Filipino chef dazzles British public in TV competition

Stacey C. Slagle

Chef Rex De Guzman (right) with Jamie Oliver and finalists on The Wonderful Cookbook Obstacle. INSTAGRAM

LONDON, Uk – The relationship is choppy when London-born Filipino chef Rex De Guzman logs onto our video get in touch with and flashes a cheeky grin. Dressed smart everyday, he’s sitting in a ramen cafe with the sounds of cutlery clinking and folks conversing in the history.

“I’m in Tonkotsu in Stratford,” he tells me in his upbeat Southeast London accent. “Just meeting a pal here for lunch soon after this job interview.”

Chatting to a grainy, portrait-manner De Guzman over Zoom feels odd soon after viewing him in High definition on British television for the past several months. The formidable Filipino chef and founder of the award-winning road food stall ‘Turo Turo’ has just appear away from the emotional grand finale of the manufacturer new food items levels of competition, The Wonderful Cookbook Problem,hosted by British culinary huge Jamie Oliver and broadcast on general public-service community Channel 4.

The televised level of competition is a seven-section series in which budding cookbook authors compete to win a offer with Jamie Oliver’s publisher, Penguin Michael Joseph, who has labored with some of the world’s biggest writers, like Marianne Keys, Eckhart Tolle, alongside with cooks which includes The Terrific British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain.

I in no way considered I’d witness movie star chef Jamie Oliver utter the term ginataan, marvel at the taste of bagoong, soar in excitement at atsuete or dip his spoon into a pot of kare-kare bubbling on a stove – but it’s transpired, on United kingdom nationwide Tv, and it’s all down to De Guzman.

Stepping into the culinary spotlight

Considering that the competition aired, 7 days immediately after 7 days, De Guzman has grow to be known to tens of millions close to the British isles for bringing Filipino foodstuff and culture into mainstream recognition with a passion, eyesight and finesse earlier unseen by the nation – one thing that this creator, as a fellow British-born Filipino in London, feels is particularly thrilling to see.

During the competition’s finale, the panel of media judges – such as newspaper critics, grocery store purchasers and social media food items connoisseurs – unanimously agreed that De Guzman served the finest desk, with an explosive perception of flavor, complexity, and uniqueness in his solution to Philippine cuisine that they’d by no means expert ahead of.

Chef Rex De Guzman's take on Ensaladang Talong during The Great Cookbook Challenge. INSTAGRAM

Chef Rex De Guzman’s consider on Ensaladang Talong through The Wonderful Cookbook Challenge. INSTAGRAM

Responses from the judges was that De Guzman’s cookbook – doing the job title Curiously Filipino – would fare much better in on the net profits and internet marketing than standard foods publishing routes in British supermarkets. As this sort of, the closing book offer went to one more chef, 1 with a more general pan-Asian focus in her cookbook. But not profitable the levels of competition looks only to have opened even extra doors for De Guzman and his culinary career.


With so a lot of opportunities blossoming in advance of him, I communicate to De Guzman about his journey into turning out to be a chef, what it implies to symbolize his place, and his ideas for the potential.

Reconnecting with roots, a single dish at a time


De Guzman was born in Southwark, South London, to an Ilocano mother and a father from Bulacan. He does not discuss Tagalog – some thing that ignited his drive and wish to connect with his heritage via a language he does converse: food.

Skillfully educated, De Guzman retains around 10 yrs of working experience in the culinary industry, ranging from great dining places to eat like Gordon Ramsay’s ‘MAZE’ (now ‘Lucky Cat’) to performing as a non-public chalet chef at the globe-famed French ski report Val D’isere, to creating his own award-winning Filipino street meals stall Turo Turo in 2018.

At Turo Turo ( kingdom), De Guzman specialises in infusing traditional Philippine dishes and flavors with contemporary clarity and innovation in a mission to popularize the delicacies for British isles audiences and outside of. Turo Turo has given that catered for world industrial brands like Amazon and Adidas and gained Very best Vegan Dish at the 2019 British Avenue Food items Awards.

De Guzman went to catering college for 3 many years just before putting in back-breaking hrs at restaurants all around the town. His entrepreneurial state of mind observed the positive aspects of pursuing and environment up his own eatery early on: “Working in the business, it’s seriously tiring perform. I recognized that if I was heading to be putting in these forms of hours, creating incredible food and developing recipes, then why not get started my very own issue? I was very younger and bold. The desire to reconnect to my individual roots was robust, and it obviously led in direction of Filipino food.”

Just before beginning Turo Turo, his journey into redefining Filipino food commenced with a 3-month culinary tour of the Philippines, accompanied by his tita, who traveled all over the place with him and aided translate his food stuff mission throughout the areas.

At just one position, he finished up cooking arroz caldo risotto for a local Ifugao tribe throughout their excursion to Banaue – a instant he recalls with fondness: “We went to go buy rice from the nearby shop, one with all the diverse grains. The Ifugao household ate two parts of my risotto, which intended a good deal to me.”

Subsequent the trip, De Guzman ran a number of pop-ups and served a multicourse tasting menu at his catering university for the charity Bantay Bata 163, with dishes motivated by spots visited on his excursion, like Pampanga-encouraged adobo, Banaue-impressed risotto, and Bacolod-motivated inasal.

De Guzman also catered the stand for the Office of Tourism Philippines at the Environment Vacation Industry (WTM), an once-a-year travel exhibition that sees above 51,000 attendees throughout media, tourism and vacation go as a result of its doorways about a 3-day period.

He suggests: “Representing Philippine delicacies for the tourism board was wonderful, undoubtedly a defining accomplishment in my journey. Then a additional new spotlight has been The Terrific Cookbook Challenge.”


Bringing boodle fights to the Uk culinary zeitgeist

Throughout the competitiveness, the British general public viewed the Filipino chef provide his refreshing requires on typical dishes like adobo, leche flan and ensaladang talong. Along with viewers, globally renowned chef Jamie Oliver was just as riveted by the overseas substances on De Guzman’s table.

“I was nervous to meet Jamie Oliver at 1st for the reason that he’s such a legend, you know, his brand name, his title, he’s so renowned. But he immediately just desires to link with you and make you sense at ease, which served massively, so you can emphasis on the meals. When we started out filming he was so easy likely and approachable that by the 2nd episode, I felt a lot more comfortable, and I was more ready to demonstrate what I was building.”

De Guzman expounds: “The knowledge was intriguing for the reason that [Jamie Oliver] was generally discovering, it was great to clearly show him one thing he’s in no way witnessed ahead of, like bagoong. That was enjoyable. He was receptive and he often needs to discover a little something new, so that allowed me to just do what I do and convey the information I preferred to express about Filipino food items.”

Contemplating which dishes he felt ended up most important all through the opposition, the chef suggests: “Probably the arroz caldo risotto and the boodle battle. The boodle battle was this kind of a wonderful way to showcase the essence of Filipino cuisine and what we’re all about. But the rice dish was so, so individual to me. It implies anything, it signifies how I join with my culture.”

The rice dish formed a vital and tense second of television for the duration of the opposition, when times just before the dish was shot by a well known food stuff photographer, De Guzman made the decision last moment to remove all props and simply scatter grains of uncooked white rice across the table – a conclusion that paid off, as the judges observed the grains genius in their simplicity.

Reflecting on the episode, De Guzman suggests: “Because that dish was so particular, I was seeking to give so considerably of that meal to that photograph. But then I understood it’s about the ingredients and you can notify a tale without way too lots of props. The good thing is the selection worked in my favor.”

Educating foodies on Philippine cuisine is a thing that De Guzman is no stranger to. He was recently approached to co-host a meals study course, “The Filipino Kitchen area,” with Rassa ( – a food education system that teaches students how to become a extra innovative chef by diving deep into the foundations and making blocks of a culture’s delicacies.

“I loved functioning with Rassa since they genuinely allow every chef co-style and design the system and seek out the very best way to educate people about their delicacies. I was featured together with Filipino chefs Budgie Montoya, fellow Londoner Mark Corbyn, and Gene Gonzales.”

“The a few modules in the course actually enable type the building blocks of Filipino delicacies, so module 1 handles critical flavours and ingredients, module two handles cooking procedures, and module a few handles culinary influences.”

Shelling out regard to what has occur before

Considering that De Guzman’s culinary vocation started off with a journey again to the motherland, it seems that his qualified coaching and personalized angle toward innovation is that, to make on or adapt some thing, you ought to initial pay back homage to what came before. I inquire him what assistance he would give to a budding young chef searching to put their very own spin on their delicacies.

De Guzman responds: “You actually need to have to realize the origins of your dishes and regard the traditions in advance of you can set your personal spin on anything. Frequently folks want to skip straight to the experimental section, or on the other facet of that, get a bit far too ‘cheffy’ and technological about the cooking, like ‘how can I make improvements to this?’ But in my opinion, you need to understand and respect standard flavors very first. Then you can bring your individual working experience and suggestions to it, find out as a result of demo and error.”

“When you are producing a new dish or take on a little something, for me, fewer is more. Exam the boundaries and be genuine with yourself, get trustworthy feedback, then come across that middle ground. Obviously, if you are seeking to win a Michelin star, then breaking boundaries in your artistry is crucial. For me, personally, with more and far more encounter I’ve figured out how to restrain myself – specifically throughout the cookbook competition – with the intention of making the foods as very simple and available as achievable for others to make.”

“For me, I was skeptical about how Filipinos would get the dishes I have well prepared, but they’ve essentially been so supportive. I genuinely assumed a great deal of Filipinos would think my meals might search dry or be way too edgy. The group response has been overpowering.”

The responsibility of symbolizing a country


With a unexpected influx of options coming his way, De Guzman is evolving into an approachable individuality with whom British foodies can just take the leap into Filipino tradition. I question how it feels to represent the Philippines on these kinds of a enormous amount, with all eyes on him.

“I actually really don’t even know how to set it into words,” De Guzman says, shaking his head and chuckling. “It’s a enormous accountability, I know, and a single that has now turn out to be substantially even larger than myself. Currently being aspect of that, I’m just happy, as considerably as I’m aware, to be undertaking it on the correct level. It’s an complete honour and everyone’s so supportive. It implies all the things.”

 “The function is just starting. I need to keep consistent, to what else I can to market our food items. Now that I have experienced the exposure, it is exciting to be heading together this journey. I have generally accomplished this, but now that delivers like guide promotions and Tv set segments are popping up, it feels new for anyone. It’s unchartered territory. I just have to personal it.”

Concerning possible book bargains, Tv options, and his extended-time period small business goal of evolving his road meals company Turo Turo into a brick-and-mortar cafe, De Guzman has a whole lot on his plate. But the chef seems grounded and practical about his up coming move.

“I’m taking items as they arrive. No matter whether it’s this 12 months or up coming, I’d really like to have Turo Turo become a restaurant. Then there are new offers to be manufactured.”

He requires a sip of water and grins, incorporating: “The most remarkable point is that it all comes down to what I do, which is generating terrific Filipino food stuff.”

Come across Chef Rex De Guzman at or @chefrexdeguzman. – Melissa Legarda @illumelation

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