Philippine culinary greats
As the saying goes, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” These 11 culinary pioneers built the foundation for the rise and evolution of the Filipino food industry.
Claude Tayag describes himself as an artist first, a chef second. He is a gifted painter and sculptor who held his first one-man exhibit in 1978. Food simply happened to be a natural, organic extension of his art.
He grew up in a big Kapampangan family of good cooks and good eaters, the ninth of 12 children. “With the amount of cooking our mother did, we were always made to help in the kitchen. If you wanted to eat something aside from what was served, you had to do it yourself.” Cooking was something he grew up doing and enjoyed. During long weekends back in their university days, his classmates would always stop by Claude’s house in Angeles City on their way to Baguio and he’d whip up meals for them. In 1989, restaurateur Larry Cruz invited him to be a guest chef at Ang Hang, introducing him to the media as the artist who cooks. It was his first time to cook for people other than friends and family—and the start of an illustrious career in food.
Widely recognized as a champion of Philippine cuisine, Claude is perhaps best known for the incredible multi-course meals he serves at Bale Dutung, his house-cum-restaurant. He and his wife Maryann always loved to entertain and cook for friends, but it was the late Doreen Fernandez who gave him the idea of turning his home into a restaurant and treating customers like his own personal guests. Claude and Maryann have been running Bale Dutung since 2000, serving an impressive menu that includes ensaladang pako, bringhe, lechon, and bulanglang. If you’re lucky, Claude will be there chopping the lechon while Maryann explains the concept behind each dish. They’ve since opened another restaurant called Downtown Café in Angeles, serving Pampangueño comfort food à la carte.
Bale Dutung keeps him busy, but Claude’s plate is full with creative projects. He still works on his art and mounts yearly exhibits of his watercolor and acrylic paintings. He makes furniture as well, creating pieces he calls functional sculptures. He is a columnist for the Philippine Star and has several books under his belt. Painting, woodworking, sculpting, writing—they all feed his creative soul just as much as cooking does. “There’s a reason they call cooking culinary arts. For me, it’s the same form of expression, just a different medium.”