Jonathan Bouthiaux Serves Up Fresh Local Flavours in Tagaytay
Tagaytay, approximately an hour and a half south of Manila, has long been known for its healthy and fresh approach to gastronomy and hospitality. But while there have been a number of resorts and restaurants that offer a holistic approach to food and accommodations, none of them have the luxe factor that has come to characterise Anya Resort Tagaytay.
Just a little over a year old, Anya has developed a reputation for sustainable luxury thanks to various initiatives that provide maximum comfort for guests with minimum impact on the environment. Likewise, it puts an emphasis on Filipino culture and traditions as seen in the motifs and decorative accents seen throughout the resort.
But beyond this, the resort is also gaining popularity as one of the best culinary destinations in Southern Luzon. While this is partly due to its use of fresh, locally sourced produce and products at all three of its dining establishments, credit must certainly be given to the gentleman running the kitchen: Executive Chef Jonathan Bouthiaux.
"Anya is the first Filipino brand [in mind] when it comes to luxury hospitality," Jonathan says of his workplace. "Here, we want to highlight local cuisine, as dishes from Tagaytay are very important to us; it makes us unique."
Such is this passion for promoting local cuisine that Jonathan served up a delectable selection of Filipino flavours for "The Best of Tagaytay," a chef's-table dinner held last 23 February 2019 that featured dishes inspired by classic Filipino specialities and made with ingredients sourced from nearby farms and purveyors. But rather than serving these dishes in their customary forms, the chef has juxtaposed local elements with classic French techniques to create an unforgettable meal.
Robust dishes such as pork sisig, chicken adobo, and chorizos are transformed into interesting canapes served at the beginning of the meal - a peppery tartlet, a more flavourful chicken salad in choux pastry, and a savoury ensaimada that delighted guests could not stop talking about well into the following day.
Jonathan also turned the rustic and hearty bulalo [beef shanks and marrow slow-cooked in broth], a speciality endemic to the region, into a delicate yet satisfying soup course: a flavourful consomme served with a fine-textured beef dumpling and a slice of foie gras that mimics the texture and savour of the more familiar bone marrow. "The idea was to deconstruct the bulalo soup," Jonathan says of the dish. "We turned the corn [customarily cooked with it] into a puree and the beef into a dumpling. With that, we can actually see a difference, yet be able to compare the tastes with the original."
Even an ingredient as common and as humble as tawilis [freshwater sardines fished from local waters] was refined and made elegant at Jonathan's capable hands: butterflied, fried to a crisp, and set atop a creamy risotto flavoured with calamansi lime and tarragon.
But more than the play on local and foreign flavours, one particularly impressive detail is that many of the ingredients used in Jonathan's kitchen are either grown on the resort premises or sourced locally from surrounding farms and retailers. Surprisingly, this includes the superb wagyu ribeye served during the event.
"Tagaytay is known for its fresh vegetables and fruits," says Anya GM Mikel Arriet. "But we were surprised to discover that - just 500 metres from here - there is a farm raising wagyu beef! We thought that it would be interesting to see the mix of what the land offers us with the creativity of [Chef Jonathan.]"
Indeed, it is an intriguing mix of familiar ingredients, comforting elements, foreign influences, and a touch of innovation that is uniquely Jonathan's own. It goes without saying that this, in a microcosm, defines the cuisine served at Anya.
As Jonathan himself puts it: "Since Filipinos are always on the lookout for authentic food that goes beyond common staples and, at the same time, dives deep into different cultures, we have created a mix of local and international flavours to take centre stage."
- Photography Mon Mangila