But this is what Jordy does, he gets people thinking and talking about things we take for granted. The tortang talong-banana ketchup combo is a uniquely Filipino experience that is reinterpreted in an imaginative and palatable way. Toyo’s other offerings are not necessarily based on specific dishes, but serve to take you on a deep dive of flavors from the country’s extensive coastal regions. Vinegar, sour fruits, and fermented relishes are used to highlight the freshness of an Aklan oyster or a grilled sea bream. In fact, pickling and fermenting are quite a thing at Toyo, and you’ll see jars upon jars of pajo, radishes, anchovies, and monggo soaking in briny liquid.
I ask May Navarra, Toyo’s general manager, how a dish at Toyo is developed. Does it just spring forth from Jordy’s mind? Or is it more of a collaborative effort? “He really focuses on everything around it, from the ingredients, to the flavor profile, to food culture,” May says. “When he has certain details in place, he comes up with a rough idea of how he wants to approach a dish, then he goes over it with his sous chef, JP Cruz. They go over it again and again until they're satisfied, often working on a dish for weeks or months at a time. And even after they’ve finalized something, they’d constantly work with the team on how to make it even better.”
She adds, “So he’s really not the type of chef who can whip up something magical in 10 minutes using only what he sees in the fridge. He has a more philosophical approach and really takes his time thinking about it.”
May knew Jordy in high school, although they didn’t start dating until college. “Food has always been a huge part of our relationship—as seen by the weight we’ve gained in our 14 years together,” she says. When he told her he really wanted to get into cooking, she encouraged him to do everything it takes to learn what he can. This led him to work in the kitchens of The Fat Duck in the U.K. and Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, even if it meant maintaining a long-distance relationship for over a year.
Jordy’s training in Heston Blumenthal and Alvin Leung’s kitchens eventually led him back to the Philippines. “The reason why I went to work for Alvin at Bo Innovation—” Jordy starts, “back then I couldn’t really afford to go to those restaurants. We went to Hong Kong one time, I went to eat at Alvin’s and I thought it was super cool he was doing this modern new approach to Chinese ingredients. I had never seen anyone apply the new approach to more local, Chinese food. That was the first time I went to eat and understood what someone was trying to do.”
From the extravagance of Black Sheep, Jordy took things down a notch, interior-wise, with Toyo, breathing into the space at the Alley at Karrivin the warmth and community of Filipino dining. Three years on, there’s always a sense of something new happening, thanks to the strong spirit of collaboration. Jordy has been participating in a lot of joint cooking exercises with other chefs in what’s called four-hands or six-hands dinners. He has shared kitchens with the chefs of Masque restaurant in Mumbai, Haku in Hong Kong, Florilege in Tokyo, and the recently closed Hertog Jan in Belgium.
Likewise, he has hosted the chefs from Bangkok’s Suhring, Bali’s Locavore, and Singapore’s Nouri, among others. One thing’s for sure—Jordy is having a ton of fun. “In the kitchen, it can get grinding and tedious,” he says. “Whenever we have these events, it breaks up the monotony. When we get invited to another country, I get to bring some of the team, we learn from other chefs, and everyone brings home a different experience.”