Food is changing all the time. A quote by American chef Sherry Yard perfectly expresses this need for change: “I view trends in food like haute couture. From wild, wonderful, and wacky come changes, growth, and evolution.”
There are trend reports and research that can show where the industry will head during this time. But, to understand what's going on in our local industry, the spotlight needs to be focused on the people who passionately work in the field, whether as entrepreneurs, chefs, media, bakers, content creators, or many other careers. They are the people that will drive the changes.
That being said, I interviewed several personalities in the industry about their recent experiences and what excites them about food. Here are eight developments that we all need to look out for:
Chefs get personal in their restaurants. There is a return of fine dining, but with a personal touch. The kitchen serves as the stage. The food service is the performance.
Chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou, chef, author, and host of Simpol Kitchen, shared, “The market has returned with enthusiasm and more sophistication that allows chefs and restaurateurs to push more creative and premium concepts than before.” Because of this, he started his private dining concept, Tatung's, in Antipolo, which is by reservations only, offering tasting menus and wine pairing.
Chef Sau Del Rosario, chef-owner of Cafe Fleur and now, Sawsaw, shares the same sentiments. He said, “My dream project is coming to reality as Sawsaw opens its door this month. It is my interpretation of Filipino cuisine. Its grassroots, heritage, and stories of each Filipino recipe are highlighted.” He cites how Poblacion and Rockwell are becoming food havens, with concepts like Helm by Boutwood, Japonesa, One World Butchers, and Fook Yah.
City dining and taste buds level up. Karla Zulueta, a serial entrepreneur, known for food concepts such as Apéritif and Pizzulu, saw more experiential places popping up after a long haul lockdown. She said, “I must say this is quite the beginning of an era where Filipino food brands can be recognized on a worldly scale, not just because of flavors, but also focusing on creative brand impact.”
She mentions places like The Spirits Library, Metiz, La Picara, Wildflour, and Pizzulu, which opened its first restaurant in BGC.
With the boom of new dining spots, she said, “Apéritif will pivot, as well, to retail very soon. Experience is key for the Filipino market.”
Chef Alvin Ong, the chef-owner of Sourdough Cafe & Deli, shared the same insight as Karla. He said, “people are becoming particular in ingredients or food items, e.g., cheeses, wines, and beers.”
“We're expanding our knowledge, not with what is just available, but heading into 'What makes this special?” he added. This mindset will go into trends like wine, sake, nouvelle cuisine, coffee (Habitual Coffee, Hisbeans), ramen (Ohayo Maki and Ramen Bar), and bread.
Neighborhood cafes encourage road trips and bike rides. Besides dining in usual city spots in BGC or Poblacion, Filipinos have found new hobbies such as taking road trips or going on long bike rides.
Chef Anne Atanacio, CCA Manila instructor, and owner of Anghelica's, recently took her class to Burrow Café at Antipolo Beehouse. She said, "A lot of Filipino chefs, who had stints or interned abroad, are now going back home and opening their restaurants (Mrs. Saldo's, Ijo Bakery)."
“As a culinary educator, I update my students about these chefs to inspire them. I love that concept cafes are opening up everywhere in the Rizal area - my hometown. No need to drive to the city to get my weekly cafe fix,”
Aside from social activities, some indulge in “masturdating,” which is the act of taking yourself out on typical date activities, all alone.
For example, Raymund Aaron, who works in the family business, Villa Socorro Farm known for Sabanana banana chips, shared, “Since I go to the farm weekly, I masturdate and take detours to local restos and new cafes, mostly in Laguna but sometimes in Cavite and Batangas. There's so much good food, especially when cooked from the heart.”
Chefs explore regional ingredients, blending new techniques with traditions. Last year, there was an uproar over the government setting standards on adobo. Mars Aaron, the father of Raymund and also the founder of Villa Socorro Farm, sees that there will also be the nationalization of regional products like pancit Malabon, sisig, laing, Bicol express, etc.
Beyond the dishes, Don Baldosano, chef-owner of Linamnam, a dining spot known for its ever-changing tasting menu, believes there will be hyperfocus on products such as asin or salt.
“The artistry that goes into creating the local salts that we have is just on another level. The nuisances of the salts that we have are just something else.” He lists sea salt from Pampanga and Bulacan, artisanal salts like Asin Tibook from Bohol, Duldul in Guimaras, Asin sa Buy-o from Zambales as just some of the local salts worth knowing.
Central to our cuisine is the focus on the stories. Thirdy Dolatre, one of the owners and chefs at Hapag, said he and his colleagues “were wowed by how this young man (Don Baldosano) went deep into his research on Filipino cuisine. We truly learned a lot from him as he generously shares his research stories, cooking style, and approach to Filipino cuisine.” He and the other owners of Hapag share a similar philosophy of exploring new flavors while respecting traditions.
Caring for your body and the planet is a motivator for customers. More than ever, health is wealth. Monica Mendiola-Salazar, Co-Founder of Take Root, has believed this saying for a long time as she started her business with kale chips and branched out to other junk-free snacks such as Cauliflower Poppers and Peanut Butter Cups.
“The 'health doesn't have to be boring' approach is not just some far off idea, but is actually being put into practice. Local restaurants and brands are stepping up and getting more creative and experimental with their better-for-you offerings,” she said.
She envisions that consumers will also be into low-impact eating. She shared, “Consumers are more in touch with their values than ever before and becoming more intentional about their purchase decisions, and are considering how their choices impact the world at large.”
Meat lovers have options to go meatless. Gerry San Miguel, blogger of Dude For Food, said, “The one that excites me the most is the rise of plant-based options in retail and online delivery, restaurants (Green Bar Cafe), and even fast-food chains.”
He lists various options from meatless sausages, ground or shredded meat, spring rolls, burger patties, and even ham. Even when it comes to Filipino dishes, we could go more plant-forward. Don Baldosano predicted, “Pretty soon, we'll be seeing a lot more vegetable dishes like your traditional laswa’reinvented to maybe a more creative Bicol Express na Talongor even Salpicao na Gulay.”
TikTok and collaborations introduce nostalgic flavors with a twist. Diana Aaron-Ong, the marketer of Villa Socorro Farm and creator of online group Eat Lokal, cited their own company's experience producing collaborative products such as Sabanana and Chocnut. She suggested that "maybe incorporating favorite Filipino dishes as flavors for snacks like Kare-Kare savory peanut butter or Sinigang Chips."
Gelo Guison, chef and Tiktok content creator, said, “Many trends are being created with ingredients that we already have in our pantries.” For example, the thick Milo trend, which is the mixture of Milo powder and condensed milk, is poured over shaved ice. He added that with TikTok, “There's a democratization of food right now.”
E-commerce connects overseas Filipino communities to their roots. Online marketplaces and digital payment systems made it easier for people to sell Filipino products anywhere. This is the case and point for Grace Guinto and Fides Mae Santos, co-founders of The Entree.Pinays—a collective of entrepreneurs introducing Filipino cuisine and culture to Australians.
They shared, “We're also keen on further building our offering on Merkado by The Entree.Pinays” It’s an online marketplace that showcases Filipino made, designed and sourced products in Australia.
One of the products they love right now is Calamansi Juice by Saint C. This product makes it easy for Filipinos in Australia to satisfy their craving for calamansi, which any Filipino would know doesn't compare to lemons or limes.
You only have to drive around or look online to know that the rebound in the local industry is fast. Traffic is back, pop-up shops are open, and dining is bustling.
Chef Myke Tatung was right that there is a sense of enthusiasm toward the local food industry. But, perhaps, we are all just hungry to move forward and experience food outside of our homes.