Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo’s sweet savory stories

In the last two years, Philippine Soap Opera Princess Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo has been busy shooting, writing, and editing. But not for a new film or TV series she’s starring in or producing—it’s for a new book that provides us a glimpse of her life told in sweet and savory recipes.

The cookbook titled “Judy Ann’s Kitchen” showcases 44 dishes, divided into five chapters: childhood comfort food, party with friends, treats for the kids, dinner with hubby, and healthy meals, all painting the 37-year old actress-chef’s journey from child star to teen idol to loving wife of TV host Ryan Agoncillo and doting mother of Yohan, Lucho, and baby-still-in-belly. The book is full of photographs by seasoned lensman Raymund Isaac.

Leafing through the pages allows one to enter Judy Ann’s kitchen and even see glimpses of her life as the book not only contains recipes, but also cooking and dining tips intertwined with happy memories.

At the launch organized by National Book Store, Juday talked about her babies—one borne out of her gastronomic journey, and the other being the latest addition to her growing family.


Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo with her cookbook. (CDN PHOTO/ EDD BUENAVIAJE)

How did the idea of making a cookbook start?
Having a cookbook has always been a dream. Pag nagluluto ka, part of you always wants to come up with something. Pero palaging hanggang kwentuhan lang with Raymund Isaac. Raymund has done a lot of books already, so I asked him if it’s possible. He said that nothing is impossible, I just need to tell him when. We have been talking about it for almost two years until it came to a point that I wanted to do it na. I was then so stressed with work and I wanted to do something for myself. In a month’s time, natapos naming yung photography. Ang pinakamahirap lang na part is yung text, and then  dire-diretso na lahat.

What’s the feeling like when you first saw and touched the finished copy?
It was weird! Heto na nga! This is it! Totoo na siya. All of the sudden… parang eksena sa pelikula!
I was feeling every page, I was reading my notes. Hindi ako makapaniwala na kung may libro ka na, author ka na.

How did you select the dishes featured in the cookbook?
It wasn’t hard for me to choose because I already knew what dishes I wanted to put. The chapters were already in my head for the longest time. So when I presented it to Raymund, it was so fast. For every day that we had to shoot for the cookbook, I cooked 13 to 14 dishes. Some of it of course did not make  it here. It was easy because… siguro first cookbook… I based the food on the chapters of my life. It was not really that hard.

What challenges did you face while writing the cookbook?
A lot! One, I had to call Rica Peralejo because she is a writer. Kung magsasalita ako sa libro, Tagalog at bakla lang ang maririnig sa akin! (Laughs) I wanted to have a Taglish cookbook kasi hindi na man maniniwala ang mga tao na sher-sher-English ako dito, di ba! Hindi na man yun ang personality ko. So I asked Rica to write for me—it’s a collaboration with her. I fell in love with her writing. It is very young and vibrant. The way she wrote my articles…  parang ako ‘yung nagsasalita kasi kilala niya talaga ako. We didn’t have a hard time. Actually, we had a hard time with me. I had a hard time meeting my deadlines kasi tinatamad ako! This was supposed to be released on Mothers’ Day, and we ended up releasing it on Fathers’ Day! I couldn’t meet the deadline. And then I discovered that I was pregnant na pala! Kaya pala tinatamad ako. Ayokong mag-isip, naiirita ako kapag kinukulit nila ako. Pregnant na pala ako!

Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo

Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo (CDN PHOTO/ EDD BUENAVIAJE)

It has been written that when you were a child, you would hitch a ride with caterers.
As early as eight! Wala kaming sasakyan ‘eh, and nakatira ako sa Antipolo. I would commute going to the office of Regal Films and then from there, I would hitch a ride because I had no means of transportation. But I would not have it any other way because that was one of my fondest memories as a child. I experienced so much, I had so many friends and families that I got to know along the way. Sa kanila ko na-nurture my love for the craft—not only in cooking but also in my career. One of the reasons why I’m so fond of my staff, my crew, the caterers, is because I grew up with them. I learned a lot and that is why my respect for these people is very high.

What kind of food do you like cooking?
Main dish ako lagi ‘eh! Kung mag a-appetizer ako, para lang may makain muna. Pero ‘yung utak ko palaging main agad kasi Pilipino tayo. Hindi tayo lumaki sa lugar na mahilig sa bread or keso or pasta. Pag laking pelikula ka, ang alam mo kainin ay ‘yung fiesta— pancit canton, sotanghon, kanin, ulam! ‘Yun ang alam ko kainin so ‘yun din ang alam kung lutuin.

