Who doesn’t love food? Food can be an all-around experience and can make anyone’s day better. However, have you ever stopped to get to know the chefs behind the food that you eat in the restaurants that you visit? We’ve rounded up 19 Filipino chefs to tell us how they got into the art of cooking – and you’ll love their answers!
19 Filipino Chefs Who Will Make You Drool
19. Niño Laus, 38, @chefnins
Niño Lays works at Ninyo Fusion Cuisine, Alamat Filipino Pub, and Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen. He has been cooking since 2002. He shares that his mom loved to cook and that they were very close to her growing up. So, at a young age, he was exposed to the smells and flavors in the kitchen, and all the love put into making meals. He admits that he never thought it would become his passion, though. “I had a difficult time in school, always getting into trouble and my grades weren’t great. So when it was time to apply for college, I took HRM in CSB – not because I was interested in it, but because it was one of the few courses without math,” he laughs. “I never thought that this choice would lead me to discovering my passion. I excelled in the cooking classes. I saw the kitchen as my playground where I got to expel my energy and creativity. The rest is history.”
Cooking aside, Niño loves exploring the outdoors, whether it’s mountaineering, camping, or going on 4×4 adventures. “The greenery and stillness of nature gives me peace and a special calm, which I embrace and balance with the high-paced and intense environment I experience in the kitchen,” he says.
18. Alexis Andrew Antonio, 30
Alexis Andrew Antonio currently works as a Chef in Crisogono Restaurant in Cauayan, Isabela. It was in 2017 when he decided to start cooking. “I worked in my father’s business for 10 years and felt that I wasn’t growing,” he shares. “I decided to take another step, so I sold my car and enrolled in CCA-ICDE in Makati.” He admits that he was hesitant at first because it wasn’t his passion. Still, he was eager to have his own career path and ended up finishing the course on the top of his class. After completing the course, Alexis wanted to get more experience in the kitchen, so he applied for work in the United States and worked there for a year. While it was a great experience, it also made him realize one thing: that he wants to do more. “I wanted to have my own restaurant, and that’s now Crisogono,” he exclaims.
Being in the business world was not a new thing for Alexis, though. Before enrolling in CCA, he already had his Bachelors in Business Management and has also handled other businesses aside from working with his father. During his free time, he plays basketball, goes to the beach and surfs, or travels abroad to help him relieve stress from work.
17. Jonathan Paulo Landingin, 38 @jedichefjay
Jonathan Paulo Landingin currently works at Ceo Caterpro Enterprise and as a Culinary Instructor De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. He has been cooking for 18 years, but it actually started as an accident. “When I applied in college, my acceptance letter to my college of choice got lost in the mail,” he shares. “I panicked and took my second choice, which was Culinary/HRM.” From then on, though, things just fell into place.
Aside from cooking, Jonathan also plays the drums. He is also a basketball fan and a toy collector, as well as a huge fan of Marvel movies.
16. Jann Benedict Ty, @chefbenety2346
Jann Benedict Ty has been cooking for about 12 years now. He shares that he cooks for the love of food and food-related shows (Anthony Bourdain, mostly). He also travels and does motovlogging on his YouTube channel: @chefbenety2346
15. Jaen Paulo Sumagaysay, 28, @chefpauwiee
Paulo Sumagaysay works at Taste Matters Inc. (Nono’s By Classic Confection). He tells us about how he started cooking: “I remember I was in my senior high. I came home without food and because I was starving; I raided our fridge, cooked and filled my stomach with chicken adobo. That was quite an effort for the younger me, but I’m proud of it. I was 15 years old!” Since then, he cooked as often as he could. Professionally, it has been already been four years.
He shares that he decided to get into cooking simply because he loves food and loves eating and almost anything about it. For the most part, it was also because he grew up with a family of cooks where cooking at home was the norm, and special occasions were celebrated with feasts at home rather than in a restaurant.
Cooking aside, he also loves to travel. “Each time I travel, I make sure that I get to taste the place’s traditional cuisine,” he shares. “Doing so has somehow connected me with the people’s cultural and national identity.” As for his other hobby, he is also a Club MC/Hypeman in Metro Manila. He basically entertains and keeps the crowd hyped for the whole night, ensuring that they have a good time. You may find out where his next gigs are through his Instagram account.
14. Arwin Abracia, 25, @arwinabracia
Arwin Abracia works at Eastwood Richmonde Hotel and has been baking for four years, thanks to his mom, who encouraged him to take a culinary course after resigning as a graphic artist at an advertising agency (he’s actually a Fine Arts graduate). While taking a diploma course in culinary and pastry arts, he found himself enjoying the pasty department because he was able to apply his love for art in it. In his free time, Arwin likes watching movies and series, as well as drawing.
