In celebration of International Chefs Day on October 20, here are some of the Pinoy celebrity chefs who actively champion Filipino cuisine.
Filipinos are food-lovers at heart, and that is just a fact. Binding us in nuanced gastronomy, Filipino food also transcends cultural and geographical borders, making it loved and celebrated all around the globe. With Inasal being one of the world’s best chicken dish and Sinigang being hailed once as the world’s best soup, Filipino cuisine has undeniably been increasingly recognized on the world stage. And some of the people who are championing these dishes locally and internationally are Filipino chefs actively using their platforms to spread the love for the archipelago’s diverse flavors.
To celebrate the upcoming International Chefs Day on October 20, here are some of the Pinoy celebrity chefs whose colorful culinary journeys will inspire us to proudly serve up a fiesta of Filipino cuisine.
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Judy Ann Santos
Inspired by her love of cooking since she was a child, award-winning actress-slash-restaurateur Judy Ann Santos ventured into the culinary world, even graduating with honors from Center for Asian Culinary Studies in 2006. In a vlog session with Megastar Sharon Cuneta, Juday reveals that another important reason why she took a culinary degree is because she wanted to set an example for her children. “Ang habol ko talaga sa pag-aaral ng culinary is I want to be a good example to Yohan,” shares the celebrity chef and mom who also has a YouTube cooking show called Judy Ann’s Kitchen.
“I want her to be inspired to finish her studies kasi baka sabihin niya, ‘Bakit ako magka-college, ikaw nga hindi?’ Ano isasagot ko? Oo nga naman. May point.” Apart from having a cooking vlog, Juday has also published a cookbook and owns a restaurant named Angrydobo, which she manages with her husband Ryan Agoncillo. From your favorite Silog breakfasts to desserts like Triple Chocolate Truffle, learn how to spice up your recipes from Chef Juday through her mouth-watering cooking tutorials.
A matinee idol and a heartthrob in the 90s, Marvin Agustin does not only have a successful showbiz career, but also a thriving business through his chain of restaurants offering a diverse array of gastronomic delights. “I was the designated taga-saing,” says Agustin of his early influences in cooking. “My parents would encourage us to help in the kitchen. Those were my early exposure in the kitchen.” He pursued his dream of professional cooking and went on to finish his culinary degree at International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM) in 2004 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, he manages brands like By Secret Kitchen, Brrring!, Mr. Vinmunchies, Wolfgang Steakhouse, Taikoo HK Roast, Tito Marvs, Oh Crop!, and Cochi by Marv to name a few. Agustin dedicates his success to his two teenage sons, saying that he wants to be grateful for what they have. “I want them to see that hard work pays off and that it helps you achieve your dreams,” he adds. A true inspiration indeed.
“Sometimes Healthy. Sometimes Fatty. Always Happy,” says the banner of Erwan Heussaff’s food, fitness, and travel blog The Fat Kid Inside that has since become a digital series and a full-blown production studio. The French-Filipino content creator, who has battled with obesity in the past, has become a true inspiration after being a successful self-made restaurateur and prominent culinary figure producing food-centric digital content for over 10 years now.
While he does not have a culinary degree, Heussaff’s innate passion for cooking and his native Filipino roots has led him to be a champion of Filipino cuisine, starring in numerous cooking videos for the global food network Tastemade and in Lexus’ Tasteful Travels where Heussaff takes the audiences in gastronomic adventures that highlight the Philippines’ regional flavors. He’s even launched REBEL, a wellness app for health-conscious Filipinos. And with over three million subscribers, his recently rebranded channel called FEATR (Food, Encounters, and Travel), Heussaff continues to foreground the Filipino culture and culinary scene through recipe videos, cooking competitions, and documentaries.
While famed Negrense chef, host, and restaurateur JP Anglo grew up in a culinary-inclined family, he’s no stranger to life’s obstacles. His family’s food business endeavor has failed leading to the closure of their Chinese restaurant in Bacolod. But Chef JP, or Chef Jayps as he’s fondly called, turns this obstacle into an inspiration. After his formal education in the Philippines, he went to Australia to study culinary arts at the famed institution Le Cordon Bleu while also juggling several hours of work outside school. After a grueling and challenging five years, he went back to Bacolod and set up a Chinese restaurant Mai Pao & Mu Shu where he had a difficult time looking for business partners.