If you were a dish, what would you be?
Something  as fun as ginataang halo-halo na bilo-bilo kasi ang vibrant ng color niya, and iba-iba ang texture niya. You can add so many things to it! It’s one of my favorite desserts. Pag bata ka gusto mo yung malagkit na parang bubble gum. My approach in cooking is like this .. you give it  a lot of attention, put a lot of love into your cooking, but it’s very simple, not difficult to follow.

From your travels abroad, what cuisine do you love most?
A lot! (Laughs) Thai food. Asian food!  The one that’s nearest to Filipino cuisine is Thai— that is why I really love Thai food. Actually, sometimes mas gusto ko pa ang Thai over Filipino food because it’s healthier, fresher, crispier, and flavorful.

When you host a party, what do you usually serve guests?
It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I would whip up a big Filipino buffet, or Filipino breakfast for dinner. There is always a theme because it’s hard for me to cook if I don’t have a theme. Sometimes I do Italian, sometimes Thai. I try to come up with a table setting that looks like a party, but the food is pretty simple.

What is Judy Ann’s full-course meal?
The appetizer would be simple—fresh lumpia —patterned after my lifestyle now. As much as possible I go for fresh, light, but very tasty dishes. My soup would be Chicken Binakol— very healthy because it uses buko juice. Main course would be my Angry-dobo, kasi ‘yun ang trademark ko sa bahay. (Her husband) Ryan  named it.

What’s the story behind Angry-dobo?
Once, we had a show in the States and we had a fight. So nagluto ako buong gabi and when natapos ako umaga na. Pero adobo lang talaga ang ginawa ko for the simple reason na ayaw kong tumabi sa kanya nun. So luto ako nang luto. Kinabukasan, nagbati na kami and kinain niya ang niluto ko. Nasarapan siya!. And he said we should call it Angry-dobo!  It’s just simple adobo, but it uses thinly sliced pork belly, deep fried, with the sauce caramelized. It’s crispy with a little sauce.

The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Do you think your cooking made Ryan fall for you?
Of course! One of the many reasons! (Laughs) But  not just for guys… it works for everybody. When you have a guy who cooks for you, you will be in awe and all of the sudden find yourself all swooning. There is something about food that warms you up and calms you. There is something about food cooked by someone special that will make you think of that person.  All I can say is that since we got together—he always says this and it’s like music to my ears—na mahirap na kumain sa labas kasi it’s better to eat at home. He says, “Sabay na tayo magluto sa bahay!”

When you were still dating, what was the best dish you made for him?
I would surprise him with a simple steak on the set. Siyempre, kung ikaw ‘yung girlfriend, magpapakitang gilas ka! I would bring steak, or pork loin, marinate it and grill it on the set. For some reason may ganda points ka na agad… naka three points!

Did you always get to cook a lot even before?
I didn’t get to cook much when I was younger because I would work 24/7 from one project to another. I couldn’t even go home. Sa set na ako naliligo, sa set na ako natutulog. I was a bit older na when I had a say in my schedule. I  had my own room, and our kitchen was already fixed. Of course, when you get a little older, you also get this rebellious attitude. Others express their  unease by drinking and smoking. In my case, I can’t sleep when something’s bothering me so I’d   cook… It became my outlet.

Tell us about culinary school.
It lasted six months but it was intense! A daily course from 9 a.m. to only God knows! Sometimes we finish at midnight. I had to stop working for six months! Yung manager ko at that time ay nabaliw-baliw kasi hindi talaga ako tumanggap ng trabaho. I thought this was the only time I could do it, to learn something for myself.
I was at the stage where I wanted to give something for myself. I felt that I was giving too much of myself to people.

I wanted to regain my sanity.

It was the best decision I ever made! I made a lot of friends. I learned so much, not just from cooking but also from the experience.  I realized that I was getting older. Ryan and I were together but not yet married. Feeling ko, sa dami ng artista na dumarating, time will come na hindi ka na kukunin. I had to think of something that can be my bread and butter in the long run. I want to prove to everybody that I can make it  outside showbiz.

