DOT serves up 3 Fil-Am chefs as part of food tourism project
Not “the next big thing,” but “The Thing,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Thursday said of Filipino food, as she expressed optimism that the country’s cuisine would soon take the world by storm.
“With a number of Filipino-descent culinary geniuses making names abroad” and reaping awards and accolades by serving Filipino dishes in their restaurants, Puyat said the Department of Tourism (DOT) had taken on food tourism as one of its main product portfolios.
Puyat met on Thursday with three Filipino-American chefs who are in the country for the DOT’s “Chefs’ Food Trip Project.”
The chefs are Tom Cunanan, who was awarded best chef in the Mid-Atlantic Category in James Beard Awards 2019; Grant “Lanai” Tabura, host of the food show “Cooking Hawaiian Style” and winner of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race”; and Charles Olalia of Ma’am Sir and Ricebar restaurants in Los Angeles.
“The (project’s) objective is for the Fil-Am chefs to learn more about Filipino heirloom recipes, iconic delicacies, heritage dishes and ingredients so they can expand their food offerings in their respective restaurants as a way of promoting the unique Filipino culinary culture,” Puyat said.
To give the chefs the opportunity to discover their food roots, they are taken to different culinary destinations, including Pampanga, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu and Davao.
“I want upcoming local chefs and culinary students to realize that they need not cook foreign dishes to make it big locally and in the world; you have the likes of Cunanan, Tabura and Olalia who are proud of their own but are so successful abroad,” Puyat said.
Cunanan and Tabura have met with local heritage food advocates, among them Claude Tayag, who hosted a curated Kapampangan “degustation feast” in his Bale Dutung restaurant; Atching Lillian Borromeo, the acknowledged doyenne of Pampanga cuisine at her home Kusina Matua; restaurateur Happy Ongpauco; and food enthusiasts Edu Manzano and Rowel Santiago.
The two chefs also attended a symposium at Museo Ning Angeles where they met and interacted with tourism, hospitality and culinary students.
The DOT quoted Cunanan as saying that he had learned a lot working with some of the country’s most respected culinary gems.
“I traveled here precisely because I want to listen to all the stories (people) have about their own unique dishes, and I want to capture them for the rest of my life so I can pass them on to my children’s children,” Cunanan said.
Tabura, for his part, recalled the many lessons he learned during his visit, and described being with prominent culinary figures in the Philippines as “pretty amazing.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.