World Chefs: N.Y. chef learns, excels at Filipino cuisine

Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:06pm EDT
 
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chef Miguel Trinidad was in his mid-30s and a relatively inexperienced cook in New York when he decided to help a co-worker realize her dream of opening a modern Filipino restaurant.

Trinidad, whose family hails from the Dominican Republic, had no knowledge about Filipino food. But he had lived in the Philippines for several months to learn how to make staples such as adobos, a traditional dish, and arroz caldo, a rice porridge, from respected local chefs and cooks.

With his partner Nicole Ponseca, Trinidad opened the restaurant Maharlika in 2011. Their second eatery, Jeepney, is billed as a Filipino gastropub.

The 40-year-old New York City native spoke to Reuters about learning to cook Filipino food, whether it will catch on as the next hot Asian cuisine in New York and eating balut for the first time.

Q: What are you trying to accomplish with Jeepney?

A: No one here really knows what Filipino food is. If you ask anyone what Filipino food is, they wouldn't even say it's Asian. What we want to do at Jeepney is to make the food fun. We want to give it soul and present it in a way that's familiar with people and easy for them to come in to try. We basically make Filipino soul food. It is not fusion, whatever. Everything is authentic to what Filipino cuisine is, but we present it in a different vessel.

Q: What are the different influences of Filipino cuisine?

A: If you look at the history of cuisine, it's the original fusion cuisine. There's Malay influence. There's Chinese influence. There's Japanese. There's Spanish. All these flavors came together to what it is today. What we wanted to do is to honor that. The flavor profile of Filipino cuisine is sweet, sour and salty. It's very intense. It's very polarizing. You either like it or you don't. You have the strong flavor from shrimp paste. You have a lot of use of vinegars, coconut milk, so the flavors are really intense and really strong. It's really straight forward. It hits you really hard and it's fantastic.   Continued...

 
Head Chef Miguel Trinidad of Maharlika/Jeepney is pictured sitting in a park on the Lower East Side in New York City in this undated handout photo courtesy of Jorge Ochoa via Handcrafted PR Inc. Trinidad was in his mid-30s and a relatively inexperienced cook in New York when he decided to help a co-worker realize her dream of opening a modern Filipino restaurant. REUTERS/Jorge Ochoa via Handcrafted PR Inc./Handout via Reuters