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Filipino-Norwegian restaurateur draws backlash after saying Filipino food is ‘very bad’ on national TV

By Brooke Villanueva Published May 03, 2021 5:31 pm Updated May 05, 2021 1:30 pm

A Filipino-Norwegian restaurateur made the rounds on social media after “insulting” Filipino food on national television.

Jonathan Romano, a sushi chef and MasterChef Norway judge, said quite bluntly on the TV show "4-stjerners middag" that Filipino food is “very bad” when he was asked about the Filipino food tradition. 

“It’s very bad food. In the eyes of a chef, there is no food art in my eyes, unfortunately. Lots of deep-fried, lots of fried-to-death stuff like casserole dishes if you can put it that way,” he said (as translated by online show NordicPinoy). “They do not have the same taste composition as Thai food. Filipino food is more on the sour side.” 

Romero, however, later noted that “there are many other nice things in the Philippines” like the beaches, where he would love to be “on holiday as a tourist.”

His searing remarks garnered different reactions from Filipino netizens, chefs, and foodies online. Food historian Ige Ramos, for one, found it “insensitive, offensive, and humiliating to the people you left behind.” 

The team handling a Facebook page dedicated to the late Doreen Gamboa-Fernandez—who was a food anthropologist and considered as the dean of Philippine food writing —said, “Let us help Chef Jonathan out of his bind. Perhaps he lacks sufficient material to deepen his understanding of Philippine culture, history, and the diversity of our cuisines.” 

Additionally, the Philippine Embassy in Norway has released a statement regarding the matter. “Whoever says Philippine cuisine is 'dårlig mat' (bad food) should definitely visit the Philippines to discover and rediscover the richness, freshness, and regional variety of Filipino food,” it wrote in a post. 

“Filipino food across the country’s 7,641 islands have different flavors and colors and influenced by the Philippines’ natural resources, culture, and history. Filipino food also reflects the sharing attitude and generosity of Filipinos. You can never leave a Filipino home without being invited to share a meal,” the agency added. 

For his part, Jonathan Romano has issued a public apology for his offensive comments. “I apologize for the words that came out on my TV appearance lately. Everything came out of context and I am so sorry,” he said. “I am an educated chef with long experience and was just giving my subjective opinion. Of course, I like Filipino food and would not badmouth without backing it up.” 

Romano has since deactivated his Facebook account as of press time

“I am born in the Philippines in Manila and pay my visit there over 30 times and of course, I love my country. However, I will admit that my mother can’t cook," he added.

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