Mark Ordono, Five Seasons Restaurant Manager, talks about his vision
By Rene Villaroman, Managing Editor
Somewhere near the intersection of Verdugo Avenue and Colorado St., in suburban Glendale, a quiet culinary transformation is going on at Five Seasons Restaurant, an unpretentious little eatery that’s been in business for a couple of years at this Pinoy center right across from Arko Food Market. During a recent visit to Five Seasons, this writer and Carlo Sillona, PWD’s advertising manager, were treated to a culinary surprise, courtesy of Mark Ordono, the restaurant manager. The chicken wings appetizer is dubbed “Thai Coconut Curry Wings,” a Thai-Pacific Rim cuisine take on the venerable Buffalo Wings, the universal chicken snack that has been a part of the American culinary scene for many years.
Mark’s take on the Buffalo Wings is more Thai-based than the mainstream version of Buffalo Wings that I have eaten in all my US stay. The only thing that it shares with Buffalo Wings is the frying, all other particulars are originally Mark’s, who has had stints as a restaurant and hotel worker in establishments like Chateau Marmont in Hollywood and L’ Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills, plus experiences gained working in a Starbucks coffee shop and a Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Pasadena.
This young culinary artist attended a culinary course at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, graduating in 2010, and scoring the highest in baking, one of the culinary specialty branches that the students had to learn. “It was very intensive and informative,” Mark says of the culinary course. “The school taught us the right way of doing things (techniques), and it was hard work and long nights. It was a lot of fun, and it gave us a foundation of how to cook.” In layman’s language, it means that he and his classmates at Le Cordon Bleu had to master all the cooking “fabrications,” like butchering meats and filleting fish, and so on. He explained that aspiring chefs have to take up baking and patisserie, adding that he scored the highest in baking “for some reasons.”
At any rate, Mark feels that he enjoys cooking over baking because it is a lot more fast-paced and an adrenalin rush. “Baking is a lot more therapeutic,” Mark explains.
Today, being the manager of Five Seasons Restaurant, Mark admits that owning a restaurant and managing it is less stressful than when he was working for some. He sees his role at Five Seasons as being more of a marketing man and manager. “Today, I see my role in Five Seasons is to play with the traditional Filipino cuisine, tweaking their flavors and presentation and putting them out there. One of these newfangled tweaks is the aforementioned “Thai Coconut Curry Wings.” That appetizer is Mark’s take on the Buffalo Wings with a Thai touch, like in the use of lemon grass kaffir leaves, coconut milk and curry. The mélange of these Thai flavors has blessed the chicken wings with a refreshing new flavor and appearance. Mark claims that it is selling well, just like their unique Pinakbet, a well-loved, simple Ilocano dish that features string beans, bitter melon, eggplant and pumpkin, seasoned with their own home-made and slightly sweetened Bagoong (salty shrimp paste). “We make our own bagoong,” Mark said with pride, “cooked from scratch and made with love.”
We demolished one large plateful of Five Seasons’ Pinakbet in no time at all, and we were left asking for more. Carlo Sillona, who routinely savors his mommy-prepared Pinakbet back in Marikina, Philippines, says, this Pinakbet trumps his mother’s own recipe. “’Keep it simple, stupid’ applies to my cooking,” Mark joked. At 27, Mark had been around food and cooking most of his life. He says that the Thai Coconut Curry Wings would go very well with their own Asian Stir-fry consisting of fried tofu, bell pepper, celery, sweet sesame oil, soy sauce, chicken, pork or shrimp. The Thai Coconut Curry Wings could also stand alone as an appetizer, Mark said.
What are Mark’s plans for Five Seasons? “I want to cater to a younger crowd,” he announced. “But I am keeping the family-style foods, like kare-kare, adobo, and pancit, etc. I do not want to steer the restaurant toward fine dining by making the ambiance too formal,” Mark added. “We want to bring class in a casual way.”
Mark says that cuisine is all about presentation. “Also I want people to come here and see and feel the quality of our food and our service, the two most important things in restaurant operation,” Mark said. “Quality control, consistency, and making sure the food comes out great every single time,” Mark emphasized. “We have great food and a nice environment, and we intend to keep the highest level of quality always,” Mark promised.
Also in the works are sandwiches, noting that there is a big high school – Glendale High– just a couple of hundred yards in front of his restaurant. “In the future, I am looking at innovative foods as far as taste, presentation and delivery is concerned,” Mark shared. “We are going to keep traditional Pinoy dishes, but we will continue innovating and pushing the limits. Everyone’s palate has become sophisticated. Everyone now is a foodie, and everyone is looking for quality.”
In ending, Mark enunciated one of his culinary philosophies: “Good food should satisfy all the tastes: sweet, salty, bitter and sour.”
Five Seasons is located at 1428 East Colorado, Glendale, CA 91205. www.SEASONSRESTAURANT.com.