MEGA Ball 2024: The Tastemakers

MEGA Ball 2024: The Tastemakers


These are the chefs whose dishes raise the bar in flavors and presentation. Their restaurants are the meeting points of the chic, fashionable, and tasteful set. 

We sat down with the MEGA Ball 2024 Awardees — chefs who essentially lead the way in Metro Manila’s thriving food scene — and they shared the philosophy in how they approach their craft. 

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Josh Boutwood, Chef/Owner of Savage, Test Kitchen, Helm, Ember

“I’ve got triangles all over my arms and everywhere, it’s my favorite shape. The dishes are created in a triangular fashion. We have three main ingredients, we also have three main flavor profiles and we create dishes based on that triangular shape as a basis of all my dishes in every single one of my restaurants no matter what the concept. We put a lot of focus on sourcing amazing ingredients. We don’t like to work an ingredient so much that it loses the true essence of its flavor — of how it should be. Instead, we just source a really good ingredient and work with it as little as possible, just to amplify the perfect notes. Then the other ingredients are there to give balance and give story to the dish.” 

Margarita Fores, Chef/Restaurateur Cibo, Lusso, Grace Park Dining, The Loggia by Margarita Fores

“Although I started doing Italian food first, I think the journey that I had taken allowed me to discover our own cuisine. What I really push for and advocate today is showcasing the best of the Philippines with the best of the world.” 

Chef Stephan Duhesme, Chef/Owner Metiz and Automat

“We’re a very flavor-forward restaurant. Flavor is the primary drive of everything that we do in Metiz and Automat. At the end of the day, it’s going to taste good. It just so happens that we’re using Filipino food as a medium. Is Filipino food the next best thing? For us as a team, it’s already been established that Filipino food is delicious and it’s great. It doesn’t have to prove itself to anybody. By already getting that fact out of the way, it allows us to focus on making delicious food. That’s our philosophy, we don’t ask questions that don’t need to be answered.”

Chef Miko Calo, Chef 

“For me, my technique will always be French. As for the ethos of my philosophy as a cook, I give importance and respect to the ingredients and respect the flavors of the ingredients. I will always highlight produce. With that, my cooking becomes more personal. It starts to tie with my heritage, my childhood, my experience living abroad and working in French kitchens and living in different cities all ties to how I put things on the plate. So it’s always very personal. The execution becomes very personal.”

Chef Joris Rycken, Executive Chef of Shangri-La The Fort

“My overall cooking philosophy: Not too much on the plate. I think very fresh, pure ingredients on the plate, high quality, maybe with three to four items more. I’m not the one to put too many flavors on the plate because sometimes it’s too confusing. If you do steak, if you do fish, the main item of the dish must be the highlight and I don’t think  you must put too much around it.” 

Chef Margarita Manzke, Pastry Chef/Owner of Republique Restaurant

“My cooking philosophy is less is more, also working with the best ingredients that you can get. WIth that, if you have a perfect peach, a perfect piece of fruit, you don’t have to do much to it.”

Chef Walter Manzke, Chef/Owner of Republique Restaurant 

“My cooking philosophy is very inspired foremost by high quality ingredients. I also love the inspiration of Los Angeles that’s a melting pot of cultures. I get inspiration, ideas, and so many from all over the world — not only the Philippines but also Mexico, Japan, France, everywhere. The other part of my cooking philosophy is that it’s always evolving. We experiment, we change, we’re always trying to figure out something new, something better.”

“My philosophy behind my restaurant Gallery by Chele is a very personal approach to food. That is our most creative side, where we’re most inspired by the Philippines through sustainability or sustainable cooking. Also if I go to other concepts, I think my philosophy is quality, fine-ness, innovation, creativity, and high-level cooking. Even if it’s on the comfort side with Deli by Chele, even the sandwiches — the bread is done by us, the pastrami is done by us, very artisanal, very methodical, very tasty, and very yummy.” 

Lee Watson, Entrepreneur and Bar Consultant, Owner of Spirits Library, Alcohol by Volume, Nokal 

“I like simple twists on classic formulas. I feel a good cocktail should be built around a good spirit. A cocktail should not mask the liquor, it should build upon it and accentuate it. I like interesting combinations of only three to four ingredients. Less is more.”

Read more on Fashion and Food in MEGA’s June 2024 issue, now available on Readly, Magzter, Press Reader and Zinio.

Photographed by JOREM CATILO (Margarita Fores, Josh Boutwood, Miko Calo, Stephan Duhesme, and Joris Rycken.) Creative Direction by JONES PALTENG. Assisted by TROY NONATO. Written by STEF JUAN

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