Cover Chef Don Baldosano of Linamnam Mnl (Photo: Third Guevara)

Chef Don Baldosano continues to turn heads with eleven-course tasting menus at his modern Filipino restaurant Linamnam Mnl, which currently operates out of his family's backyard

At just 23 years old, chef Don Baldosano demonstrates an immeasurable comprehension of Filipino cuisine—one that takes the spotlight at his private dining restaurant, Linamnam Mnl. Housed in his family’s own backyard, Linamnam first opened its doors to the public sometime in August 2018, transforming the space into a quaint setting for his bold modern Filipino dishes. It is at this camouflaged yet much-talked-about abode that Baldosano explores the intersection of the nostalgic and experimental.

A fully al fresco space, the restaurant’s main dining room is actually a bahay kubo built by his father, adjacent to Baldosano’s childhood bedroom. The central open kitchen, on the other hand, was once the family’s home gym, a pull-up bar the only remaining artefact. Here, Baldosano puts on his one-man culinary show, a seasonal and regional eleven-course tasting menu in five parts: the kagat (amuse-bouche), lupa (vegetables), dagat (seafood), karne (meats), and tamis (desserts).

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From the age of ten, Baldosano found comfort and joy cooking in the kitchen. This passion drove him to compete in Junior MasterChef Pinoy Edition, then just 12 years old, and later, stage at chef Jordy Navarra’s Toyo Eatery and chef Mikel Zaguirre’s Fyre Rooftop Lounge. Having trained under such esteemed authorities in Filipino cuisine, Baldosano continues to cite Navarra and Zaguirre as his greatest influences, professing they “moulded me into the cook I am today.”

However, Baldosano’s love for the culinary arts did not begin with a fondness for Filipino cuisine. Like many others, he started with adoration for European cuisines, particularly French and Italian—a time he looks back on with some remorse. “Back when I started cooking, I viewed Filipino food as something lower than other cuisines,” he confesses. “I didn’t know any better.” Things took a turn for the chef when a friend challenged: “Why are you trying to do French food? You cannot be the best if you don’t know your own food.” “He made me realise that for me to have an identity, I needed to learn my own culture,” Baldosano admits. “This made me work more to understand and taste what Filipino food actually is.”

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Tatler Asia
Don Baldosano, chef-owner of Linamnam (Photo: Third Guevara)
Above Don Baldosano, chef-owner of Linamnam (Photo: Third Guevara)

Ever since, Baldosano took it upon himself to showcase Filipino food in all its forms, highlighting the “complexity and depth of our cuisine and culture.” He reflects: “[My understanding of Filipino food] changed when I started travelling to different provinces. Meeting different people and learning their food cultures was an eye-opening experience, as it made me realise that there is so much more to what we know as Filipino food.” “It isn’t just your adobo and sinigang,” he declares, teeming with excitement over regional fare like “adobong pasko in Quezon, molo in Iloilo, and even pastil in Maguindanao.”

Enlightened by his regional travels, Baldosano reintroduces diners to familiar Filipino flavours through lesser-known ingredients and techniques. On the few days he isn’t catering to his consistently booked-out guest list, the wide-eyed chef spends his time foraging for local ingredients like pipinito (a small cucumber variety oft mistaken as inedible pests), curing and smoking meats like etag (a salted, preserved pork dish popular in the Cordillera region), and even raising his own livestock on-site, which he later butchers with his own hands. 

“When I was cooking before, I had no idea where everything came from. I always had the question, “Where did this ingredient come from?”, which later forced me to learn and understand the source of every ingredient,” he recalls. Not long after, he realised that growing, raising, and foraging for his own ingredients might reap better results. “That is why we started growing our [own] native black pigs,” he explains, noting that he regularly changes their diet to “see the nuances in the flavour [of the meat]”.

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Once driven by his ignorance of Filipino food, Baldosano has quickly become among the cuisine’s most vocal advocates, captivating some of the Philippines’ most discerning gourmets from Angelo Comsti to Cheryl Tiu. “Learning more about all of the food and culture from different provinces gives us the opportunity to showcase more of the possibilities of our cuisine,” he shares, beaming with an unquenchable curiosity. Of all the themed menus he’s executed thus far, Baldosano considers the ‘Pigafetta's Philippine Feast’ to be his favourite, a study in pre-colonial Filipino cuisine. “Taking inspiration from the notes of [Antonio] Pigafetta (who chronicled Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage to the Philippines) during their visit to Limasawa, I created a tasting menu similar to what they had experienced, food, drinks, and all. Although it is the simplest menu that I have made, it was definitely the hardest, as our food back then was very straightforward yet delicious.” 

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Most recently, Baldosano has engrossed himself in the Aeta culinary culture, making frequent visits to Subic, Zambales. “Trying to learn from them was an enlightening experience, from walking in the forest, to snacking on raw takipan ubod (the young shoots of large fish tail palm), and searching for their diverse selection of pang-asim or souring agents like pingol bato (begonia leaf), libas (hog plum) leaf, and bilukaw (a sour fruit endemic to the Philippines). They also have pindang, a way of preserving pork, that is salted and smoked to extend its shelf life and add more flavour.” He is also deeply intrigued by the seafood-rich Sulu region, explaining “Tausug food culture just seems so different from our typical understanding of Filipino food due to their Indo-Malay influence.”

As Linamnam approaches its fourth year of operations, Baldosano closes the chapter at the 31 Greenvale address. “This will be the last year of operations for Linamnam here in our home,” he announces, divulging his plans to expand and “send out our message to more people and showcase even more of the possibilities of our food and culture.”

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