Is there a restaurant already in the works?
Maybe in the future. There is just so much competition in the Philippines. Kung hindi sa Pilipinas, baka sa ibang bansa nalang ako magtatayo ng restaurant! (Laughs)

Any plans to further your culinary studies?
It has always been a plan.
But every time I plan to do it, ang trabaho bumubuhos. Ngayon naman, I’m pregnant. Well, as long as I have my national certificate, makakapasok ako sa ibang culinary school… it’s still  okey kahit anong edad na ako. Basta may napag-aralan na ako. Kung sa paguluto ba, may appetizer na ako at kalahiting main course. Sa ibang bansa ko na kukunin yung ibang main course para ibang level, may texture, may everything.

In one interview, you said that you had this  fear of people scrutinizing your food?
Yeah, hindi mo naman maiiwasan yun. I was very sensitive about my cooking at that time. I felt that because I have poured in so much love into my cooking, you have no right to say anything bad about it. But along the way, you realize that it can’t be like that. There will always be criticisms. I also have something to say about the food I eat. How much more for other people? I was very selfish at that time, not welcoming comments about my cooking… like if I say that it’s good, it’s good.

Hindi pala ganun, hindi lahat ng tao kapareho ko ng panlasa.  Ratatouille (the main character in a  computer-animated  film of the same name) said that anyone can cook, thus anyone can be a food critic. That is what I learned since I released the cookbook. But isa pa rin yan sa fears ko, isa sa kaba ko. Masasarapan ba sila? Matutuwa ba sila? Yung panlasa ko sa cookbook is iba sa panlasa ng Cebuano or Ilongo. Baka hindi nila magustuhan. Puro ako baka, baka, baka! Nakahinga na lang ako ng maluwag when most of the people who have my cookbook tagged me on Instagram and they said that food is good.  The hard work and sleepless nights have paid off. I am thankful that people are enjoying the food in the cookbook.

Do you have any forbidden food at home? Do you allow your kids the occasional junk food and soda?
I do. Soda, though not much. Lucho to begin with never liked soda. He doesn’t drink anything that has color, apart from milk. He just drinks water, milk, and just recently, grape shake. Yohan, for a time, I had difficulty na tangalin siya sa soda kasi when she was growing up, I was working and I didn’t get to watch what she was eating. Lumaki talaga siya because of soda, junk food, and fried food. When Ryan and I got married, I had to change her eating habits. Pero walang bawal sa amin.

juday, ryan and kids - entertainment inquirer net

Now that there’s a third child on the way, are you on a special pregnancy diet?
I wish! (Laughs) But I don’t think that I can have one. Ang sarap kumain eh! The difference with my pregnancy now compared to when I was carrying Lucho is that before I would eat anything talaga! Now, everything in moderation lang. As much as possible, food that can help in the baby’s development like salmon, avocado.

Mas kumakain ako ngayon ng more para sa baby kesa para sa akin. I don’t eat a lot of salty food anymore  because when I was pregnant with Lucho, I had high water retention! 60 percent body, 100 percent water! (Laughs) I am enjoying my pregnancy now. All of a sudden, baby ka na naman ng lahat, special attention ng lahat! Mas mahirap lang ngayon kasi iniisip mo ulit paano ka na naman magpapapayat! With Lucho, I ate junk food. Now I’m more on fruits.

What are you craving on with this pregnancy?
Gusto ko ‘yung malulutong! Gusto ko ang danggit, pusit! Pero ayaw ko ‘yung malalansa.

Any plans for a second cookbook?
Yes. But I can’t say that it will happen  a year from now. Right now I’m planning to come up with a pregnancy book, but more  cookbook-style. Kung maglalabas man ako ng cookbook, para siyang teleserye na nakatali sa current situation ng buhay ko. For the preganancy book, I want to add things like we do we have to eat fish, what fish to eat, how to dress up, how to look good! The reality is when you are pregnant, you feel ugly. Mahirap magbihis, mahirap sa lahat! When you are a woman, you want to feel beautiful even in the simplest way! It is possible. It I would come up with a cookbook, I want to be relatable that even husbands can relate to it.

What keeps you busy now?
Cooking. Whipping up mga bento, pambaon ni Yohan. I’m also busy with renovation sa house kasi we have a new baby coming. It is a fun yet a bit stressful journey!

Will it be a boy or girl?
We don’t know yet. I’m still on my fourth month. Maybe in the next ultrasound, I can already tell you.

Don’t you miss acting?
I do, but it can wait. Kahit tumanda na ako, a project can pop up and I can still do it. With a baby… I’m 37 now so two or three years down the road I don’t know if pwede pa akong magka-baby. Mas -priority ko ito ngayon. Yes, acting will always be my first love, and then cooking.

TAGS: author, celebrity, family, health
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