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02 January 2013

Cook-Off: Ford shows us what makes the all-new Focus oh so appetizing

Words and photos by Christopher Kho
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My occupation allows me to drive almost all the new cars you see on the road. We typically test them for performance, handling, and fuel-efficiency. Of course, it’s also good put these set of wheels through our daily routines to see just how practical they are. But nothing assesses a car's comfort quite like doing errands outside our comfort zone. And to prove a point, Ford Philippines turned us burly men into Mr. Moms for a day with the all-new Focus.
Aptly named the “Ford Cook-Off,” the event's challenge was to go grocery shopping for ingredients with the all-new Focus and then cook a meal. But as simple as it sounds, we had one big problem. We may arguably be experts at driving, but my teammates Ulysses Ang from The Philippine Star, Peejo Pilar from Men's Health Magazine, and I were noobs when it came to cooking. Thankfully, there was more to this competition than just culinary skills. Besides the dish's taste and plating, we were also scored based on fuel efficiency and our ability to park using the Focus' Active Park Assist.
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Driving Duties
We were given keys to a shiny all-new 2.0L Focus Sport+ hatchback, and I was assigned to take on driving duties. Instead of mashing the throttle and unleashing all of the Duratec Ti-VCT's 168 horses, I had to keep the revs low with the hopes of scoring us some extra points in the eco challenge.
Starting from the Enderun College at McKinley Hill, our first task of the day was to drive all the way to the South Supermarket in Alabang using the least amount of fuel possible to buy our ingredients. Who the heck travels 40 km to go to the grocery? Not many people, but think of it as your weekly route that involves brining the kids to school and picking up the laundry before heading over to the supermarket. The Focus' EcoMode had all five leaves lit up, which meant we were getting good numbers while cruising down SLEX at 70 km/h.
Although we had a route book to follow, we somehow managed to get ourselves lost in traffic as soon as we hit Alabang. Surely, this wasn't good for our fuel economy. But we eventually managed to find our way to the supermarket where we bought some colorful vegetables for our dish. An added task also required us to use the Focus' nifty Ford SYNC feature to make some calls hands-free as we drove back to Taguig.
At the end of the leg, a quick fill-up at a Shell Station along C5 revealed that we managed to do 12 km/L. Quite good, but we weren't quite sure if it was enough to beat the other teams.
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Sizzling Surprise
When we got back to the Enderun College campus, the only driving challenge left before we headed to the kitchen was the parking test using the Focus' Active Park Assist feature. This was a simple battle between man and machine, where we tried to parallel park the all-new Focus faster than the car itself can. So far, the system proved to be so reliable, that Ulysses could only beat its time by a few seconds.
Before things get cooking, we first got a quick lesson from no less than Enderun College's headmaster, Chef Thomas Wegner. He showed us how to prepare the day's special: seared tuna and prawn with ratatouille, which we had to recreate ourselves in just 30 minutes. Oh, did I mention that we had to serve two dishes? One was going to be judged for taste and the other for plating. It all sounded too easy until we remembered we weren't chefs.
Of course, we had to wear the mandatory apron and toque to make us look like the real deal in the kitchen. And when the clock started ticking, Peejo, Ulysses, and I got down to business. There was some vegetable chopping action going on on one corner, while the tuna and prawn were being seasoned in another. But honestly, there was so much chaos going on that I could hardly remember what exactly went down in those 30 minutes. All I knew was that everything was such a rush; we didn't even get to taste the dish we cooked before it was served, although I do have to say that it did look nice.
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Bon Appetit
The events of the day showed us how practical and versatile the all-new Ford Focus really is, especially for people who are always on the go. Its exceptional fuel efficiency not only saves money when you gas up, but also saves time with less frequent trips to the gas station. Meanwhile, the Active Park Assist is very much appreciated if you've had a long day or if you're just too darn lazy to do it the old fashioned way. And lastly, Ford SYNC lets you make important calls or send SMS while you keep both hands on the wheel.
So, did we win? Well, no. While we did get top marks in the fuel efficiency test, we apparently didn't manage to beat the Active Park Assist challenge, and our dish tasted the worst. But in our own respect, we did manage to somehow put together a meal and had fun doing it.