Cover Photo: Bueno Tapas

History has taught us of Spain's colonisation and of this, the Spanish influence over Filipino food. Now, Chef Kennedy Alfonso is bringing this gastronomy to his own little corner in the Metro

The Spanish Influence

Our local palate is an eclectic one, full of strange combinations and influence from the past. Yet despite this distinctive personality, there's no doubt that many of our preferences have stemmed from that period in time when cocineros were abundant in Filipino kitchens. "While Filipino cuisine is most definitely in a league of its own, today we attribute a huge part of its overall character to being Spain’s colony this side of the world," he says. "We inherited from them culture and tradition—and culinary tradition is definitely no exception." 

As chef and restauranteur at Bueno Tapas and Wines, Chef Kennedy understands Spanish food more than most. He's travelled (and eaten) extensively throughout Spain, worked in the Basque country, learning more each time about Spanish tradition, geography, and terroir. "I notice how the north-northwestern regions that receive more rainfall (e. g. Asturias and La Rioja, among others) have meat dishes as their most prominent, while I see the cuisines of the coastal regions bordering the Mediterranean having adapted a variation of the Mediterranean Triad, and so on."

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Using his keen observations on taste and geography, Chef Kennedy has brought the flavours of Spain to his kitchen in Bueno Tapas. Surprisingly, it didn't seem to be too difficult. "Taking into account the similarities between Filipino and Spanish cuisines, capturing the Filipino palate didn’t pose much of a challenge. Everyday Spanish food—contrary to how intimidating they may seem—is quite straightforward," he explains. And for a population that's already familiar with such a taste profile, it didn't seem too farfetched that Bueno would be such a hit.

The differences between both cuisines aren't so much about about the ingredients themselves, or even about method, but about how our environment affects our needs. "Spain is temperate while the Philippines is tropical. Therein lies the difference as there are means of food preparation that suit the climate of one more than the other. Case in point is the Spanish's richer, thicker, and more intensely flavoured soups and stews that keep the people warm through winter, opposite our lighter clear soups like tinola and bulalo just enough to warm us up on rainy days and cold nights," Chef Kennedy points out. 



Muy Bueno Menu

Now, he's incorporating this knowledge of technique and history into his own menu. Aside from always using quality ingredients ("imported from Spain, if we must," he assures us), Chef Kennedy also considers the emotion that each dish would bring. "The dishes in the menu should always bring a smile to any type of gathering," he insists. And with a menu of many favourites—paellas, salpicao, and yes, the Basque burnt cheesecake—it's not hard to see that Bueno fulfils that mission to its clientele. "Three years after [our opening] we have not only served 'muy Bueno' dishes but also created many Bueno memories with our customers."

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The Chef In 2020

Now, in 2021, Bueno continues forwarding Spanish gastronomy, cooking up favourites from Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. In many ways, the events in Chef Kennedy's life have prepared him well for this. Having grown up amid the relative verdure of Antipolo, Chef Kennedy had learned about the importance of freshness and produce in his own kitchen. "I grew accustomed to harvesting different produce and concocting my own recipes," he reveals. Using these to experiment in his family kitchen only encouraged his burgeoning curiosity in food. After a stint in the corporate world, he exchanged his long-sleeved polos and black slacks for a chef's toque. Then came, Bueno. And then, came COVID-19. 

Although Chef Kennedy's serendipitous journey into cooking comes as an inspiring reminder to all, it doesn't save Chef Kennedy from the trials of the pandemic. Fortunately, Bueno transitioned quite well. After the months-long lockdown, they gradually reopened, with added protocol of course. "Of utmost importance is the health and safety of our partners and guests alike which is why when we decided to resume operations, we had to make sure that safety protocols were strictly complied with," he says. There's contact-tracing forms, air purifiers, social distancing markers, foot baths, and many more. While it may seem daunting, the restaurant owner and chef assures us that Bueno remains optimistic for the coming months—especially with their upcoming expansions. "Despite the health crisis of the past year, we remain grateful, hopeful, unfazed, and we look forward to a significantly huge year for Bueno as we open more branches the other side of the Metro – Makati and BGC". 

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