Tim Dela Cruz is the new head chef of Jason Atherton's forthcoming Filipino outpost, the Pig and Palm. He talks to Katherine Alano about the challenges ahead and his passion to get Filipino cuisine on the culinary map
You were on the last series of MasterChef: The Professionals. How did you find the experience?
It was amazing, even though I didn't get that far. Just taking part on the show was a very good achievement for me. To showcase Filipino cuisine on national television was a dream.
Why do you think Filipino cuisine is not as well known as other as Asian cuisines?
We don't market and promote it enough, and when we do, we market it to our fellow Filipinos. We are a bit shy when it comes to our cuisine and anxious that people might not like it. For me, when it comes to flavour, Filipino food is very diverse, with influences from Malaysia, China and Spain.
You've been appointed as Jason Atherton's head chef at his new restaurant in Cebu, Philippines. How did that come about?
I was at Taste of London in 2014, and after watching a demonstration by Jason, I queued to get a book signed and asked for a photo. When he realised I was Filipino he introduced me to his wife Irha. We got chatting and
exchanged numbers. I invited Jason and Irha to my pop-up event, ‘Maynila' in December 2015 and it all kicked off from there.
You're originally from the Philippines, are you looking forward to moving back?
Yes, but it will be a big change for me as I've been living in London for almost 10 years. It will take some time for both my wife Jade and I to adapt to the culture, but I'm really excited.
Can you tell us more about the restaurant and location?
The restaurant is called the Pig and Palm. We take inspiration from the Filipinos' love of pork, and it will be located in the MSY Tower in Irha's home town. The restaurant has 57 covers with a separate standalone bar serving cocktails and bar snacks. Jason is very hands-on when it comes to his restaurants and will be there in Cebu to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
What should the diners expect from the menu?
The menu will be simple but tasty, designed by both myself and Jason. It will be a modern take on tapas with a British and Filipino twist. It will be, as Filipinos would say, "masarap" [delicious].
What do you think that main challenges will be?
The main challenge is sourcing the best ingredients. The Philippines is a tropical climate with only two seasons. Where we can, we will try and use Filipino produce. For example, I have found a supplier in Davao that
produces blue cheese.
What's the food scene like in the Philippines?
It's evolving. A lot of worldrenowned chefs are opening restaurants there, and with food events such as Madrid Fusion Manila [ frequented by chefs like Quique Dacosta, Joan Roca and Elena Arzak] the spotlight is on the Philippines. I predict within the next five years Filipino food will explode on to the food scene.
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