13. Patrick Go, 31, @patmgo
Patrick Go works at Gochu Gang, MYNT Cafe, and Lazy Sunday Clothing Line. He has been cooking for a decade now, working at several restaurants and hotels in Manila.
Patrick shares that he was overweight when he was younger because he really loved to eat. He also spent a lot of hours inside the kitchen. That’s when he fell in love with food and the process of cooking. He studied culinary arts after his first job as a bank associate because he didn’t like the corporate culture. “That’s why I decided to make cooking a career,” he explains. “That might be the best decision I have ever made.”
12. JR Royol, 36, @jrroyol
JR Royol has been cooking since he was a kid, having been exposed to Bicolano and Igorot cuisines through his parents. Professionally, he has been cooking for about six years because he won a contest and took it as a sign of his true calling. He currently works at Hotel Kimberly in Tagaytay. Before doing the cooking gig full-time, though, JR’s life has been pretty dedicated to music. He was the frontman of ISRAFEL, an underground independent rock band. He also penned all of their compositions.
11. Charles Anthony Gerardo, 32, @ charlesgerardo87
Charles Anthony Gerardo works at the Southbank Cafe and Lounge. He has been cooking on and off for five years now, though he was inspired to do so by his family since he was a kid. “They always make very good food at home and during family reunions, especially my Lola Baby’s cooking,” he shares. “I used to help her back when I was younger.” He adds that his interest in trying new dishes and cuisines gave him the drive to pursue culinary. “Someday, if God permits, it would be so fulfilling to have my very own restaurant,” he says.
Aside from cooking, Charles also loves playing video games because it helps him relax. He also recently started freediving. “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my loving girlfriend for encouraging me,” he adds. “Because of it, I got back my love for the kitchen.”
10. Rainier Barbers, 32, @chefrain_barbers
Rainier Barbers has been in the restaurant and hotel industry for six years now. He decided to be a chef so he can continue his passion for cooking whilst making a career out of it. “I later realized that as a restaurateur I also help create job opportunities for people who are in need,” he adds.
Aside from cooking, Rainier is also into surfing when I gets to visit his hometown of Siargao, where his resort (Bayud Boutique Resort) is located. Occasionally, he plays golf and basketball with his friends.
9. Josh Boutwood, 32, @chefjoshboutwood
Josh Boutwood has been cooking since he was 16 years old. It has been a family trade.
8. Rupert Santos, 30
Rupert Santos works at Fuzionz restaurant and has been cooking for six years now. Cooking aside, he loves to play beer pong and Mobile Legends in his free time.
7. Kerwin Go, 43, @inkd_chef
Kerwin Go works in Blackbird and Peoples Palace as the Head Chef. He also taught group exercise classes for Fitness First for 13 years. Kerwin shares that he has always loved cooking for his family and friends. So, when the opportunity came to work in a commercial kitchen, he took it. As you will see on his Instagram account, fitness has always been part of his lifestyle as it helps him with the long hours of standing in the kitchen.
6. Edward Bugia, 37, @chefedward
Edward Bugia is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Pino Group of Concepts, and the F&B Head for the MFT Group. Edward has been cooking since he left his corporate job in 2005, when he took a short course, enjoyed it, and never looked back. Cooking aside, Edward also likes physical activities, like working out or playing basketball to balance out all of the food he eats.
5. JM Sunglao, 30, @jm.sunglao
JM Sunglao started cooking when he was a child, and he finished Culinary in 2013. JM shares that he got into cooking by growing up with his Lola. “When I was still a kid, she made different kinds of kakanin (Tibok-tibok, Bibingkang Nasi, Biko, Bringhe etc.) every December in our very humble home in Angeles City,” he shares. “We got orders from our neighbors and then we prepared and cooked them a few days before Christmas.” He recalls that it took a lot of effort to make one bilao of kakanin because they cooked them in a very traditional way and without shortcuts. “From there, I learned how to work, respect, and love the kitchen.”
JM’s other passion is designing aprons for chefs, restaurants, cafes, and barbers. As such, he established The Dr. Chefy Premium Aprons (@thedrchefy) in 2015. “My goal is to encourage my clients to have a simple and comfortable inner uniform then pair it with a nice, stylish, functional and very durable aprons,” he explains.