His challenging journey continued as he tried his luck in Manila. “I was away from everything familiar, so yes, staying connected with people I love was a comfort,” shares Chef Jayps. “Access to various sources of information and inspirations, on the other hand, kept me going. I had a dream to fulfill, didn’t I? And seeing what others are doing and have achieved gave me that push to not let up.” And pushing through it he did as his culinary career began to flourish launching start-ups like Filipino-cuisine inspired Sarsá (which now has branches all over the metro), Liberation Shawarma, and Kafé Batwan.
He even became one of the judges in the Pinoy edition of Masterchef and had his own show on CNN Philippines called Hungry With Chef JP where he explored Filipino food and surf culture. Today, the Negrense chef continues to highlight and improve Filipino cuisine through his vlog. “My biggest lesson is to really keep on trying and becoming better, to never give up even when [it] gets tough,” intimates Chef Jayps. “Because those mistakes will always lead you to finding better ways on how to do things.”
A proud Kapampangan and entrepreneur, Chef Jerwin Mark ‘JM’ Sunglao has been passionate about cooking since he was a kid. In fact, he was inspired by his lola who used to make kakanin every December. “We got orders from our neighbors and then we prepared and cooked them a few days before Christmas,” shares Chef JM. “From there, I learned how to work, respect, and love the kitchen.” Now, he owns the comfort food restaurant STONS Minute Steaks + Onion Rings and Santa and Sons Gourmet Deli. Chef JM also used to make a #lockdowndish IG series during the quarantine, sharing the delightful meals he’s made. His love for cooking also finds him launching The Dr. Chefy, a premium apron brand whose vision is to make sure that chefs and servers look great while preparing their delectable creations. “I just love making aprons for them,” says Chef JM of his apron brand which makes beautiful and customized designs for different brands. “Seeing them wear my work makes me happy.”
Hailed as the first MasterChef Pinoy Edition grand winner, Chef JR Royol is also a proud Igorot-Bicolano culinary master who has been an executive chef and has toured different culinary festivals in the world repping the Filipino cuisine. He’s also known as the Filipino “farmer-chef” who advocates for farm-to-table concept and organic farming. “Even if we backtracked my career with [the] hospitality industry, this is something that I have been very conscious [of],” shares Chef JR who’s also a former vocalist of an underground band (yup, he’s that cool), “and very aware ako na gusto ko i-integrate with my menu.” Now, Chef JR is the host of GMA News TV’s cooking show Farm To Table where he goes to different organic farms in the country and serves mouthwatering meals made from freshly picked ingredients. “Even when I represent our country in different international events, I always carry the pride of a Filipino-Farmer-Chef,” he proudly adds.
CHEF BOY LOGRO
Before gracing our screens with his noontime and primetime cooking show and being known for his signature lines “yum, yum, yum” and “ping, ping, ping,” Chef Boy Logro was once a personal chef to the King of Oman, leading an international staff with hundreds of members and serving prominent figures like American president George Bush, Sr., and even the late Princess Diana of Wales. Yet, the road to this esteemed position has proved to be a difficult journey for Chef Boy who is a proud Bisdak.
“Who would have thought that an elementary graduate like me would have the chance to work for a king,” says Chef Boy of his fate. “Pero Bisaya ako kaya mabilis akong matuto.” At the tender age of 13, Chef Boy left his fishing village in Leyte for Manila to work as a houseboy in Quiapo; washing floors and cleaning dishes while also helping make siopao and siomai in the owner’s restaurant. In 1975, he applied as a cook at a hotel but was declined because of his credentials. Being persistent and committed, he was able to learn about ingredients and recipes until he became a chef’s protégé.
His break came when a job opening in Oman for a sous-chef, which he immediately grabbed and found himself among the company of a multiracial palace kitchen staff. After being an expert in Omani dishes and trying to incorporate Filipino cuisine, Chef Boy’s French dish “Avocat et crevettes” was what made the sultan ultimately decide to make him his personal chef. After ten years, Chef Boy was then thrust into the entertainment industry, hosting his own shows like Idol Sa Kusina, Chef Boy Logro Kusina Master, and Basta Every Day Happy. Today, Chef Boy continues to share his recipes and culinary tips through his vlog while happily staying in his retirement farm in Davao.
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