Three Filipino-American chefs were recently in the Philippines to join the government in promoting the country’s culinary tourism through the Department of Tourism’s “Chef’s Food Trip Project”.

The two-week tour project started on November 10, with Filipino-American chefs Tom Cunanan and Grant “Lanai” Tabura, visiting provinces across the country to explore each places’ rich culinary scene.

Since November 10, Cunanan of Bad Saint in Washington D.C. and Tabura, Winner of the Great Food Truck Race, have been touring various culinary destinations, with Quezon City as a starting point moving up north to Pampanga.

Now joined by Chef Charles Olalia of Ma’am Sir restaurant in Los Angeles for the rest of the tour legs, the chefs will be going around the two nearby cities of Iloilo and Bacolod from November 14 to 16, featuring a tour around Jaro Huebesan market in Iloilo and a food crawl to sample Ilonggo specialties like the Decos La Paz Batchoy, Tatoy’s darag native chicken, and pasalubong favorites including the original barquillos of De Ocampo’s, and the famed Roberto’s siopao.

The group is also set to visit the Farm to Table restaurant for a special Ilonggo merienda cena, and the Camiña Balay nga Bato to try a cup of hot tablea or two, in the whole-day tour curated by Iloilo’s pride, Rafael Jardeleza Jr. or Chef “Tibong”, as he is more popularly known.

According to DOT, the chefs will be joining the interactive symposium called DOT x WOFEX University Fun Food Talks, a series of events in each tour leg where the invited Fil-Am chefs will interact with local food enthusiasts, as well as culinary and tourism students through talks and cooking demonstrations.

At the tour’s Pampanga leg last Thursday, Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the DOT decided to invite opinion leaders, referring to the Fil-Am chefs, to visit the Philippines, to learn more about Filipino dishes and culinary destinations, so that they could expand their Filipino food offerings, and serve as ambassadors for Philippine food tourism.

“I want people to come here and taste the food not only in Metro Manila, because we have provinces where there are so many recipes they can taste. For example, we have lechon (roasted pig) in every province but it’s done differently with different ingredients, and then we have different kinds of pancit (noodles), laing and chicken inasal,” she said.

“Everybody keeps saying that Filipino food is the next big thing; but I think, it is now ‘The Thing’, with Filipino-descent culinary geniuses making names of their own abroad,” she noted.

Cunanan recently noted that he learned a lot during the technical visit saying, “As someone who doesn’t cook that much, save for some collaborations I have, being with these prominent culinary figures from the Philippines is pretty amazing and I am learning a lot.

The chefs’ also were scheduled to Davao City on November 18-19. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)

Top photo: CULINARY TOURISM. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat with two of the most celebrated US-based Fililipino-American chefs Tom Cunanan (left) and Lanai Tabura (right) at the 18th-century heritage home of Augusto Hizon in San Fernando, Pampanga. (Photo courtesy of DOT)