4. Francis Tolentino, 32, @cheffrancistolentino
Francis Tolentino is the Managing Partner and Executive Chef of “Unit27” Apt Bar+Cafe “The Loft” by Unit27, “Studio 28” recording studio bar, and “Almacen” Mexican Restobar. Francis started playing in the kitchen when he was nine years old. He started cooking professionally in various hotel and restaurants, however, when he was 20. It has been his bread and butter. “My language of love has always been cooking,” Francis shares, saying that he got it from his Lola from Cabanatuan. “Everyday meals became extra special because of her homecooked recipes. Now, I enjoy preparing dishes for my loved ones.”
Francis’ lifelong affair with food led him to his passion, and he swears he doesn’t feel like he’s working at all. “I feel blessed for doing my calling and, at the same time, making a living for myself,” he explains. “I decided to venture into cooking because it also brings out my creativity in the kitchen. I get to experiment and come up with different flavorful food options to foodies. It feels like telling a story through food. That’s why I fell in love with cooking. You tell a journey through tastebuds.”
Apart from cooking, Francis also loves to travel because he gets to explore different cuisine and expand his culinary skills. “I find inspiration from a place’s delicacy or specialty, then I bring it in my kitchen and come up with twists and inspirations that people from the Metro enjoy,” he says. “In addition, I find peace when I’m in the beach since my life is filled with events here and there. Enjoying a glass of my favorite drink is made more lovely during sunset!”
In case you didn’t know yet, we have a page dedicated to all things food! Please do check it out at https://www.facebook.com/WIMYummy
And now here are our top 3 Filipino chefs:
3. Allann Bunagan, 33, @allannbee
Allann Bunagan currently works as a Restaurant Consultant and previously worked as a Professional Chef for Fine Dining (La Girolle and also under Celebrity Chef Bruce Lim) for eight years. He has been cooking for almost a decade now. “Growing up, I have always been interested in exploring different types of dishes,” he shares. “I was exposed to my family’s passion for cooking traditional cuisine every time we visited our province in Cagayan Valley.”
Allann also enjoys traveling locally (mostly alone) and would like to further explore all of the islands in the Philippines. “Through my travels, I find it meaningful to understand each island’s culture and to further expand my palate for my projects,” he explains. “Each island that I get to visit teaches me new things that opens my mind and helps make me more grounded as a person.” Allann is very passionate about giving back to society as a volunteer for feeding programs, mostly cooking meals to support those types of movements, no matter how big or small they might be.
2. Roemer Juan, 25, @wheninroemer
Roemer Juan currently has two food businesses: El Lobo Cubanos x Sandwiches and Nutrilift. The former is a food stall that consists of Hispanic and Western influenced sandwiches, while the latter offers healthy protein shakes with pasteurized raw egg whites and whey protein. He also helps people create and manage wealth through life insurance under Manulife.
Roemer graduated from Culinary Arts in De La Salle – College of St. Benilde. He worked in the USA in New York and Miami for almost four years, working his way from a cook to a sous chef. He has been cooking professionally for five years now. Roemer shares that his parents sent him to the province every summer when he was younger to spend time with his grandparents. “That’s when I saw how my grandfather loved cooking as he prepared every meal for us with so much love and passion,” he says. “As a young kid, it was the only thing that I wanted: to make people happy by creating amazing food, using simple, different ingredients, combining it altogether, and making something special and memorable out of it.”
As much as he loves cooking, Roemer alsos read a lot of stuff about the financial world, and he loves to workout, doing Crossfit passionately and pushing himself hard whenever he trains. He is also strict when it comes to his nutrition and diet, not eating deep fried foods, sweets, or any other sinful stuff. “Whenever I cook for other people, I make sure it’s the best food it can be,” he shares. “But whenever I cook for myself, I make sure it hits the macros that my body needs first, then the flavor comes in second.”
1. Jose Sarasola, 33, @chefjosesarasola
Jose Sarasola might be a familiar face to you as he is an actor for ABS-CBN. What you might not know is that he took up HRIM at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde majoring in culinary; now, he is the owner of Avenue 75 Sports Bar in BF Homes, Paranaque (which has been open for nine years now!). Jose has been cooking for 15 years now. He shares that he has always been a fan of watching cooking shows while growing up and thought that he could do that, too. In fact, that’s why he chose to major in culinary in college.
Besides acting and running his sports bar, Jose also likes to travel a lot and learn the different cultures of the countries he visits – and of course trying the food. He also loves to workout and keep in shape because of everything he eats. That’s why he plays basketball and does boxing. “My passion is just to continue what I do, which is to put smiles on people’s faces every time I serve them a dish,” he says.
Do you know any Filipina chefs we can feature next? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate your favorite Filipina chef!