11 Underrated Chefs You Need to Pay Attention To
As we chew through crazy trends and chase after celebrity chefs, we're starting to forget old-fashioned genuine talent. No, this isn't to discredit the skills of chefs who are spending less and less time in the kitchen and more and more time everywhere else. They probably deserve it at this point of their lives. But not all chefs have a marketing team (or even marketing sense) and that doesn't diminish their skills either. Here, we celebrate the quiet uber kitchen talents who deserve their time in the spotlight—or some of your appetite space.
Patrick Go (Black Sheep)
This 20-something Ferris Bueller clone looks like a novice straight out of culinary school, but a mere forkul of anything that comes out of his kitchen is proof of his seasoned understanding for techniques and flavor. Now behind the new Black Sheep on Chino Roces, he wows with stunning (not to mention picture-perfect) interpretations of Filipino and Chinese cuisine. Though the results may seem cutting edge, Go always looks back to his past for inspiration—think grade-school tuna and liver spread sandwiches upgraded with dehydrated ma lai gao and grapes.
2230 Chino Roces Avenue, UPRC1 Building, Bangkal, Makati City
Stephen Carl (Grind Bistro, Grind Burger, Grind Bistro and Cafe)
You'd think with three restaurants under his belt, more people would be talking about Chef Stephen Carl, but surprisingly, this self-confessed burger lover prefers to be off the radar, in the kitchen, with his food doing all the PR for him. The dishes at Grind (any of them) look simple but that doesn't at all diminish the effort behind everything on the menu. Chef Carl is a big believer in flavors brought on by excellent and fresh ingredients.
Grind Bistro is at Netpark Building, Fifth Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; Grind Burger is at The Block, SM City North EDSA, Quezon City; Grind Bistro + Cafe is at SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Francis Lim (Nav, Tipple & Slaw)
This tattooed kitchen whiz can cook everything from beef rendang and fried chicken to a surprisingly stellar goat terrine. Chef Francis Lim's restaurants may be overshadowed by a crowd of partying millennials, but it doesn't make his burnt mac and cheese any less amazing. During the last two runs of Madrid Fusion Manila, his dishes have consistently impressed tasters, including food writer Clinton Palanca.
Nav has branches at SM Mega Food Hall, Mandaluyong City and 16 United Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City; Tipple & Slaw is at The Forum, 7th Avenue corner Federacion Drive, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Marco Legasto (Prime 101, Downtown & Halsted)
Any respectable steak lover would have heard of Chef Marco Legasto. In the early 2010s, he had practically a cultish following for his free-styling, steak-searing ways at the now-defunct Purple Feet (inside Wine Depot) on Reposo and restaurant-cum-showroom Prime 101. 22 Jupiter, which tested his bistro techniques, was short-lived but it was enough to show off the chef's propensity for fusing influences. We're not likely to forget his roast pork with Thai sauce. Now you can spot him in his new bar, Downtown & Halsted.
Prime 101 is at 2226 Chino Roces Street, San Lorenzo, Makati City; Downtown & Halsted is at G/F Burgos Parklane, Forbestown Road, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Mark Tan (Hibana)
From the moment he opened Studio Kitchen in 2012, we all knew that Mark Tan was something special. A restaurant that was very much ahead of its time back then, the Alabang haunt displayed artistic interpretations of well known dishes. When that ship sailed, Chef Mark opened Allium in Legazpi Village and from culinary artist, he became somewhat of a mad scientist, his enviable top-notch kitchen helping him come up with inspired contemporary American cooking. Allium eventually paved way to his current playground, Hibana, a modern Japanese concept whose dishes are straightforward but painstakingly crafted.
Grand Midori Building, Bolanos Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City
Isaiah Ortega (formerly Sinigang)
In 2015, at the World Association of Chefs Societies competition, Chef Seya (and his then-fiancee Korinne) raked up a whole bunch of medals. Chef Isaiah first reached our radar when they opened Orange Whisk in the South, peddling a range of bakes and comfort food. Eventually Orange Whisk shut down and reopened as Sinigang, which allowed him to maximize his skill for cooking Filipino food. Sinigang got overshadowed by frequent promotions like unlimited calamares, unlimited sisig, and unlimited lechon kawali, but when it was open, the must-try was Chef Seya's award-winning humba.
Carlos Garcia (Black Pig, The Pig Pen)
Perhaps the only reason this Spanish chef continues to fall under the radar is his natural modesty. Chef Carlos refuses to talk about his background (which, if we can tell you, is quite impressive), so he keeps his resume limited to whatever dish he puts in front of you. If you've managed to reach Black Pig, you know exactly what he's culinary imagination's capable of. Putting together flavors and ideas, we can't even put a box on his cooking. It's just simply good.
Black Pig is at Commercenter, 1780 Commerce corner Filinvest Avenue, Filinvest City, Muntinlupa City; The Pig Pen is at Eton Towers Makati, 128 Dela Rosa Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.
Thirdy Dolatre (Ricetop)
When we met him at the now defunct Alley a couple of years ago, he was a 23-year-old who insisted on making everything from scratch—from his sliced bread to his corned beef to his sauerkraut. This level of dedication deserved to be admired, especially since everything turned out successful. A sandwich shop that was probably ahead of its time, The Alley even used different kinds of bread, considering what would be more appropriate to the filling. When the restaurant folded, the chef further honed his skills in San Francisco's Benu. Right now he's teaching part-time in CCA Manila and cooking comfort food.
One Avisha Residences, 88 Rosa Alvero Street, Loyola Heights, Quezon City
JR Trani and David Hizon (Earth Kitchen)
We're not surprised if you've never heard of this chef pair, but you've probably heard of their restaurant and unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably been wowed by their sous-vide beef kebabs. Both unassuming, Chefs JR and David are behind both Earth Kitchen branches, quietly making people aware of the potential of local produce.
Earth Kitchen has branches at Bonifacio High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; and White Plains, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.
AJ Reyes (Privatus)
Chef AJ trained under Chef Chele Gonzales and Chef Bruce Ricketts, and he's apparently inherited their skills for putting sense into seemingly unusual flavors. Inasal Stew. Sisig Croquettes. Chicken Lollipop Corndogs. You can tell everything is complicated, but this young chef has a knack for making premium dining seem accessible, even welcoming. You can witness his talents in private dining spot Privatus.
8 F. Legaspi Street, Maybunga, Pasig City