Meet the Filipina Executive Chef at Jean-Georges' Singapore Restaurant
As the executive chef at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar in Singapore, Lisa Revilla certainly has a lot on her plate.
A typical workday starts with her sifting through e-mail, checking the banquet event orders (a document that keeps track of all the details in the restaurant for the day), walking through all the kitchen stations, and then conducting a briefing ahead of the lunch rush—all before noon. This all repeats before the dinner service, with few or no breaks in between, and ends before midnight as she prepares for the next day.
Her boss, internationally renowned and Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, runs restaurants in Las Vegas, London, Paris, Shanghai, Tokyo, and New York. The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar is one of the French-American chef’s newer establishments. It is situated at COMO Dempsey, a space by retail company Club 21.
It’s a lot of hard work, but something she’s always dreamed of. “I feel very honored to work so closely with Chef Jean-Georges.” Revilla says, “I jumped on the opportunity when I learned they were opening here in Singapore.”
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Revilla's interest in cooking started when she received a children’s cookbook for Christmas.
“The first recipe I tried was hot chocolate with marshmallows and I remember being so thrilled making it,” she says.
Her goal of becoming a professional chef was something she had to prove to her parents. “I told my parents I wanted to study culinary arts for college but they didn’t allow me. The agreement was for me to take AB Economics at the Ateneo de Manila. After graduation, my parents fulfilled their promise by sending me to New York.”
Revilla studied at the Institute of Culinary Education and French Culinary Institute, both in Manhattan. She took the opportunity to stage at different restaurants including Perry St (under chef Cédric Vongerichten) and Barbuto by Jonathan Waxman, to name a few. For her internship, she worked at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne in New York where she caught the attention of Boulud himself. This led her to land a job at DB Bistro in Singapore and she worked her way up through different stations, eventually ending up as a sous chef.
After five years, she left DB Bistro to see what it was like to be part of an opening team and experience how a restaurant is built from scratch. “Wolfgang Puck’s Spago hired me as an opening sous chef and I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to learn from such a big operation. I worked there for a year and a half.”
Lisa Revilla with Daniel Boulud
It was right after that that she started with Vongerichten's team.
Revilla says she was just at the right place at the right time while also crediting good practice and great relationships with her colleagues and mentors to her success.
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To execute the standards of Vongerichten, Revilla follows systems and is in constant communication with the team.
“I have learned so much in the past two years,” she says. “I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing—the job can get overwhelming; I usually take a deep breath and just do one thing at a time. I’ve learned patience—I worked in very intense kitchens early in my career; I feel a good environment with positivity instead of cursing and screaming is more effective. I’ve learned that hard work is key to success, but also loving your job makes the sacrifices more bearable.”
She advises those who want to follow her path to remain focused, keep pushing, and always try to be a better version of yourself every day.
“Don’t lose the thirst for knowledge and learn as much as you can from every mentor that you’ll get. Stay grounded and give back by looking after the newer guys in the industry,” she says.