Manila’s food scene is on the rise, much thanks to these culinary movers and shakers. To help you navigate around the metro’s new culinary climate, here’s a list of ten chefs you need to know.
Not only a chef, but also an artist and a writer is Claude Tayag. His reservation-only and Anthony Bourdain-approved restaurant, Bale Dutung, which is located in his Pampanga home, offers tasty, vibrant, and innovative Kapampangan food. His work at Bale Dutung has piqued the interest of the international food community and created a real hunger for food from his hometown. The dishes here respect traditional recipes, think chicken inasal and kare kare, but also include not your run off the mill creations like talangka sushi. Dig in at: Bale Dutung. Villa Gloria Subdivision, Angeles City, Pampanga; +63 045 6250169, www.baledutung.com, call for opening hours.
Rob and Sunshine Pengson
Husband and wife team, Rob and Sunshine Pengson, continue to wow us with their culinary skills by dishing out delicious tasting menus at BGC’s The Goose Station. Through serving multi-course meals filled with dishes such as Foie Gras Taho, Aklan Oysters Cooked in Seaweed Butter, and Squab Inasal, they’ve not only raised the bar for tasting menus in our city but also fancified traditional Filipino recipes. Apart from tasting menus, the Pengons also offer an a la carte menu and catering services and previously owned and operated the now defunct Shine Bakery & Cafe. The Goose Station is closed permanently.
Having honed his skills at the Art Institute of San Diego, Bruce Ricketts is one of the rising stars of the Manila culinary scene. His penchant for modern Japanese food has found him steady at the helm of three buzzy restaurants around the Metro: Mecha Uma, Ooma, and Sensei Sushi. Having us salivating are his bold, punchy dishes which include tuna with coconut, foie gras mousse, and roasted pineapple from Mecha Uma and fresh uni with shiso, ponzu, and white truffle from Ooma. Dig in at: Mecha Uma. G/F RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Tower, 25th corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; +632 8012770, www.mechauma.ph, Wednesday-Monday 6pm-11pm.
A young man with many hats, Erwan Huessaff is known as a chef, a some time bartender, a restauranteur, a food blogger and editor, a television host, and a celebrity in his own right – phew! He’s a partner at The Palace Manila, Niner Ichi Nana, and Hungry Ground and as the Managing Partner of The Mothership F&B Group, he oversees restaurants such as Hatch 22, Crisp on 28th, Sprout, Baits, and Sabao. The eateries, bars, and clubs he has birthed are some of the hippest concepts in the metro, raising the bar for Philippine chefs and restauranteurs, and giving us pretty sweet options to dine at. Dig in at: Niner Ichi Nana. G/F, The Globe Tower, 32nd Street corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; +63 9178769999, www.ninerichinana.com, Monday-Thursday 11am-1.30am, Friday-Saturday 11am-3am.
Although chef Chele Gonzalez hails from Torrelavega, Spain, his devotion is to Philippine produce. At Gallery VASK, an award winning BGC restaurant he opened with architect Juan Carlo Calma, Gonzalez brings forward his experience working in some of the best restaurants in the world (elBulli, Arzak, and Mugaritz to name a few) as he ups the ante of our local food scene through inventive, vibrant, and thoughtful dishes with a Spanish touch. Expect artfully plated dishes like Tuna Pod, School of Peas and Toothfish, and Roger Rabbit. Dig in at: Gallery VASK. Level 5, Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; +63 9175461673, www.galleryvask.com, Tuesday-Saturday 6:30pm-12am.
Tony Boy Escalante
Originally from Negros Oriental, Tony Boy Escalante of the Antonio’s Group, has established his own mini restaurant empire in Tagaytay, where five of his concepts stand: Antonio’s, Breakfast at Antonio’s, Balay Dako, Lanai Lounge, and The Grill by Antonio’s. His most famous restaurant, Antonio’s is the only Filipino entry on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Escalante’s restaurants are elegant and impeccable, boasting the best gourmet food and wine from around the world alongside farm-fresh fare from their own farms in Tagaytay. Dig in at: Antonio’s. Purok 138, Barangay Neogan, Luksuhin-Mangas Road, Alfonso, Tagaytay; +63 9188992866, www.antoniosrestaurant.ph, Tuesday-Sunday 11am-9pm.
The chef and restauranteur behind establishments like Cibo, Grace Park, Alta, and Lusso, is Margarita Fores. The mostly self-taught chef, who recently won the coveted title of Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016, specializes in Italian fare and also operates a nearly 30 year old catering company, Cibo di M. Fores’ fare is simple and ingredient focused with dishes like gruyere, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers on Sardinian flatbread from Cibo and baked scallops with fish roe from Grace Park. The female chef continues to elevate Italian cuisine in the country, most recently through opening Casa Artusi Philippines, the Manila branch of the lauded Italian culinary school. Dig in at: Grace Park G/F One Rockwell, Hidalgo Drive, Makati; +632 8437275, Facebook, Monday-Sunday 11am-11pm.
Scottish chef and restauranteur, Colin Mackay, excels in fine modern European cuisine and has brought some of his best creations to our tables – from pappardelle with wild boar ragout at Sala Restaurant to Italian sausage and fennel pizza at Blackbird to slow roasted beef brisket at Sala Bistro. His restaurants, which also include Thai eatery People’s Palace, are still strong performers despite the fact that they are no longer the new kid on the block – something that speaks volumes of Mackay’s faultless standards and impeccable dishes. Dig in at: Sala Restaurant. Podium Level, LV Locsin Building, 6752 Ayala Avenue, Makati; + 632 7501555, www.salarestaurant.com, call for opening hours.
Walter and Margarita Manzke
Responsible for the wildly popular Wildflour Cafe + Bakery, which is now in three locations across town, is Los Angeles-based couple Walter and Margarita Manzke as well as Margarita’s sister, Ana de Ocampo. The Manzke’s operate casual eatery, Republique in Los Angeles, which has a similar tone and flavor as Wildflour, with dishes such as wild mushroom on toast, kimchi fried rice, and smoked salmon tartine populating the menu. Also operated by the Manzke’s and Ocampo is Farmacy which serves up a good dose of sugar via house-made ice cream and sodas. Dig in at: Wildflour Cafe + Bakery. G/F 4th Avenue corner 26th Street, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; +63 9178520950, Facebook, Monday-Thursday 7am-10pm, Friday-Saturday 7am-11pm, Sunday 8am-4pm.
Denny Antonio and Nicco Santos
Adding some much needed vibrancy and cool to our dining scene are chefs Denny Antonio and Nicco Santos of Your Local. Their brand is casual, delicious, trendy, and accessible but the grub here isn’t loyal to any particular cuisine. However, on the menu are many Southeast Asian-inspired dishes like chili crab buns, laksa fettuccini, and lamb rendang alongside dishes like the crowd favorite, torched salmon donburi with ebiko and shiitake black rice. Antonio and Santos’ eats go perfectly with the on-point cocktails shaken from the bar. Dig in at: Your Local. G/F, Univeral LMS Building, 106 Esteban Street corner VA Rufino Street, Legaspi Village, San Lorenzo, Makati; +63 9176543355, www.yourlocal.ph, Monday-Saturday 11am-2pm and 6pm-10pm, Sunday 10am-3pm.