The 6 Best Private Dining Chefs in the Philippines
Entertaining your closest friends at home is easy when the country’s top chefs are on speed dial.
Mindanao-born, Manila-educated, and French-trained chef Miko Calo started her international culinary career with the best of the best. Fresh from the renowned Intensive Professional Program in French cuisine in Ferrandi-Paris, she began as a stagiaire at the LA TABLE de Joël Robuchon in Paris and worked her way through the kitchens of the global Robuchon empire.
After years away, this promising young chef has returned home. Together with her cousin RJ Galang, she has re-launched the Underground Supper Club she started in 2013 where 30 diners come together for a “monthly culinary one-night stand” to enjoy an ever-changing six- to eight-course degustation menu. When she has the time, she also takes on select private dining clients. 0919.984.6916; [email protected]
Justin Golangco left the Philippines at the young age of 19. After four years at Manhattanville College in New York, he heard his culinary calling while working as a busboy in a city restaurant—at a time when he was supposed to be looking for a “day job” in architecture. Soon after, he decided to head out to California and spent the next 18 months at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. After graduating from CIA, he spent a few years in the kitchens of restaurants in San Francisco, New York, and San Sebastian, including a two-year stint at Marea and six months at Arzak.
In 2014, he came home to a vibrant restaurant scene and began working as a private chef. Today, he is the culinary mind behind Bucky’s in Poblacion and is opening his own fried-chicken joint,
Karla Mendoza has spent the last 25 years chasing her culinary dreams. Late last year, following several successful stints at the helm of kitchens from New York to Los Angeles and Singapore, she returned home, ready to make her mark on Manila’s burgeoning food scene.
A part of the opening team for Eleven Madison Park where she learned the true meaning of hospitality and attention to detail, she also worked at another Danny Meyer’s restaurant, Gramercy Tavern. It was while working at Campanile in Los Angeles when Nancy Silverton first offered her the job at Mozza. “It was my first big-time job and I was responsible for the food of the hottest restaurant in town," she shares. "It also paved the way for my biggest break yet: The executive chef position at the first international Pizzeria Mozza in Singapore. Doors opened very wide with this opportunity and it definitely showed me who I am and what I am about.”
Hapag Private Dining
Originally conceptualized by five friends in 2017, three of whom are working chefs, Hapag is dedicated to focusing on the best of Filipino flavors. Through the exploration of local ingredients and both traditional and modern techniques, its culinary philosophy brings a fun, boundless, and “borderless” energy to the current dining scene.
Behind the stoves at Hapag are Kevin Navoa, a graduate of culinary arts at the KDU University College in Kuala Lumpur, Kevin Villarica, who studied at At-
Noel de la Rama
Noel de la Rama is a personal chef, caterer, and culinary teacher. Though he mainly cooks at his private atelier, he can be coaxed for special clients. As a one-man team, he plans the menu, shops, preps the ingredients, and bakes.
“All my menus are bespoke. I can guarantee that clients and their guests will be the only ones in town having my food. After client consultation about food allergies, aversions, and preferences, I come up with an appropriate menu for their party.” He continues, “My cooking foundation is classical French. I cook food suitable for everyday meals—easy and accessible, but with my own personal touch.” [email protected]
For those who have that proverbial “extra compartment” for anything sweet, Chef Miko Aspiras needs no introduction. This dessert extraordinaire is a chef-partner in the Tasteless Group that owns, in addition to many of the Manila’s leading restaurants, several popular dessert establishments including Scout’s Honor, Le Petit Soufflé, Freezer Burn, and Poison Doughnuts.
He has also worked in a few of the pastry kitchens of some of the country’s leading hotels and chains: Shangri-La Manila, Resorts World Manila, and the Raffles Hotel. Aspiras is a consultant for several local and international food companies such as Unilever (for Magnum and Carte D’Or ice cream) as well as for Philippine Airlines. He is also an ambassador for local Filipino chocolate, Auro. With so much on his plate,
With additional reporting by Hannah Lazatin.