Chef JP Anglo opens his first-ever restaurant overseas: Meet Kooya

Chef JP Anglo has always been a champion for spreading the good word about Filipino cuisine. He’s bubbling with pride about our nation’s talent, unique ingredients, comforting flavours, hospitable charm, and our people’s love affair with eating.

This gourmand is tickled pink with the opportunity to open his first-ever restaurant outside of the Philippines. “Kooya is the older brother of Sarsa. It is our Filipino kitchen in a global setting, but still very true to its roots. We want to showcase our culture to the world,” he exclaims. “This is my first restaurant outside the Philippines. It is a dream come true to showcase our food permanently outside of the country, and not just in a pop-up,” he adds, referencing his many previous international collaborations.

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With Kooya being an alteration of the word kuya, chef Anglo is looking forward to putting Filipino cuisine under the spotlight in other areas of the world. “We want to be that place that will always look after you, just like your kuya should, especially when it comes to good food,” he said with optimism.

Located in Dubai, Kooya's doors will gladly welcome the many Filipino expats that live in the area. “We want to give our hardworking kabayans in the Middle East a taste of home–something that they can be proud of. When you enter, it should feel like a slice of home,” Anglo shared when telling me about the essence of the establishment.

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In fact, Anglo shares that Dubai has around two million Filipinos, so much so that it feels like home. “We saw the longing for Filipino food,” Anglo said, elaborating on why he chose that city for his long-term first foreign foray.

“Our OFWs here are so hardworking and they deserve a great meal. A lot of them want to go home so badly but they cannot because of the pandemic. I wanted to bring home to them. Besides filling their tummies, I hope we can fill their souls too by giving them a nostalgic experience that reminds them of home, of their lola or mum,” chef explains.

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Food has that unique ability to evoke memories and emotions. That’s exactly what Anglo aims to do through Kooya, all while proving to the world that Filipino food is delicious and worth exploring.

“The food is straightforward, honest to goodness Filipino food. But it’s complex and contemporary because we apply different cooking techniques. For example, we smoke the kare-kare and infuse those notes into our sauces to make it deeper—an umami bomb of flavour,” he elucidates. Over the phone, chef excitedly continued to share that he gained a lot of inspiration for Kooya’s menu from his recent visit to the Cordilleras.

Aside from every bite bringing Filipinos in Dubai closer to home through a soulful meal, Anglo hopes to elevate the entire experience through this new fine-casual eatery.

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The restaurant's design is tropical, quirky, and playful. By working with Gabby Lichauco, who designed the chef’s home, a few Sarsa restaurants and Kafe Batwan too, Anglo was able to achieve the local yet global feel he was aiming for. “The design also shows off our culture, the other side of who the Filipino is. I want people to know we are not just folksy, you know? We have much more to us.” Step into Kooya and feel like you have entered a lanai, or your cool tita’s home, filled with plants, earthy colours, and Filipino artwork.

“I want to prove to non-Filipinos, that Filipino food is fantastic, and that it can hold its own on a global stage. We are more than just adobo and sinigang. There is so much potential,” Anglo said emotionally.

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