Chef JP Anglo is no newbie when it comes to doing TV shows. Before he was an established chef, the Bacolod native was tapped to be one of the judges on Master Chef Philippines. He’s proved himself since with Sarsá, his innovative take on Filipino cuisine. The surfer-chef even found his way back to TV screens with his travel show Hungry with Chef JP on CNN Philippines. We caught up with him to find out how he does it all.
What does it mean to be a chef who surfs?
I don’t want to be some flash-in-the-pan cook, I want to do this as long as I can. You have to find inspiration and for me that’s surfing. Whenever I surf, I get inspired. Concocting a dish is pretty breezy when I get to surf.
It’s very spiritual. You’re out there on the water and forget everything. You have a lot of lightbulb moments. When I’m out there, it clicks. Here (in Manila), sometimes it would take me 5, 10 takes to get the dish right. There, 1 take, 2 takes. It just happens.
Surfing also grounds me, I’m so thankful for it. It looks cool but it’s hard. There’s wipeouts, reef cuts and injuries, but when you catch that wave it’s amazing. Surfing also gave me a different perspective on life. I used to surf la Union a lot, you take the bus, you rough it out. That was also the height of the TV thing so it was a good counterbalance for me.
How do you bring that inspiration back into the restaurant?
It’s always nice to cook after a surf session because you’re so happy. You cook for friends, people you care for, and so it’s very personal and sincere. In a restaurant they pay you to cook.
That’s why I brought some of my chefs with me to the shoots, so they can understand my thought process. In these settings, cooking is very personal and I want them to think that way even though they do it every day, even though they do it for a living. Food is personal. Yes, there’s a procedure, but you put your heart into it.
On your trip, which place had the best surf/cook combo?
I think that would be Siargao. The thing with Siargao is that it has the best setup. It doesn’t have the best ingredients, but it makes it more interesting because you’re challenged by the scarcity.
I love the place. You get a really good surf and at the same time you get to cook for your friends. I learned a lot too, because so many foreigners and migrants are there now, and they bring their own knowledge to the island. In a way it’s becoming a global place, so it’s great to flex Filipino food there.
Where do you think Filipino food is at right now?
The Bicol region is so underrated, there’s so much more to pinangat, laing and Bicol Express. Same with Ilonggo food, there’s inasal, batchoy, kansi, but there’s more to it as well. Hence what we’re doing here at Sarsá.
The foundation is there, but we need to keep pushing forward. We have a lot of like-minded people, upcoming chefs, doing just that. Filipinos are shy, and we should be gutsier.
How about the show before this show?
It was overwhelming, it was nerve wracking. I was plucked from Bacolod for Master Chef Philippines. They needed a young provinciano judge and I guess I fit the bill. On the first day, it was like what the hell am I doing here?
There’s 10 cameras, and right beside me there’s Judy Ann Santos and Fernando Aracama, who at the time had Embassy, Cuisine, all those restaurants and bars. In the beginning, I felt like I didn’t belong there because I didn’t have a restaurant. In a way, fame came before respect. And I think respect is more fulfilling.
It helps that I have a restaurant now. I know who I am and what I can do. I also know my limitations. I’m not trying to be something I’m not. But of course, there’s always room for improvement. It’s a continuous process.
You can catch Hungry with Chef JP every Saturday, 7:30 p.m. starting May 20 on CNN Philippines Free TV Channel 9 or livestream on cnnphilippines.com.video.