Happy Ongpauco-Tiu Is Making Tummies And Taste Buds Happy With "Le Chon" At The Grid In Power Plant Mall
When you hear the word fiesta, the first thing that comes to mind is lechon. It’s a must-have in any Filipino gathering, from birthdays and anniversaries to celebrating milestones like graduation parties or weddings. But what if you can have your fill of lechon without having to wait for a party? And it’s not just your ordinary lechon, it’s Le Chon.
Le Chon (pronounced as “leh-shon”) is the newest Filipino restaurant concept at The Grid in Power Plant Mall by Happy Ongpauco-Tiu, descendant from the iconic Filipino brand, Barrio Fiesta. For Le Chon, she is bringing a different twist to the usual lechon by incorporating French techniques and flavors to the beloved Filipino dish.
“Actually, I’m a big lechon fan. So this is just me playing around with the flavors of lechon. It’s like my happy take on lechon,” says Happy about the birth of the brand. “It was Charles Paw who actually approached me, and I was thrilled to be asked and automatically I said 'yes'—without even thinking of anything! He just told me that I will be representing Filipino cuisine.”
So Happy knew she had to make a Filipino restaurant concept. Bringing in tons of Filipino cuisine expertise from her Barrio Fiesta roots and her various brands like Pamana, Tsokolateria, and Private Dining under the Happy Concept Group, Happy knew she had to make something different and fresh. It took Happy five months to contemplate on what she wanted to create for The Grid until a month before opening, while she was traveling in Paris, when her Eureka moment happened.
“It just clicked. I was thinking, why not serve something na all Filipinos love but using French cooking techniques? I’m a fan of how the French cook. For me, slow-cooking is the best. And that’s what I’m doing now. Everything is slow-cooked and that’s the reason why it’s very flavorful and tender,” Happy explains. “No shortcuts. It’s the old traditional way of French cooking using all Filipino flavors.”
And that’s how Le Chon was born: a marriage of Filipino flavors and classics and French culinary techniques. You’ve got the best cuts of beef, pork, and chicken, slow-cooked to perfection, elevated with a variety of rubs, and complemented by an interesting array of sides. You’ve got truffle and bawang rubs, a muscovado liver sauce, and even your favorite grilled talong elevated with baba ganoush. It’s essentially a fiesta platter, but sexier.
“Actually, I love to eat,” says Happy. “So these are all my favorite flavors that I combined in one. It’s me playing around the idea of serving your normal, traditional lechon, but making it in an upscale beat. [That’s why I told Charles] I specifically just want my rotisserie in front of my booth because I want the clients to see the oil dripping and the skin crackling. Mouth-watering, true to the core of enjoying lechon.”
It’s only been more than two weeks since The Grid has opened but the lines at Happy’s Le Chon are astounding. The menu is very limited and curated, but that’s what’s great about it—because they are able to concentrate on their offerings to make sure everything is prepared and served to perfection.
In the next months, as the young brand eases into its groove, Happy is going to start adding in the specialties from her family’s Barrio Fiesta, including their famous kare-kare and crispy pata, but with a modern take. She says, “Barrio Fiesta has been there for almost a hundred years and a lot of millennials don’t know about it anymore. So you know, to just keep it there, give them the knowledge of what started Filipino food.”
Produced by Christina N. Lopez and Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Daniel Soriano
Special thanks to Sab Lee
Shot on location at The Grid, 2F Level Expansion, Power Plant Mall, Makati