Chef Tatung and the Contemplations on the Future of Filipino Food

Written by Mikaela Zulueta
Photos by Eia Collantes

Back from the whirlwind that was Spain’s Madrid Fusion, Chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou regales the room with tales from the Iberian Peninsula. He shares with us the hectic experience of touching down in another country, immediately being whisked away to a lunch after depositing his luggage at the hotel, then going straight into prep-mode for a dinner. Cooking for a sold-out event of 70 or 80 people is no joke, but Chef Tatung soldiered through it.

And it was worth it.

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Gleaning from the happy faces and satisfied stomachs of the crowd, he was pleasantly surprised in his realization that “kaya naman natin maki-sabay doon.” He believes the Philippines can keep up with its foreign counterparts in the culinary world, as evidenced by the reaction garnered by his cooking.

Despite overwhelming pressure and strain, the end product did more than just appease; it gratified. We were lucky enough to be served an approximation of his menu from Madrid Fusion and expectations were exceeded. The spread was sublime. It becomes easy to understand how a guest in Spain had felt compelled to approach him and comment on his ability to leave a lasting impression, even as he foregoes certain luxury ingredients.

Agos9The crowd is treated to a replication of Chef Tatung’s Madrid Fusion menu

Agos4The meal starts off with fresh lumpiang ubod

Agos10Tuna kinilaw as an appetizer

In fact, this skirting of “high class” ingredients is done deliberately, in an undertaking to maintain what Filipino food is really about in the first place. After all, good Filipino food is something that’s ‘more democratic’. It’s your yaya enjoying the same dish as your snobby tita. Or your mom being able to recreate a recipe from an upscale restaurant in her humble kitchen. It is something that is still accessible, still understandable when served on a platter to a diverse host of diners.

Agos8A play on chicken sisig taco

Agos5Miso calamari as a break between dishes

Agos3Chicken kaliya beautifully plated for us

Chef Tatung makes a conscious effort to stay true to Filipino roots and flavor. And this involves the reality that it isn’t about using the best ingredients, but the most sustainable. A democritization of food entails the spread of its benefits reaching the different sectors of society. Simply put: buy local, go local. This is just one of Chef Tatung’s advocacies when it comes to the culinary scene.

Agos7Pulled lengua canape before the main event

Agos6Paella Fiesta as the designated showstopper 

But why stop there? Making food a viable opportunity for growth need not stagnate at the supply level. To transform it into a truly sustainable and profitable field, there has to be a development in perspective. Food must stop being viewed solely through a socio-cultural lens, and start being considered as an entrepreneurial opportunity. There is so much promise in Filipino cuisine. Chef Tatung contends that it just needs to be presented and communicated in such a way to create commerce for the country.

Agos1Catch Agos’ menu for Madrid Fusion Manila starting from March 16

There is still so much to be done with Filipino food, and for Filipino food. There is more than enough space for it to grow, and more than enough occasions for it to prosper. All we need now, according to Chef Tatung, is a clear vision of our food in order to make it extraordinary. 

Agos by Chef Tatung

10am-10pm Monday to Sunday
1st floor North Wing, Mall of Asia Complex (MoA), Pasay City