Chef’s Table: Tom Bascon Talks About The Experiences That Shaped Him
Who is Tom Bascon and why should you get to know him? After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, working in New York at Nobu (famed Japanese-Peruvian restaurant of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa), and providing top-notch catering services, Chef Tom Bascon has found his home at M Dining.
This man is the executive chef of M Dining. He has further cemented this already much-loved dining establishment’s stellar reputation in the metro. Since Tom’s kitchen take-over M’s menu has become even more crave-able and memorable. He introduced a masterful fusion of Asian flavours with a great respect for the produce.
His love affair with Japanese cuisine blossomed during his time at Nobu. The attention to detail and appreciation of quality produce behind Japanese cuisine pushed Tom to refine his skills and elevate his culinary prowess.
Read on to learn more about this chef:
What would your last three-course meal on earth be?
I wouldn’t do a three-course meal. I’d do my three guilty pleasures: coffee ice-cream; a nice, juicy bacon cheese burger; and I have got to represent my chicken inasal with garlic rice from Aida’s in Bacolod.
Describe your culinary style.
If people remember Tom Bascon, it will be because Tom Bascon always cooked good, honest food. In terms of style and technique, it’s very French because I went through the French Culinary Institute. My exposure to Japanese cuisine, having worked at Nobu NY for five years, was also an eye-opener for me. The aesthetics of plating and so forth I learnt there.
Where do you gain inspiration from?
It never fails, every time I come back from travels with my wife, I feel inspired. We usually travel for food and we always mix it up between the Michelin-starred experience and where, say, the locals would eat. Let’s call it “research.” I’m mentally and literally taking notes. I take photos and notes with my phone; what I particularly liked about a dish or a restaurant. Then I try it all when I get home.
Who would you most want to cook for?
To give you a bit of a background, I’m a big LA Lakers fan and grew up a big Magic Johnson fan. I actually got to fulfill this dream of mine in 2007 when I was working for Nobu. The front of house sat him right in front of the kitchen and I did cook most of the food he ordered. I just died and went to culinary heaven! It was magic! Then the other guy...you know the tough food critic [Anton Ego] in the animated movie, Ratatouille? I would love to cook for that guy! When kids ask me, “What do you do?” I ask them back, “Have you watched Ratatouille?Well, I’m him!” Their eyes just light up. I love that!
What is your definition of risk?
I’m not much of a risk-taker but I take calculated risk. A perfect example was when I chose to leave the comforts of my Nobu home to work with my classmate from culinary school to open a Mexican restaurant. It turned out to be one of my better culinary decisions. Now, given the chance, I would open a Mexican restaurant in Manila in a heartbeat. Mexican food is a passion of mine and I’ve talked about this with Bruce [Ricketts].
What ingredients and flavours do you love? Avoid?
I think I’m obsessed with Japanese cuisine. Everything in a bowl, on a plate has purpose, has a reason. I also love trying to work with local products and approaching it with Japanese techniques. Flavours my palate doesn’t really care for is the earthiness of innards (anything offal) and I can’t really cook with anything bitter, like bitter gourd. If I don’t care for it, even if someone else might, I’m not going to prepare it. I wouldn’t be a good gauge as to whether it’s good or bad.
What is the most challenging meal you have had to prepare and why was it challenging?
Nothing really sticks out but let me tell you—when I was working the omakase line in Nobu wherein I had to create dishes for the tasting menu every single day and I had only a day to prepare. Those were nerve-wracking days when I had to create, reinvent—without repeating—within the Nobu framework (Peruvian-Japanese cuisine and French techniques) and from limited options at that (in those days we couldn’t use pork!). A request for a strict vegan menu can also be a challenge.
What would make a perfect day for you?
I’d like to hit seven hours of sleep (I try to hit eight, but seven, I’m happy with). Go for a morning run. A nice breakfast of eggs, garlic rice and good chorizo from Bacolod. They say, you can take a Negrense out of Bacolod but can’t take the Negrense out of me. Then I’d like to spend the whole day with my wife eating, travelling (ideally, we’d be in Japan), and then watch a happy movie, like Amélie. That’s my happy place. For dinner, we’d have a nice bowl of coffee gelato. A perfect day is where I can eat ice-cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner—and merienda!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
If you know me, I really like to be with people so I would still be in the service industry. Maybe open up a bed & breakfast-type resort on a beach—you know, one of those Balinese villas.
- Photography MARC HENRICH GO & KEVIN EVORA