This Filipino Chef With International Cred Is Behind Manila's New Great Gatsby-Themed Restaurant
When Chef Michael Genaro left in 2011 to work in a prestigious cruise line, he knew he couldn’t be an OFW forever. But life in the Philippines was tough, and he had a wife and a young child to support.
Yet as he rose through the cruise kitchen ranks, Chef Michael struggled with his decision. The family man relates, “Nasaktan ako dahil kapag yakap ko panganay ko, hindi niya ako nakikilala.” (“It hurt me that when I got home and hugged my firstborn, he didn’t recognize me at all.”)
When the second child arrived, Chef Michael noticed his wife was spread thin caring for the kids. He cooked up a plan to stay, praying for a company where he could work, even as a sous chef. After six lucrative years of cooking at sea, he was back on native soil.
Chef Michael Genaro of Penthouse by the Bay
As Chef Michael began looking for a job, he met Chase Yap, managing owner of The Penthouse 8747 in Makati, who immediately hired him as head chef. “Nanibago ako (I had a hard time adjusting),” Chef Michael says, relating how it was so different from the environment he was used to. Perhaps God placed him here for a purpose, he thought. Pouring his utmost into the new restaurant, Michael taught the staff valuable lessons he learned abroad, ensuring quality, consistent dishes that diners would love.
Chase Yap, managing owner of The Penthouse 8747 in Makati and Penthouse by the Bay in Manila
When Chase considered offering a seven-course degustation for VIPs, Chef Michael was stumped. It all boiled down to the limited kitchen size and equipment, he said. But we could do it in a bigger place, he promised Chase, raring to help grow the company.
Chase agreed, and the tandem began preparations soon after. Chase brought in other partners and finalized the concept for the restaurant. It would ultimately be called Penthouse by the Bay, a sparkling jewel atop the 1900s colonial Rizal Park Hotel.
With a romantic al fresco dining area, couples could watch the sunset and feel the cool sea breeze. But party-goers would also mingle in the posh lounge, flanked by Great Gatsby inspired windows and interiors.
Chase emphasizes, “We want this to be Manila’s destination events place. The art deco lounge is perfect for intimate gatherings like bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and birthdays, while the entire restaurant can fit up to 500 for bigger occasions.”
So how did Chase come up with the restaurant concept? “Well, I wanted to provide a premium, upscale experience at a reasonable price,” he shares. “I’ve always had a difficult time finding a chill spot to hang out after work. Finally, I decided to open a place with good food and good drinks—a place with bigger bang for your buck and real value.”
Judging by the sophisticated drink selection, Chase surely accomplished that. With an exclusive selection of wines and spirits, Penthouse by the Bay mixes one-of-a-kind cocktails like the Jellous Lover, champagne tipped with rose wine jelly. The lounge has its fundamentals down pat, too—its single malt scotch by Berry Bros and Rudd even carries the coat of arms of British royalty. “Who knows, that scotch may even have been served at the royal wedding,” Chase muses. “It’s just a small sample of our unique offerings.”
Meanwhile, Chef Michael was excited to create his own menu from scratch. “Ito talaga yung pangarap ko (This was my dream),” he shares. Nevertheless, it was a huge challenge. He kept himself centered by constantly reminding himself of his why, thinking of ways he could get the job done. Passing on knowledge to the twenty-odd staff through lectures was the easy part. Researching and developing the menu was harder, but Chef Michael learned to appreciate the Yap family’s candor and business acumen when they turned up the heat. Finally, they got the job done together.
“It’s my first time to offer a menu I made myself,” Chef Michael proudly underscores. Favorites among Chef Michael’s finger foods are the Penthouse Crab Cake, deep-fried and topped with sriracha rémoulade, fresh Spicy Mussels, and a sinful honey-drizzled Quattro Formaggi pizza. Meanwhile, mains include the sublime Chicken Florentine and well-balanced Seafood Risotto. End the meal with the decadent Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, flambéed for a spectacular finish.
Penthouse Crab Cake
Honey-drizzled Quattro Formaggi pizza
Flambéed Dark Chocolate Cake?
Chef Michael hopes more diners would drop by Penthouse by the Bay to experience his original dishes, served with world-class Filipino hospitality. Besides, it’s conveniently located in a charming hotel, with a casino inside to boot. “It’s a great place to bring balikbayans, tourists, and even family,” he explains. “You’ll get to rediscover Manila, too!”
Right now, he is serving not only as chef, but also as mentor. “Everything I learned about food from other nations, I want to pass on to fellow Filipinos,” he emphasizes. But what about the future? His eyes sparkle, for he has bigger fish to fry. “One day, I’ll open a restaurant of my own.” We’re looking forward to it, Chef Michael.
Produced by Hershey Neri
Written by Joshua Young
Photography by Pau Guevarra