Meet The Chef: Florabel Co-Yatco
What inspires you both in the kitchen and out?
I get inspiration from my memories growing up and the dishes that my family loved. It's simply about the food that I enjoy – I want these dishes to make diners happy. Outside the kitchen, my family and friends inspire me. That’s why I love travelling with them, because we create new memories that will inspire us in the future.
What would you like to tell people when they are eating your food or in any other restaurant for that matter? Any advice on how to properly appreciate a meal?
It's more of what I want diners to feel when dining at my restaurants. I want them to be comforted by what they eat, to enjoy the dining experience with whoever they're with. I think I can't give advice on how to properly enjoy a meal because it's subjective; each one has her own set of sensibilities triggered by different things. One appreciates a good meal based on personal flavour preferences, and perhaps memories attached to them.
How did you fall in love with cooking?
My love for cooking started at a young age because I grew up with a foodie family. We loved feasting on hearty dishes as a family. Then in school, my entrepreneurial side was developed when I thought of selling pastries to my classmates. That's when I thought that "hey, I could be good at this!" And the rest was history.
Any chefs (foreign or local) you look up to?
It's Joel Robuchon who has the most number of Michelin stars. It's always a challenge to create exceptional food while maintaining a certain standard to the operational side of running restaurants, and for him to garner that much accolade is really something. I also idolize Juan Mari Arzak & his daughter Elena for their progressive cuisine. Their creativity in elevating traditional Basque cuisine is absolutely genius.
Most unforgettable challenge you’ve faced in the dining industry?
I'd say it was when I was just starting out on my own, building a name for myself. I was relatively young then, and opening a restaurant by my own was no easy feat. It was a turning point that paved the road to where I am now so that will always be unforgettable. When the market is advancing, people have more choices and you simply have to find a way to stand out among the competition. Now in the Philippines, it's great that Filipinos are already getting exposed to more and more cuisines. So the challenge to stand out is even bigger.
What is your go-to comfort food?
I'm easy to please. My favourites are simply Beef Sinigang and Adobo.
What was your basis or inspiration in creating Florabel’s menu/ dining story?
I wanted it to be a reflection of my training in continental cuisine. I was starting out on my own then, and I wanted to showcase what the industry knew me for.
How do you see Filipino cuisine evolving in the next few years? Or what would you like to see improved?
As you can see in my restaurants Crisostomo, Elias, Corazon, and Sisa's Secret, I’m really a firm believer in Filipino cuisine. It's slowly getting the global attention it deserves, and more importantly, patronage from us Filipinos. Beyond Adobo, more regional specialties will gain attention as the market constantly looks for new things to try. I do hope too, that while the industry elevates our cuisine, that local chefs will still stay true to the authentic flavours of our cuisine so that we keep their essence.
Any plans for Florabel in the near future?
Florabel will always be special to me, and so I wish to keep it one and unique for now without expansion plans. My bigger vision is for my other restaurants. The local market is always growing, real estate is developing, so there are many exciting plans for our expansion so that we can offer our cuisine to more diners.