Cover Food from Metronome

Behind every great chef is a patient sous chef.

You are familiar with the country’s top chefs and their fabulous food that keeps you re-visiting their restaurants - but do you know who their sous chefs are? These exquisite kitchens would not be where they are today without the day-to-day teamwork and support of a brilliantly skilled sous chef, someone who truly understands their leader's vision, habits, palate and character. 

Learn about the Metro’s second-in-command personalities who ensure that our top-billed restaurants are at their best.

Read more: Who Are The Most Influential People In The Philippine F&B Scene?

1 / 5

JP Cruz, Toyo Eatery

Part of the founding team that helped open Toyo’s doors back in March 2016, the restaurant's upwards trajectory and acclaim means a great deal to this chef. “I still remember the day we first hit construction, there was a lot of hard work, excitement, and anxiety - hoping that everything goes according to plan.” JP talks fondly of how they curated their first-ever menu, picked out the cutlery and service-ware and even recalls wanting to throw up from the extreme mixture of passion, panic and excitement. 

How long have you worked with chef Jordy and at the restaurant?

I have known Jordy ever since our culinary school years. We’ve been working together for eight years, from a previous restaurant all the way to Toyo Eatery that we opened in 2016.

Tell me about your journey with the restaurant? 

My journey with the restaurant is a mix of love, anxiety, hard work and dedication. But most importantly it is also a place where I find utmost joy. We are very fortunate to have a community of people who are happy to be together and aim towards the same goal.

I work as the sous chef of Toyo Eatery. It makes me really proud thinking of all the memories and achievements we’ve obtained, the ups and downs, and all the challenges we overcame as a group. We are truly blessed and fortunate to be in a place where people treat each other as family. I’m very much excited to see where our journey continues.

Read more: Who Are Tatler's 250 Tastemakers?

Tell me about your culinary career and journey thus far.

I experienced working in a few small scale restaurants around Manila. It was an eye-opener. I learned how working in kitchens can be very labour intensive. It also broadened my knowledge of different ingredients and other global and regional cuisines. Later on, chef Jordy and I worked together at Black Sheep when it was still in BGC. When the restaurant decided to close down and relocate, we committed ourselves to starting our own restaurant with a menu and setting that’s closer to home. That is how Toyo Eatery started.

Why did you want to become a chef? When did you fall in love with cooking? 

My mum always wanted a daughter to teach her ways of the house. But, to her luck, she ended up having two boys! So, I still learned what I could from her. I wasn't really into cooking when I was young but my mum awakened my interest in food. She introduced Ilocano cooking to me where we would have mostly fish and vegetables at home. That’s how I learned to cook for myself quite early on. It wasn't professional cooking at all, just simple and satisfying.

I realised that I wanted to enter the F&B industry after accepting the fact that my first year in university studying commerce was a total waste of time and money. I wasn’t that interested in it... so after my first year, I dropped out and went to study culinary arts instead. 

I started to really enjoy cooking when I hit my first job. It was the practice of working with my hands and creating something from scratch that fascinated me. The more you work over the years, the more you start to learn more about the produce you use, and the various ways that Filipinos cook. It was understanding more about our own cuisine that pushed my interest and love for our craft.

Read more: 50 Signature Dishes To Try From Asia's 50 Best

What is an important lesson you have learned that has made you a better chef? 

Put your heart into what you want and make sure to always do the right thing, the rest will follow.

What is something you have learned from chef Jordy? 

Always choose to do the right thing (never compromise your values). There are no shortcuts to being better.

What do you like to cook for yourself when you are at home? 

I don't usually enjoy eating what I cook, partly because I taste so often that when it comes to sitting down and enjoying what I made, nauumay na ako. So I usually make what is easy or, just order in.

But I like cooking for my fiancée, specifically making pinakbet or laswa with crispy fried pork and a side of rice. This usually happens during the weekends or on our days off. 

What do you think it takes to be a good sous chef? 

Personally, I think it’s very important to connect with the team, to treat everyone with respect. There is always a nice way of saying things.

Read more: This Is Why Chef Jordy Navarra Is So Successful

2 / 5

Russ Javier, Wagyu Studio

Before opening Wagyu Studio. Russ Javier trained in Wagyumafia Hong Kong and worked at a pop up in MGM Macau for a month. He even worked at Jean George’s ABC Kitchen for a year and a half, training on the line. Back in the Philippines, he gained experience from various local eateries and trained with Raffles and Fairmont hotel group.

What has your journey been like with the restaurant?

I started out as just one of the junior chefs of the company. After some time, the kitchen team got smaller until there was a point where it was just Yoji and me left. From then on, we just became more used to each other and got more used to doing tasks together. Of course, he’s on another level, but I try my best to keep up. It’s fun to try and keep a healthy mindset and to never stop learning. He tries to push the team and me to do better all the time. 

Tell me about your culinary career thus far.

