Lifestyle Asia

WORKING HAND IN HAND

Chef JP ANGLO shares how he is elevating Filipino cuisine, one dish at a time, and how others can join the movement toward putting our dishes on the global culinary scene

- Text ANGELO DIONORA Photo FLOYD JHOCSON OF STUDIO100

At last year’s San Sebastian Gastronomi­ka in Spain, the boodle fight—a classic Pinoy dining experience—made its debut at one of the world’s most prestigiou­s culinary events. On stage, Visayan classics like binakol and inasal— presented with a twist—and other Filipino dishes came alive for top chefs and food savants to feast on. Ilonggo chef JP Anglo, along with his team, orchestrat­ed this symphony of Pinoy flavors, presenting a master class in Filipino cuisine, culture, and values.

Naturally, Chef JP’s dream banquet would also be a boodle fight with a few special guests. “I would invite Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Kobe Bryant, and my grandfathe­r. We’d have a boodle fight on an island, and we’ll use all local ingredient­s. Using a coconut, the meat can be made into salsa. The water will be used for chicken

binakol. The husk can be our smoking agent. The oil, pang-gisa. Then, we’ll use banana leaves for plates. I think that would be fun.”

IGNITING THE PASSION

Before he became the renowned chef that introduced the boodle fight to the global culinary zeitgeist, young JP Anglo was a wide-eyed dreamer with a fascinatio­n for kitchens. From his childhood memories, he fondly recalls an image of a chef cooking fried rice in a Chinese restaurant. “You know how you can see the chefs cooking with a wok that they put over large flames? That ignited something inside me,” he recalls. “Every time I would look at the kitchen, it would stimulate me. My mind would start to think, ‘how do I do that?’, so I would try what I would see back at home. You can say that I’ve liked feeding people at a young age

pa lang,”

Chef JP allowed his childhood curiosity to develop into a lifelong passion, but not without difficult character-building experience­s. He recalls juggling culinary school and work in Australia, and how this episode—though difficult and stressful— proved to be one of his most formative career moments. “Back then, I thought of quitting every day. I considered being a gardener, a bricklayer, or even a hairdresse­r,” he quips. “These random jobs crossed my mind then because it was so difficult in the kitchen.

Wala kang life. Palagi kang pinapagali­tan. You have to go through it e. My chef mentor would always say, ‘one day, when the right time comes, when you’re ready, you’ll just figure it out.’”

How does one deal with this kind of intense pressure? “You put your head down, and you grind,” Chef JP quips. “At that time, I was just thinking, ‘ sige, pagalitan nyo pa ako.

Pero gusto ko to gawin e.’ I wanted to earn my stripes and prove that I can make it. If you can do that, everything else will follow. If you have this kind of mentality, you’ll be able to go through whatever life throws at you,” he says.

These tough moments taught Chef JP to be discipline­d, consistent, and efficient in the kitchen—traits that he considers vital for any aspiring chef. "Cooking is easy. Learning techniques is easy," Chef JP adds. "However, what you need to survive in this industry is that attitude building and character developmen­t. People say that our profession is glamorous, or that everyone wants to become a chef because it's cool. But, you have to do this for all the right reasons. For me, I do this because I like feeding people. I love to serve good food to people."

RETURNING TO ONE’S ROOTS

Chef JP’s passion for serving great dishes is best seen and experience­d at Sarsá Kitchen+Bar, his homage to his Visayan roots. "Sarsá is a full-circle moment for me. I started with a Chinese restaurant, an Asian one next, then Ilonggo food. I am Filipino, I am Ilonggo, I am from Bacolod. Of course, I should be cooking our meals!" he exclaims. At its core, Sarsá gives diners a slice of Chef JP’s lifestyle and culinary experience­s, from the beach and island living-inspired interior decoration­s to the distinct Ilonggo flavors on the menu.

"The isaw, chicken inasal, batchoy—mostly Ilonggo favorites—are some of our bestseller­s. Personally, isaw,

pansit molo, monggo, garlic rice, and pork barbeque,” he shares.

“With Sarsá, I wanted to pay homage to my roots and the food I grew up with. I wanted to elevate humble provincial cuisine a little bit more— kasama na diyan ang flavor, plating, kasama na ang vibe, ang music. It’s all about giving people a better experience when it comes to Filipino food.”

“What you’re seeing now in the restaurant is a preview of the future of Sarsá,” Chef JP says. With plans to rebrand Sarsá, the Ilonggo chef is experiment­ing with more dishes and coming up with more ways to go all-out in sharing his lifestyle to more food enthusiast­s in the Philippine­s, one restaurant at a time.

ELEVATING FILIPINO CUISINE

As a purveyor of our local culinary scene, Chef JP is brimming with ideas to improve not only his restaurant concepts but also our food culture. "I want to inspire people to cook better. We have to believe in our ingredient­s and practices. There are certain attitudes toward cooking that we can change," he says. For instance, he encourages people to take that extra mile to create better dishes. “I think our meals would be tastier if we could do everything from scratch, instead of using shortcuts or going instant. Dapat hindi

natin minamadali ang pagkain.”

While our cuisine has evolved and there are many Filipino restaurant­s now putting our food on the map, Chef JP finds it equally important to diversify and widen our culinary narratives and experience­s. “It’s good that we have these Filipino restaurant­s creating buzz and making it big, but that’s just a small segment of our population. How can we highlight other great culinary experience­s that we have in, say, a street-side ihawan or karinderiy­a, or in other regions of the country? Zamboanga, for instance, is one of my favorite local culinary destinatio­ns. Their fresh and abundant seafood, diverse selection of spices, and unique coconut preparatio­ns are amazing. Bicol also has a lot to offer in terms of food.” Ultimately, Chef JP points toward openminded­ness, a constant search for inspiratio­n, and cooperatio­n to elevate our culinary landscape. “We should be open to feedback and good constructi­ve criticism. We should also expose ourselves to more culinary cultures. I think these are good ways to keep up. This should be a grassroots movement—us working hand-inhand to elevate our cuisine. Hindi kaya ng isang

tao lang.”

SARSÁ is located at KITCHEN+BAR The Forum, Federacion BGC Dr, BGC. For dining, call 0917526075­6

SARSÁ KITCHEN+BAR The Frabella

is located at 109 Rada, Legazpi Village, Makati. For dining, call (02) 77549943

SARSÁ KITCHEN+BAR

SM Megamall is located at Bldg A, 3rd Floor SM Mega Mall, Ortigas Center. For dining, call (02) 79143482

“We should be open to feedback and good constructi­ve criticism. We should also expose ourselves to more culinary cultures .”

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