegetable siding and brown rice.”
These affordable “Fit Meals” or “healthy fastfood” as the sisters are wont to call them, include the aforementioned Pasta Bolognese, Beef Steak with Sauteed Chayote and Chicken Barbeque with Thai Papaya Salad. There’s also Korean Beef Barbeque with Sesame Kangkong, Tuna Salpicao with Mixed Vegetables, Chicken Burgers with Coleslaw, Tausi Fish Fillet with Bokchoy in Oyster Sauce and Chicken Yakitori with Stir-Fry Snowpeas.
While The Sexy Chef initially started as a food delivery service, Rachel says the growing demand for healthy food has encouraged them to open The Sexy Chef Café, which is now the official food partner of Gold’s Gym and has kiosks located at the gym’s Robinson’s Galleria and Glorietta branches.
"When we first opened in Robinson’s Galleria, our wraps, which are made from whole wheat tortilla are all sold out right away,” she beams. “We also have whole wheat pasta dishes, crisp salads and our low-fat, sugar-free desserts like our very popular Food For The Gods that is so delectable, I don’t think you can tell it apart from its full fat, high sugar version.”
Barni notes that among their wraps, the Tuna French Kiss enhanced by olives, green beans and greens is very popular among the gym’s regulars. Their California Wrap, a variation of the Japanese favorite sushi roll, California Maki, with nori, brown rice and mango is also another bestseller. “In addition to our menu, we also serve sandwiches, refreshing fruit shakes and whey protein shakes.”
So does The Sexy Chef approach to healthy eating actually work? Rachel is proud of the fact that they are partly instrumental in helping a good friend, namely former child actor and now TV director, Ricky Rivera (recently appearing lean and trim as a lawyer in the teleserye Kambal Sa Uma) lose a sizeable amount of his weight.
“Ricky was 334 pounds before, and now he has lost 165 pounds, ever since he started not focusing too much on dieting,” Rachel recalls. “He just started eating enough to nourish him. He focused on a combination of sensible eating and working out, just smaller portions of grilled fish, fresh fruit and fiber. And now, you can see how good he looks without all that extra weight.”
Inspired by Ricky’s experience and encouraged by the very good customer feedback and increasing word of mouth on The Sexy Chef, Barni and Rachel are already excited about their little venture’s future prospects.
“We have so many ideas for expansion but we’re taking things one step at a time,” Rachel declares. “For now, we intend to keep our food accessible and affordable for everyone. We do hope to see one of our café’s in a beach location someday so it would readily be accessible for people who want to look good in the beach.”
For inquiries and orders for The Sexy Chef, visit their website at www.thesexychefcafe.com.
And here's one of Rachel and Barni's winning recipes: