In 2017, Chef Margarita “Gaita” Fores – “Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016 – marked three decades of promoting and raising the image of Filipino cuisine to international standards. Today, she presides over a business empire that consists of the restaurant chain Cibo, Lusso at Greenbelt, Grace Park in Rockwell and Alta at the Ascott BGC as well as catering and flower arrangements among other endeavors.
During those years, the love for local produce and ingredients grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to the tireless efforts of Fores and her peers, who are committed to bringing fresh and innovative dining concepts to the Filipino table.
Here are her musings on welcome developments in the local food scene.
- It has taken us a while to learn to love our own (food). Now, we’ve stopped trying to put our cuisine in a box and are now accepting that it is a combination of all the beautiful cultures that have touched our history. At the same time, we have also learned to celebrate what was there before all these outside influences.
- We finally appreciate what a great people we are, influenced perhaps by factors such as Manny Pacquiao winning or Typhoon Yolanda’s effect on visitors who came here to help and their discovery of what a beautiful country we had; how delicious our food was; and how resilient the Filipinos were.
- There is now a real resolve among chefs in the industry to want to work with local ingredients. Thanks to the Department of Agriculture, we are informed about what the farmers are growing and the Department of Tourism that got us to participate into the more influential food events abroad such the slow food fair in Torino and Gruene-Volk in Berlin, the largest organic food show in the world, where the Philippines had a booth showcasing our exporters.
- These activities had a snowball effect on young chefs who are so involved in the using local ingredients movement. We, more senior chefs, love the fact that all the young are doing really creative and crazy ingenious things in the kitchen.
- There is less of the presence of the middle man since these days we work directly with the farmers.
- It’s “cool” to be a farmer now that there is greater demand for local, native produce like heirloom rice. My niece is into farming, and so are her friends.
- Chefs are sharing their suppliers with others chefs. If this wasn’t happening, farmers are going to stop growing produce because their market will be limited to just a few. We need the farmers to grow produce into a critical mass, and they need to organize themselves. That way, supplies will always be assured.