The last years have seen steady growth in the Filipino food industry, with renowned food writer Andrew Zimmern calling Filipino food “the next big thing.” Upcoming and seasoned chefs continue to propel the flavors of local cuisine, proving that there are more dishes to discover in the Pearl of the Orient’s food culture. In the hotel and restaurant industry, one name stands out from the rest: Chef Angelo “Chubby” Timban. (Follow him on Lemi at @chubzthet08!) The famous chef earned his stripes in the early 1990s, rising from the ranks—first as a waiter of a local pizza chain and eventually leading the kitchen operations of key industry players such as Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort, Resorts World, Manila Pavilion, and just recently, F1 Hotel Manila.
Beyond his hard work, passion, and generosity, read on to learn how one of the most acclaimed local chefs in the country continues to hone #PinoyPride in the culinary scene.
Have you always wanted to become a chef? What ignited your passion to pursue this career?
I first learned in the house because my family loves cooking. My parents used to go to the church every Friday and I would cook for the family then. They taught me the basic techniques—cutting, preparing, sauteing. That’s when I gained my life-long passion for cooking. I watched my dad butcher a goat then we produced dishes—Sinampalukan, Kaldereta, Pochero, you name it!
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve shared with your mentees?
Generosity. I’m very generous when it comes to giving all my knowledge, skills, and experience to the new breed of Filipino cooks. I mold them to become better leaders. When I started as a cook in the ’90s, there weren’t a lot of mentorships yet. I merely learned from books and the Internet.
You are known for putting unique twists to traditional dishes. How do you conceptualize your ideas?
Learn the basics first. I learn techniques through experience. You have to research the ingredients for every dish. Local ingredients are hard to find, but imported goods are usually available! In relation to that, one of my favorite food events is “Luzviminda,” celebrated every Independence Day, wherein guests are served culinary creations from all over the country. That’s where I usually experiment with putting twists to traditional Filipino dishes!
What are some of your favorite unique delicacies that you’ve cooked?
Bulcachong, Balbacua, and Ata-ata!
Editor’s note: Bulcachong is a Carabao (water buffalo) dish simmered with spices and ginger; Balbacua is a beef stew made from oxtail and various spices; and Ata-ata is an Ilocano beef dish served raw.
What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
Fried fish and vegetables! Unlike cooking in hotels using elaborate techniques, I just like cooking simple comfort food at home.
What do you think is the main factor to your success?
Hard work, enthusiasm, and passion.
What is your advice to aspiring chefs?
My advice is that you have to always follow your senior chefs’ instructions, including meeting deadlines—even if you have to extend the working hours. As chefs, we’re not really accustomed to fixed working hours because we have to please not the boss, but the guests. It’s a “boring” job, a routinary one; but make sure to always learn something new every day.
How do you build yourself up from adversity?
Life in the kitchen can be stressful and hazardous because you’re working with fire, sharp knives, and heavy-duty equipment, but I have my outlets to destress. I play airsoft, I breed dogs, and I have birds and bonsai.
What sets Filipino cuisine apart from others?
The taste is the best factor! Andrew Zimmern once dubbed Filipino cuisine as the next big thing so right now, as a chef, I also develop our dishes on a new level!
What are your next steps in your career?
As a Vice President of the HRCA (Hotel and Restaurants Chefs Association), I want to empower our Filipino chefs. One of our proposals is if there’s a hotel that has an expat Executive chef, there should also be a Filipino counterpart. We want to promote local culinary talents. I never tried working abroad! I spent my whole career here because I believe that I can be at my best here.
Chef Chubby is on Lemi at @chubztheto8!