Starting my culinary path actually came a little late. I actually initially graduated from nursing!  Tried that for a bit and also got into other fields as well. However, I always felt there was something missing. Like there was no fulfillment. I kept getting restless. I was hungry for something and just didn't know what I wanted exactly. One day I thought to myself, food is what I love! This path was always in the back of my head but I always figured that it could be a hobby or something. Then I thought, no, if this is what I love, then why shouldn't I go all in? I enrolled in culinary school right away, and the rest is history. 

Read more: Where To Order Steak-Rice Trays

What is an important lesson you have learned that has made you a better chef? 

A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen. It pays off to be organised and clean in this job. A clear station equals a clear mind. The kitchen can get pretty busy and intense so if you can lessen the stress as much as possible, it will really pay off when you’re in the weeds. 

What is something valuable you have learned from chef Yoji? 

Always think ahead. Before things happen, he would like you to always be ready for anything. Working smart is important to him because the smoother the service, the better the experience will be for everyone. 

What do you like to cook for yourself when you are at home? 

Grilled cheese. Quick and always hits the spot.

What do you think it takes to be a good sous chef? 

Being able to understand not just the people you work with but the situations you get into. People will look to you to help with things and will rely on you. So it's on you to be able to be there for them.

What is essential to have good synergy in the kitchen, with you and all the other team members?

Communication. By communicating you develop a sense for one another. And by doing that you create a culture wherein you know that the person beside you will be there for you in return. Your coworkers become a team and eventually, your team becomes your family.

Read more: Wagyu Studio in BGC Is The Hottest Steakhouse In Town

3 / 5

Paolo Bayani, The Test Kitchen

Paolo Bayani has helped chef Josh Boutwood open the original Test Kitchen, the Rockwell branch, Savage and Helm. Today he is currently sous chef at The Test Kitchen.  Throughout their four years together this duo has perfected their teamwork. From an internship with chef Chele Gonzalez, Gaggan in Thailand, and Restaurant Andre in Singapore, chef Paolo’s skill set has definitely been sharpened while his love for food only continues to grow.

What has your journey been like with the restaurant?

I started in the Test Kitchen in Kamagong 2017 as a stagiere/intern, while we were waiting for the opening of Savage. I was then offered to open Savage as its head chef. It was a huge opportunity that I couldn't say no to so I just took it on as a challenge. As the restaurant grew, I myself grew and honed the skills and character needed to become a chef. We opened Helm a few months after. I have never stopped learning. 

Tell me about your culinary career and journey thus far. 

My culinary career started when I enrolled in cooking school. I then got an internship in Vask, which is now Gallery by Chele. Later on, chef Chele and chef Carlos Villaflor hired me for the more casual paella restaurant, Arrozeria, as a commis. I worked there for around a year before I decided I wanted to learn more. I was able to land an internship in Gaggan, Thailand and did two months there. While in Thailand, the head chef of Gaggan was able to get me another internship in Singapore, at Restaurant Andre.

Read more: Chef's Table With Josh Boutwood

Why did you want to become a chef? When did you fall in love with cooking?

I guess this started way back when I was like 10-12 years old, growing up in a very Filipino and Kapangpangan family, and living with my grandparents. I was around cooking every day; from seeing my lola picking Baguio beans, to straining the rice with the bilao. I was a young curious boy who'd always ask "what is this" and "why are we doing this". But then, life happened and I grew up and got busy with college. I ended up taking a four-year course and finished with a degree in financial management. Then I started to work in finance and marketing, but I wasn't happy with the career I was pursuing. I enrolled in culinary school and that was it.

What was a challenging experience you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

This would probably be the time we opened Savage because it was my first big opportunity. There was a lot of pressure into opening a restaurant, balancing the management of not only the restaurant's inventory, and food quality, but also the staff's training and ethics. Aside from that, there was also the physical aspect of working 12-14 hours a day. At times it was too much. But I wasn't that guy who'd give up on an opportunity. I just looked at it as part of the process of something I enjoy doing. I learned to turn those long days into challenges, and focused on having fun while cooking.

What is an important lesson you have learned that has made you a better chef?

I think that I am still learning, every day. That is the lesson that's gonna be keeping me on my toes and will continue to make me a better chef. Never stop learning.

Read more: Try Josh Boutwood's Artisanal Gelato

What is something valuable you have learned from chef Josh?

One thing we always say when we find ourselves in a pickle of a situation is: keep your head down, work harder, let things happen and just never forget why we do this in the first place. 

What do you like to cook for yourself when you are at home?

Haha, probably eggs. Fried or scrambled. I rarely have time for breakfast and dinner due to the working hours so the fastest way of getting full is eggs, and they are a bit healthier than fast food. And, of course, coffee!

What do you think it takes to be a good sous chef?

It just takes a lot of strength, both mental and physical. You also need the right mentor and the drive to not only grow as a chef, but also pass on those strengths to the team. Make sure you share whatever knowledge you have with the team. A good sous chef would never be good if the team isn't.

What is essential to have good synergy in the kitchen, with you and all the other team members?

Show you have trust in each member of the team, and play around with their strengths. Use that to keep them motivated. I was lucky to have opened almost three restaurants under chef Josh, so I have been able to deal with different team members. We've always treated them with the trust that chef gives me to handle the restaurant. Also, of course, having a few drinks after a long and busy week definitely makes a good impact on the team. In the end, I think that how we feel while cooking translates to each dish we send out to our guests. So make sure to cook with passion and happiness! 

