MANILA, NOVEMBER 4, 2010 (STAR) By Greggy Vera Cruz (People Asia) The youngest “Woman of Style and Substance” in People Asia’s roster for 2010, this Paris-educated chef sprinkled her way to success with savory seasonings.

And what a good life it has been!

Stephanie Fernandez Zubiri, (photo at left) at 25, has certainly risen above the level of her peers and contemporaries. Her impressive curriculum vitae, for instance, speaks vastly of her wide range of experiences that could make an equally-young chef turn green like wasabi, or rather, with envy.

Having finished her basic cuisine course at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Stephanie further pursued History and Geography studies, plus mastered in Sustainable Development courses at the Sorbonne, also in Paris.

With Passion and Flair

Though she used to hate cooking school, branding it as “too rigid and military-like,” this scion of a prominent clan in Bukidnon eventually found herself perfectly suited to her current profession.

“I’ve always loved food and cooking ever since I was a child. As early as three years old, I used to have those Little Tykes kitchen sets wherein I would cook and offer what I ‘prepared’ to the people in our house.

“I was also never fed baby food by my mom. She would feed me whatever my family had for dinner but in pulverized form from a blender. Thus, I never disliked veggies because I practically ate everything,” Stephanie reminisces amusedly.

In between pictorial takes, I was to discover that her mom (Vicky Zubiri) also brought Stephanie to her various European trips; not leaving our little miss in the hotel room with her nanny but rather, taking her along to restaurants, no matter how young she was. Young Stephanie also ate what everyone ate — no kiddie meals or children’s specials whatsoever.

Fast forward to August 2010 and, true to her nature and childhood memories, Stephanie treaded the evident path to culinary kingdom.

“I really love food, wine and all things that revolve around epicurean delights and senses of the palate. In fact, everyone I meet who works in the industry is just as passionate as I am — from the cooks that we hire for our events up to the chefs I meet in big hotels and restaurants and the other food journalists.

“Everybody loves what they do; no one seems to complain that he hates his job because everybody is happy with his hard work. It’s just so rewarding when I see people enjoy and relish the good food that I have prepared,” shares Stephanie.

Beauty, Brains, Bread and Breeding

Love for work and passion for her craft, indeed, comes to the picture; err, the kitchen, as Stephanie’s daily itinerary is swamped with obligations that require her culinary expertise.

She is, after all, the CEO and founder of Epicurus, Inc., the company of the Modern Epicurean Kitchen — a catering, events, lifestyle and consultancy firm offering a wide range of services (that her brother Manuel also help build).

During her scheduled pictorial for this magazine, Stephanie hurriedly came from a client meeting held at the SM Mall of Asia. Yet amidst the late afternoon shower that slathered the metro, our female subject was still on the go and brimming with zest and excitement.

“I’m basically a light-hearted person. I do get stressed out but I always try to transform it into positive stress. The kitchen is such a high-pressure environment, but it’s just not my style to be frantic and shout at my co-workers because the more I do that, the more flustered and frustrated I’ll get. There’s no reason for me to be rude and grumpy in the workplace,” she states matter-of-factly.

Her pleasant and sunshiny disposition has thus made her open to various options. Among the other credits tucked under Stephanie’s toque is her being the newest brand ambassador of the Regatta clothing line. She also appears in the latest TV commercial of Cream Silk hair conditioner, while her food column “Feast With Me” sees print every Thursday in the Lifestyle Section of The Philippine Star.

Yet despite the numerous plaudits she has accomplished and the family name that she carries, Stephanie remains unperturbed as she takes things with a, uhmm… grain of salt.

“My parents have always been supportive of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be as an individual and I’m very thankful for that. There are no pressures and expectations from their part; they are happy to see us happy in whatever we choose to do.

“I also see my colleagues (young, female chefs like Stephanie) as individuals making our own name and mark in the industry. The more, the merrier! It’s such a small circle that’s why I’m blessed to be sharing the spotlight with people who have the same passions as I do,” she concludes with an endearing smile.

With that, we take our toques off to Stephanie Zubiri. Now that’s what I call style and substance… personified!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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