Cover Chef Erica Paredes

When she's not invigorating Paris' dining scene with her unabashed Filipino cooking, chef Erica Paredes dreams of the day she gets to dine at these Metro Manila restaurants

Before packing her bags and moving to France in pursuit of her culinary dreams, Erica Paredes enjoyed a career as a beauty editor and lifestyle journalist in Manila. Five years later, equipped with a Diplôme de Cuisine and Certificat de Pâtisserie from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Paredes’s foray into the restaurant industry led her to stints at Les Cocottes and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Étoile.

“I decided the kitchen rat race wasn’t for me,” says the Filipina Parisienne. But her fervour for food and cooking endured. “[I] started my own businesses doing private dinners and also ran a supper club,” Paredes shares, leading the fight to put Filipino food on French diners’ maps one boodle fight at a time. In 2018, the chef made her much-awaited return to the restaurant scene with her very first pop-up, causing somewhat of a snowball effect as ended up a resident chef at Mokoloco.

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However, Paredes’ residency soon comes to a close as she sets her sights on her newest venture: her very own restaurant, opening in the spring of next year. Til we are able to book our flights to Paris and dine with Paredes in person, get to know the courageous culinarian proudly representing our food below and find out where she likes to go for A Taste of Home.

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What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from the Philippines or haven’t been back for a while?  

Honestly, what I miss the most are nostalgic things from my childhood – our cook’s baked spaghetti, Pancake House pan chicken, Shakey’s, fish balls from the street, stuff like that. I also miss reasonably-priced and good Asian food like Chinese, Thai, Japanese cuisine... oh, and warm taho and fresh buko juice!

What is the first dish you want to eat when you return, and where do you go for it?

If I fly in close to dinner, I end up wanting to go to Tsukiji for chūtoro sashimi, their Wagyu and fried rice, gindara, and then avocado ice cream from Milky Way. If I fly in during the morning, I go to Wildflour for a silog.

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Do you have a favourite restaurant in the Philippines? For fine dining and for more casual experiences?

I moved away six years ago and I don’t go home as often as I would like to. When I do, it’s not for very long amounts of time, so unfortunately all I have been able to do is drool over the exciting new places in the Philippines that I have yet to try. But my tried-and-tested favourites to visit when I go home are Wildflour, Locavore, Mecha Uma, Las Flores, Tsukiji, Shang Palace [which is now closed], People’s Palace, Mamou, etc. . . . basically, the restaurants I already liked before I left home.

If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you go to give them a real taste of the Philippines? 

At home! The best Filipino food is from someone’s house.

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Where do you like to meet up with old friends for food/drinks? 

I usually let my friends decide because I’m not familiar with the new nice restaurants anymore. The last time I was home (which was before COVID-19), we went around Poblacion a lot. We ate at Alamat and had drinks at OTO, then enjoyed midnight drunken street food munchies. I also like The Grid at Rockwell, where I had La Chinesca a couple of times.

Do you have a favourite bar and/or café in the Philippines?

Again, I’ve been gone for a while now so my favourites are either not new or sadly, not even open. I used to hang out a lot at Finders Keepers/ Black Market, Rocket Room, M Cafe, and Boogie [all of which are currently closed]. I can’t wait to go back home and stay longer than ten days (for a change). I usually don’t have much time to explore the new hot spots.

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Any other must-visit food/drink spots when you are back? 

Oh my god, so many – Helm, Gallery by Chele, Toyo Eatery, Hapag (for a return visit, because I actually dined at Hapag the last time I went home), Linamnam, Sambar, Metronome, and Metiz.

Do you take any food or treats back home with you from the Philippines? 

All the time! Barrio Fiesta bagoong, lemon garlic tinapa from Blue Kitchen, mushroom chicharon, Lapid’s chicharon (to name a few). Recently, I asked a friend of mine who went home to Manila to get me some Gastronômade sauces by Aaron Isip. My daughter always asks me to bring back instant pancit canton and Jollibee, haha!

Where do you go to find authentic flavours of home where you live?

I make it myself! One of my favourite things to do is to test flavours I love and combine them with French seasonal produce. A lot of these tests from home end up on my menus.

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