Five Names Forging the Filipino Food Frontier Forward
1/5 Margarita Forés
ON HER PLATE: Having recently celebrated the opening of a 13th Cibo on its 21st year (her hugely successful chain of Italian cafés), there is absolutely no sign of this celebrity chef, restaurateur, and TV personality slowing down. On top of her diverse catering jobs by Cibo di Marghi Signature Caterer and two ultra-popular restaurants, Grace Park and Lusso, the unstoppable dynamo is concurrently focused on her other two new ventures: Las Casas Manila by Margarita Forés, which serves a classic Spanish-Filipino bill of fare from a revamped heritage mansion, and Islas Pinas, a funky food hall that showcases Filipino cuisines from around the country. “My energies will be spent streamlining, building and strengthening these,” says the former host of CNN’s Harvest with Margarita Forés, adding, “For Islas Pinas, in particular, I need to travel around our beautiful Philippines to learn new dishes and discover more local produce to expand our offerings at the food heritage village.”
DREAM PROJECT: “For 2019, my dream project would be a toss-up between opening a 24-seater signature restaurant in Manila… or a signature small showcase Filipino restaurant with some retail of our beautiful products in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Rome or Madrid. Dreams are free!”
2/5 Jordy Nvarra
ON HIS PLATE: Jordy’s palate is deceptively basic. While the chef-owner of the celebrated Toyo Eatery says its sensational success boils down to the good ‘ol fundamental flavours of barbecue, he has somehow pioneered and elevated Filipino dining to, well, fine dining. Sure, he can throw a slab of pork belly or a fillet of mackerel on the grill and call it a day, but it is through his brilliant and playful approach to flavours and textures that he is able to serve up sophisticated versions of hearty local classics. As such, both Toyo and Jordy have garnered prestigious international culinary awards, swivelling the spotlight on contemporary Filipino cuisine and reaffirming Jordy's rising star in Asia’s gastronomic galaxy.
DREAM PROJECT: “Buy three different islands with three different climates, open a boutique hotel on each of them, grow and serve our own food on two of the three while the third one will be for my wife, myself, and our team. And, of course, a nice boat we can use to fish!”
3/5 Abba Napa
ON HER PLATE: Bank Bar, 8Cuts, Ooma, Mecha Uma, Manam, Shawa Wama, and TMG Test Kitchen. The list in itself sounds exhausting if you’re the founding group’s creative director (which Abba just so happens to be). While the aforementioned are all homegrown concepts of The Moment Group (TMG), it ought to be mentioned that international brands Din Tai Fung and Linguini Fini were also brought to Philippines through this impressive hive company. Having recently revamped the F&B arm of the exclusive members-only Manila Polo Club, Abba is now focusing on expanding the company’s booming catering business.
DREAM PROJECT: “I think the wonderful thing about Moment is that it has always been one big passion project for us and, for the most part, we really allow ourselves to bring to life what is currently capturing our imagination at any given time—F&B-wise, at least. A current passion I have now is something we are in the midst of creating and hopefully we are able to bring to life in 2019. Food aside, I'm drawn to spaces and places and the feelings they are able to evoke and have always been infatuated with creating a luxe, barefoot-only type wellness resort on one of our beautiful islands down south…But there’s something to be said about never making your escapes your work and I think I'm realising that now!”
4/5 Chele González
ON HIS PLATE: For the last quarter of 2018, Chele brought in big hitters from some of the best restaurants in Asia (and the world!) such as Gaggan Anand, Richard Ekkebus and Julien Royer, among others, in a series of collaborations aptly named “Serie Kulynaria.” The delicious pitch? Bringing the world’s culinary talents into Gallery by Chele while curating amazing degustation menus that showcased the best of Philippine produce. Gallery by Chele (formerly Gallery VASK), of which he is co-owner and head chef, is where all the magic happens (read: he creates surprising dishes by applying global culinary techniques and international flavours to local produce). Adjoining this, and recently fully operational, is Studio Lab, a chef’s table-style concept. Next up? “I’m taking on the F&B aspect of a soon-to-open resort in Boracay. Something like the Bali experience with a beach and pool club but highlighting the paradise that is the Philippines.”
DREAM PROJECT: “1). I want to be in the education [sector] and share knowledge and values with the next generation to work toward a more sustainable future; 2). I would create a carinderia–style food chain where people can eat good, healthy, and affordable food. I want to change the fast food habit.”
5/5 Cheryl Tiu
ON HER PLATE: Cheryl, or Cher as she’s fondly known, is a multi-multi-hyphenates. For starters, she created her own events platform, Cross Cultures, which promotes cultural exchange through food to build a global food-loving community. Last year, Cross Cultures focused on promoting Filipino and Asian cuisine overseas, particularly in the USA such as in Miami, Boston, and NYC. Being the prolific blogger and media personality that she is, Cher is able to shed light on what the Philippines is all about (from behind the kitchen, that is). A “tastehunter” for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, this makes her the sole representative of the Philippines and one of only three in Asia. You may also recognise her from Fox Life Asia’s Taste Travels, of which she was presenter, and as a panelistjudge on Mediacorp’s (Singapore’s largest broadcaster) Eat List Star.
DREAM PROJECT: "I am really big on supporting women in the industry. I would love to do a global event bringing together female chefs, entrepreneurs, food journalists, bartenders, farmers… anyone working in the industry, basically! I’d like to do everything from collaboration dinners to panel discussions, demos, and mentoring—just to inspire each other and build a more global community of awareness and support. I would also love to do more Cross Cultures series that bring more of our Filipino chefs to cook overseas—anywhere from around Asia to North America, Europe, Latin America, and Africa!"