A foodie role model

> Filipino chef An­ton Amon­cio hopes to carry on his grand­mother’s legacy in the kitchen


WHEN An­ton Amon­cio of the Philip­pines won the ti­tle of Food Hero 2016 dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion fi­nals in Sin­ga­pore on Oct 21, my heart sank.

This meant that the two con­tes­tants from Malaysia, Far­ris Da­nial Ab­dul Rah­man and Koh Kay Kim, who made it into the top four along with the sole fe­male com­peti­tor, Thai­land’s Pat­taya Ben­javari, did not win.

Amon­cio ( right), 27, will join Scripps Net­works In­ter­ac­tive as its new­est tal­ent on Food Net­work and Asia Food Chan­nel (AFC).

In an in­ter­view soon af­ter his win, Amon­cio said he al­ways wanted to take part in the Food Hero chal­lenge, now in its third year.

An avid trav­eller who is in­spired by the var­i­ous cuisines that he has tried, Amon­cio shot his au­di­tion video in his restau­rant An­to­jos, which he both owns and runs.

“I wanted to share my food story with a lot of peo­ple,” he said.

“My grand­mother took care of me [while] my mum worked in Sin­ga­pore for 10 years. So ev­ery night when my grand­mother pre­pared din­ner, she [made] me stay with her in the kitchen so that she could watch over me, in­stead of let­ting me go out and play with my friends.

“That was when I got to know what food is all about, and watched [her put her heart into] each dish she that served.”

Watch­ing the sat­is­fac­tion on his grand­mother’s face when oth­ers tucked into her food was an ex­pe­ri­ence that he wanted to share with oth­ers.

“Hope­fully ... they can see food through my eyes.”

How did his grand­mother, now aged 88, re­act to the news of his win?

“She was very happy,” Amon­cio said. “I will go and see her first thing [when] I get back to the Philip­pines.”

De­scrib­ing his own cook­ing style as mod­ern Filipino food, Amon­cio said he likes to take var­i­ous in­gre­di­ents from tra­di­tional dishes to give it a new twist.

In the fi­nal cook­ing chal­lenge be­fore the win­ner was an­nounced, Amon­cio made cheesy lamb kaldereta.

In the ru­ral moun­tain­ous re­gions of the Philip­pines, kaldereta is cooked us­ing goat meat but in other parts of the coun­try, it is cooked us­ing beef. Since he was given lamb for the chal­lenge, An­ton opted to use it in his kaldereta dish and felt it could work. “I wanted to do some­thing not re­ally com­mon when it comes to food,” he said. He said most peo­ple can re­late to Filipino food be­cause of its fa­mil­iar in­flu­ences from Chi­nese, Span­ish and US cui­sine. “Our sini­gang is a sour soup, like tom yam. Adobo which is our un­of­fi­cial [na­tional] dish, was ini­tially made with vine­gar and salt. “Due to Chi­nese and Malay in­flu­ences, we started us­ing soy sauce to make it taste bet­ter. “Our dishes have evolved, and I hope to share that with the au­di­ence.” He ad­mit­ted that win­ning the Food Hero ti­tle has yet to sink in. “It feels so sur­real,” he said. “Through­out this jour­ney, it has been un­real. I wanted to be a part of the Food Hero jour­ney be­fore, but I didn’t have the courage to do so. “Now that I am fi­nally here, I feel so happy and so blessed and thank­ful. “This would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the help of those around me, in­clud­ing the [other] fi­nal­ists.” He added: “My ul­ti­mate food dream is to in­flu­ence and in­spire peo­ple. I know it sounds cheesy, but I want to be their per­sonal food hero – just like my grand­mother is with me. “I want to be able to be a good role model at the same time.”

(right) Amon­cio ... an­nounced as the Food Hero with (from far left) Far­ris, Koh and Pat­taya; and (far right) putting fin­ish­ing touches on his lamb kadereta dish.

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