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.