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Proudly Filipino: 20 Global Culinary Stars You Should Know—Part 1

Over the last several decades, millions of Filipinos have immigrated to other shores in search of greener pastures, spawning a diaspora that has spread to practically every corner of the globe. As such, these Filipinos (and their progeny) settled down, integrated into their adopted communities, and distinguished themselves across disciplines, including food. In celebration of all things Filipino, we honor 20 of the most prominent chefs, restaurateurs, food writers of Filipino heritage who have contributed significantly to the culinary scene, and brought pride to their home country.

 

Margarita Lorenzana-Manzke

République, Sari Sari Store, Los Angeles, California

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Before this day is over, we wanted to wish a very Happy Birthday to our fearless leader Chef Marge @mlmanzke!! ????‍?????? You are the reason we see so many smiling faces every day when our guests see the pastry case for the first time or the twentieth time! We could eat dozens of your delicious baguettes every day and we know we aren’t alone! And let’s not forget about the salted caramel chocolate cake or @sarisaristorela’s buko pie, both of which have sparked so much *joy* in countless lives. We are so inspired by the way you’re able to balance your career and family, and doing it all with a humble heart. You’re a rockstar and we wish you the best year yet!! We have a feeling it’s going to be a good one! ?? _____ #MargaritaManzke #bakingatrepublique #RepubliqueLA #SariSariStoreLA #wildflourmanila

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She is undoubtedly considered one of the top pastry chefs in the United States today, not the least for her three nominations in 2017, 2018, and 2019 as Outstanding Pastry Chef by the prestigious James Beard Awards. It’s no small feat for this born-and-bred Filipina who, together with her husband and fellow chef Walter Manzke, are considered “chef royalty” in Los Angeles with their flagship République, along with Petty Cash Taqueria and Sari Sari Store (which serves Filipino food, by the way). They also happen to be partners of the very successful Wildflour Cafe + Bakery in Manila, and have since put up other concepts like Little Flour, Pink’s, Farmacy, and now Wildflour Italian. Yet another feather on Manzke’s cap is her just-published cookbook, Baking at République, where she shares the baking secrets behind the breads and pastries that have made her so admired.

 

Nicole Ponseca

Maharlika and Jeepney, New York City

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"When I saw that we [Filipinos] had so little representation, I thought to myself, 'maybe I could help'. So, I started my dream of opening a Filipino restaurant." -@nicoleponseca The Washington Post said that her restaurants' "influence on Filipino restaurateurs is immeasurable." The New York Times said she was an "empire in the making," and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, wrote that she was a Filipino Culinary hero. Nicole Ponseca has been on a mission since 1998 to put Filipino food on the map. Starting out as an ad executive at Saatchi & Saatchi, Nicole moonlighted for 12 years working as an ad exec-by-day and a dishwasher – waitress – hostess – bartender – server – manager at night with one goal in mind: to learn the biz and open a modern Filipino restaurant catapulting Filipino food at the center of culinary culture. Her business acumen includes establishing one of the first ever pop ups and opening her first restaurant @maharlikanyc in 2011 with only $10k in opening capital and her second restaurant @jeepneynyc in 2012 with $80k--all in. Her cookbook with @chefmigsnyc entitled "I Am A Filipino" will be published this year. #internationalwomensday #iwd #filipina #pinay #entrepreneur #iamafilipino

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This Filipina-American restaurateur pretty much helped make Filipino food mainstream in the New York City dining scene, with the opening of Maharlika and Jeepney Filipino Gastropub. Together with chef Miguel Trinidad, she serves Filipino food without apologies, plus a healthy dose of hipster flair. On the heels of this success, she recently wrote the critically-lauded I Am a Filipino: And This is How We Cook, with Miguel Trinidad, as an homage to her Filipino roots through a collection of modern Filipino recipes, for which she was a finalist at the 2019 James Beard Awards.

 

Valeri Valeriano and Christina Ong

Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes, United Kingdom

 

 

These two young Filipinas immigrated to the United Kingdom for work. They then started baking cakes and cupcakes, which they would decorate with buttercream frosting, as a fledgling “sideline” business. Largely self-taught, they developed their own techniques and innovations in buttercream design that soon gained the attention of Britain’s top cake design experts. They began participating in cake shows, winning awards in the process, and Queen of Hearts was born. The pair now travel the globe, conducting cake decorating classes to share their expertise. They have also published several internationally-recognized books on their cake design techniques, gaining global renown as “The Masters of Buttercream Art.”

 

Ligaya Mishan

Food writer/restaurant critic, New York Times

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It took me two months to report & write this piece — on the rise of culinary tourism (for those of us privileged enough to cross borders not out of necessity, but for pleasure) and the risk of turning local foodways into just another commodity — so I’m relieved & thrilled to finally see it in print, complete with the fancy graphic treatment! As the sociologist @krishnendu_ray told me, “If you don’t care about the lives and livelihoods of people involved in growing and making your food, attention to the food alone cannot take you far.” Thanks to @rovazquezl of @eatlikealocalmx, @vietnamesegod, @joedistefanoqns, @daisann of @littleadventureshk, @foodsaketokyo, @tourwestafrica, @intrepidtravel, @modernadventurists, @sachsmo + @silverseacruises for sharing their thoughts with me and making these issues a priority in how they approach their work.

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It’s not easy getting a food writing gig in that venerable institution called the New York Times. So it is especially heartwarming to regularly see the byline of Filipina-American Ligaya Mishan in the NYT Food section. What is especially inspiring is her focus on the off-the-beaten-path restaurants one usually finds in the periphery of Manhattan, like Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. In the process, she immerses herself in the city’s immigrant communities where cuisines from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa flourish. And thankfully, that includes the many, many Filipino restaurants that have become part and parcel of the Filipino-American immigrant experience in New York. (Note that Mishan has to preserve her anonymity as part of her job—so you won’t find any photos of her online or on her social media accounts.)

 

Chad and Chase Valencia

Lasa, Los Angeles, California

 

Two Filipino-American brothers—chef Chad and general manager Chase—opened a Filipino pop-up in LA’s Chinatown district to much buzz. Eventually, that pop-up became a full-fledged modern Filipino restaurant, which even earned a rave review in the Los Angeles Times by the late, great restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. Since then, Lasa has been named 2018 Restaurant of the Year by Food & Wine, thanks to its emphasis on seasonality of California ingredients melded with the Valencia brothers’ memories of their family dishes.

 

Sheldon Simeon

Tin Roof and Lineage, Maui, Hawaii

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Know your Roots @lineagemaui @alakukuihana @mahelefarm

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This Hawaii-born Filipino-American first gained prominence as a contestant on Top Chef Seasons 10 and 14. He went on to host Eater’s series Cooking in America that saw him tour the country to discover its diverse cuisines rooted in immigrant experiences. He also kick-started his restaurant career in his native Hawaii, first with Tin Roof, followed by Lineage in 2018, which gained him a semifinalist slot for 2019 Best New Restaurant from the James Beard Awards. At Lineage, he offers a family-style Hawaiian menu that touches upon the island-state’s multicultural culinary influences, including his own Filipino heritage.

 

Jasmin and Melissa Hemsley

HEMSLEY + HEMSLEY, United Kingdom

 

They’re the well-known Filipina-British sisters behind food and lifestyle brand Hemsley + Hemsley. Through their website, bestselling cookbooks, a TV series, and their café, the Hemsleys share their nutritious recipes that promote all-natural ingredients, whole grains, and vegetables as the secrets to healthy eating. They don’t forget their Filipino roots either, sharing their Filipina mother’s version of bone broth as one of their most fundamental, basic recipes.