Read more: Savage Re-Opens With A Re-Focused Mindset

4 / 5

Victor Mercado, Gallery By Chele

For three years, Victor Mercado has worked alongside chef Chele Gonzalez, contributing to the growth and success of Gallery by Chele. At the restaurant, he started as a market chef, with the task of building strong relationships with local vendors and farmers while on the hunt for the finest produce. Chef Victor would then bring all his finds back to Gallery by Chele and help prep for service. Nowadays, he is not only responsible for overseeing the kitchen operations - he dabbles in R&B at Stvdio Lab with chefs Chele and Carlos Villaflor as well.

Tell me about your culinary career and journey thus far.

I started my professional cooking career in a big catering company. My experience before was different, but it helped me mould myself and my career and got me to where I am today. I never really had a fine dining experience before working in Gallery, to be honest. I learned cooking by reading books, watching Iron Chef, Top Chef, Cooking Master Boy, Shokugeki, and from my chef friends. From there I went to culinary school while I was already working in Gallery by Chele. 

Why did you want to become a chef? When did you fall in love with cooking? 

I love cooking (and eating)! It's the only thing I'm good at that can bring people together. 

What is a challenging experience you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it? 

Burning out. Rest. Pick yourself up. Find inspiration in those around you and remember why you started. 

What is an important lesson you have learned that has made you a better chef?

Being in the kitchen alone is stressful enough already, so don't be an asshole. As a chef, you have to be a good leader. As a chef, you should teach, not tell. Being a good leader means empathising with the people around you. 

Read more: You Need To Try Chef Chele's Burnt Basque Cheesecake

What is something valuable you have learned from Chef Chele?

Chef Chele opened my eyes to the importance of using locally sourced ingredients from responsible and sustainable suppliers. He’s taught me how to uplift traditional Filipino food into something exciting.

What do you like to cook for yourself when you are at home? 

I love baking bread and pastries when I'm at home. 

What do you think it takes to be a good sous chef? 

Proper planning, communication and delegation. 

What is essential to have good synergy in the kitchen, with you and all the other team members?

Teamwork. You need to have a common goal. One team, one dream.

Read more: What Is Deli By Chele?

5 / 5

Patrick Ambrosio, Metronome

Chef Patrick met chef Miko Calo while working at Joel Robuchon in Singapore. Their relationship blossomed into what it is now, one filled with synergy and spectacular food. For two years now this duo has been responsible for Metronome’s fine food. “Seeing how much the restaurant and the team has grown  is something I value and appreciate.”

What has your journey with the restaurant been like?

I started as the sous chef, and so far it has been great! Of course a lot of ups and downs, but that’s part of any journey.

Tell me about your culinary career and journey thus far. 

I studied culinary arts at De La Salle – College of St. Benilde. After graduation, I worked with Chef Sau del Rosario at Chelsea in BGC then with chef Colin Mackay and Kerwin Go at Sala bistro in Greenbelt. In 2010 I moved to Singapore and had the opportunity to work at Osteria Mozza of Nancy Silverton. After, I then moved to Joel Robuchon where I met Miko. This is where I learned the discipline and focus needed to excel in the culinary world.

Why did you want to become a chef? When did you fall in love with cooking? 

My family and relatives have a big appetite and appreciate all kinds of Asian cuisine, which led me to develop an interest in cooking at the age of 13. Curious about how to cook certain dishes, I started experimenting at home. I’d tag along with my mum to the grocery and buy ingredients. Somehow that gave me an idea to pursue culinary arts, and from then on I totally fell in love.

Read more: Remembering Joel Robuchon

What is a challenging experience you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it? 

There are different languages in every kitchen. A perfect example would be in Robuchon, orders were called out in French and the chef will have the only copy of the orders. One time in the kitchen an order was called and I knew the name of the dish but, had no clue on how many to prepare and about the sequence of the rest of it. So, I had to learn from my sous chefs and colleagues every morning.

What is an important lesson you have learned that has made you a better chef?

Knowing the importance of how to organise and prioritise. I can’t do everything by myself. Especially with all the tasks and prep needed in the kitchen. Delegating is key!

What is something valuable you have learned from Chef Miko? 

There are too many to mention, but the most valuable is perseverance. Keep pushing on even when everything is stacked up against you but always be sure to still lend a helping hand when needed.

What do you like to cook for yourself when you are at home? 

I usually go for Asian like chicken or beef curry or anything pasta.

Read more: Learn About Metronome's Take On French Cuisine

What do you think it takes to be a good sous chef? 

To be a good sous chef you need an aligned vision between you and your chef. Believe in the food that you cook and the people you work with. Most importantly, you need to know what your chef wants before he or she says it haha.

What is essential to having good synergy in the kitchen, with you and all the other team members?

I would say to have trust and respect for each and every person you work with. Communicate clearly and lead by example.

Read more: What is Lazy Oeuf By Metronome?