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A journey to the roots of taste
Manila's Toyo Eatery wins the Miele One To Watch Award
Jordy Navarra is a passionate explorer of the culinary identity of his home country. What began with a children's song, became one of the most exciting restaurants in Asia.
Manila, the flourishing capital of the Philippines, is vibrant, exciting and full of potential. It has established itself as an international melting pot, showcasing many cultural influences, global currents and local traditions in its vivid atmosphere and world-class cuisine.
The Philippine Archipelago was an essential intersection of shipping routes, bringing Chinese traders, Spanish colonisers and Malaysian envoys to dock at its shores. It acquired a vast treasury of spices, ingredients and recipes. Manila grew to become the apex of a gentle movement that aims to rediscover a very particular culinary heritage.
Amongst the chefs based in Manila, Jordy Navarra at the helm of the Toyo Eatery is undoubtedly one of the rising stars in contemporary Asian cuisine. The young master chef travelled the world, working at such distinguished restaurants as Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck and Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. Upon returning to Manila, Navarra was inspired to explore the culinary identity of his home country and reinterpreted it with the gastronomic technique he had gathered from around the world. "From the start, our mission at Toyo Eatery has been to reassess, rediscover and find a deeper understanding of Filipino culture through food."
And so, it all started: with a children's song!
"My humble hut, (it) may look tiny, but the veggies around, (they) sure are many."
The start of this old Filipino nursery rhyme, Bahay Kubo, recounts the simple joys of a plentiful harvest in a humble setting. This simple line perfectly captures the Toyo philosophy. It is about graciousness and bountifulness in its many aspects. While delving ever deeper into the Tagalog culture, Navarra created a signature dish that enraptured food critics across the board. Utilizing all 18 ingredients listed throughout the rhyme, he deconstructed them to create an earthy, molecular-inspired salad (that isn't a salad in any conventional sense) that manages to unite tradition and modernism into one coherent and persuasive vision.
For Navarra, molecular technique goes hand in hand with local ingredients, and heritage and tradition inform modernist philosophy. He states: "It was cultural, yet with local, everyday vegetables, therefore it tasted Filipino if you were thinking of the concept of terroir. Filipino food is diverse, and it's fun, too."
The journey back to the original flavours, ingredients and textures of his childhood is the key to explore the new heights of Filipino culture: a way to discover and reaffirm the identity of an astonishingly diverse nation.
And this brings us right into the present, where Jordy Navarra and his Toyo Eatery is the recipient of the 2018 Miele One To Watch Award.
A young talent, advancing the cuisine with creative flair
Until recently, the award was presented each year to a restaurant which had already secured a place on the revered Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. However, since 2016 the academy members decided to throw a spotlight on the most promising chef of the future, identifying a rising talent who is not part of the list yet but likely to enter it in no time.
"With a menu celebrating local culture and traditional dishes, chef-owner Jordy Navarra is a young talent who is advancing the cuisine with creative flair and a progressive approach, but also with precision and attention to detail." William Drew, Group Editor of "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants", is giving kudos to Navarra's work, pointing out that the Toyo Eatery perfectly embodies the spirit of the "Miele One To Watch Award".
Navarra set out to give Filipinos a new insight into their culture and origins by putting Filipino recipes in the context of terroir. He easily outperforms this goal, projecting an attitude which is exemplary and preeminent.
"Toyo Eatery impresses us by taking everyday local ingredients and recipes and bringing them to the level of culinary excellence with passion, expertise and a progressive approach," says Mario Miranda, Regional Managing Director Asia at Miele. "This same attitude," he continues, "involving constant improvement and innovation are part of Miele's 'Immer Besser' brand philosophy. We are honoured to present this year's Miele One To Watch Award to Jordy Navarra and the team of Toyo Eatery."
Navarra will formally accept the honour at the sixth annual "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Awards", at Wynn Palace, Macao, on the 27th of March.
Author: Philipp Gosselck
Photos: © Toyo Eatery