From Waiters to Master Carvers: These Pinoys Give Us A Slice Of Spanish Food

They are experts in carving one of the most expensive hams in the world.

IMAGE Pixabay

When Michael and Mark Lopez joined their parents in Madrid, Spain as immigrants in the early '90s, they sought out jobs as waiters. Both got jobs at Meson Cinco Jotas (now Restaurante Cinco Jotas) in Madrid and their employers saw that they had a knack for carving jamon (Spanish ham)—not an easy feat as you need to work with several knives to maximize one whole leg of ham and to carve that perfect salty slice. It's a skill that takes years to master.

According to Michael, the perfect slice of jamon is “paper-thin, about the size of a credit card” and should have a blend of lean meat and fat. When held up to a light source, the jamon slice should be almost translucent.
Photo by Trixie Zabal-Mendoza
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Brothers Michael and Mark Lopez are both certified maestro cortadors, experts in carving Jamon Ibérico de Bellota.
Photo by courtesy of MCF Maestro Cortador Filipino

In 2000, the brothers put up MCF Maestro Cortador Filipino. They carefully select and carve jamon for weddings, parties, and events. In 2003, Michael received his maestro cortador certificate after training in Jabugo, Spain, while Mark received his certification in 2007. Training involved carving jamon all day and learning how the different kinds of jamon are made.

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Michael and Mark’s training included seeing how the prized jamon Ibérico de bellota is produced from the farms to the curing process. It comes from 100% black Iberian free-range pigs found in the village of Jabugo, where they are fed acorns and then cured for a minimum of 36 months. This diet produces jamon slices that are intense, nutty in flavor, and lingers with sweet-salty notes of almonds. It is one of the most expensive hams in the world because of the availability of jamon, which is dependent on acorns and the weather.

A sample party set-up with a jamon station.
Photo by courtesy of MCF Maestro Cortador Filipino
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Get a taste of jamon at your next party

The brothers worked at Restaurante Cinco Jotas in Madrid. Their work as master carvers brought them to different countries where they would carve jamon for celebrities, chefs, and businessmen at various parties and events. “I never thought I would meet Julio Iglesias,” Michael laughs, as he showed photos of him and his brother with the artist. They also got to meet chefs such as Elena Arzak and Joan Roca, as well as celebrities such as Penelope Cruz.

In 2018, they decided to leave their full-time jobs and focus on MCF Maestro Cortador Filipino, bringing the service from Madrid to the Philippines. MCF offers several services: they can provide jamon for retail and restaurants but at the same time, you may also hire them to set up a jamon carving station at your next big event. Adds Michael, “You can hire us just for the carving service or you can just buy jamón from us. Or you can avail of both, we have packages for carving service with jamón.”

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They sell three kinds of jamon: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota; Jamón Ibérico de Cebo, which is 75% Ibérico, grain-fed, bone-in ham; and the more accessible Jamón Serrano Reserva. One jamon leg can weigh up to 8 kilos and can serve up to 120 people.

Jamon carving services start at P35,000. For inquiries, send a message via email to [email protected] or (0908) 939-0499.

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