Chef Tristan Encarnacion. Photo by Karen Flores for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – Many people know Tristan Encarnacion for two things – as the son of the late fashion guru Jun Encarnacion, and as one of the few local chefs who are blessed with a cooking show and a number of TV commercials.
But he has certainly achieved more than that – aside from his experience in the restaurant industry both here and abroad, Encarnacion has been teaching at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) to help chef hopefuls fulfill their dreams.
His newest baby is the gourmet food store Epicurious at Shangri-La East Wing. He has been tapped to be one of the main consultants of the store by The Cravings Group, which also owns CCA.
With Epicurious, Encarnacion hopes to encourage Filipinos to “explore their inner culinarian” by creating their own dishes using high-quality and organic products.
“The guests have the free will to create their own dishes. We’re here to help them customize the food that they want. Unlike in other restaurants that have set menus, here you have the chance to mix and match,” he said.
“For those who are too lazy to choose, we have some freshly made breads and sandwiches, some pasta and salads. They can eat them here or bring them home,” he added.
Encarnacion dropped some surprising facts about himself as he sat down with ABS-CBNnews.com during the grand launch of Epicurious.
1. He is not comfortable with the “celebrity chef” tag.
Despite his visibility as a television personality, a product endorser and the son of a well-known hairstylist, Encarnacion maintains that he is, in many ways, an ordinary guy.
“Hindi, hindi naman ako ganoon,” he said sheepishly, when referred to as a celebrity chef. “I’m just an ordinary guy.”
And that is probably not a “showbiz” answer. Contrary to most celebrity chefs who have very strong personalities, Encarnacion has a warm, approachable demeanor, which he said may have something to do with his job as a culinary instructor.
2. He is not a food snob
While some people from the industry he is in usually scoff at fast food or “fusion” cuisine, Encarnacion is open to trying new things, from gourmet finds and exotic dishes (read: bugs and weaver ants) to so-called “dirty” items sold on the street.
When asked about his pick-me-up, for instance, Encarnacion said he loves eating cheap bread filled with local sorbetes.
“Gusto ko ‘yung ginagawang sorbetes sa tinapay,” he said. “Hindi naman ako picky. I’ll eat anything.”
3. He is in love with Filipino cuisine
While he is willing to try anything (“as long as it’s ethical to eat,” he is quick to add), Encarnacion will always return to his first love – Filipino cuisine.
Saying that it is the food he grew up with, he shared: “I like anything that has something to do with Filipino cuisine. Actually kahit hindi ‘yung luto ko, ‘yung luto sa bahay, ganoon.”
“Sinigang na baboy, sinigang na baka, kare-kare, adobo – name it, I can eat it every day,” he added. “My favorite restaurants? Anything that has Filipino food. Talagang ‘pag may Filipino food, ‘yun na talaga.”
Encarnacion hopes that he can make an impact as he continues to promote the country’s cuisine to his fellow Filipinos as well as to foreigners.
When asked what he wants to be known for as a chef, he replied: “Real, pure Filipino cuisine. Kasi normally ang ginagawa ng ibang chefs, they tweak it or they put a twist on it by putting an ingredient from different countries. Ako, I want to mix and match regional cuisines, like I have sinigang na bulalo, mga ganoon. It’s purely Pinoy.”
4. He has a sweet tooth.
Encarnacion likes eating sweet things, from sorbetes sandwiches to chocolate, which will always be found in his refrigerator or kitchen.
“You’ll always find chocolates, definitely, specifically Maltesers,” he said. “And also juice, fruits, meats and leftovers.”
His favorite place for dessert? Anywhere. “Kahit saan talaga, kakain ako. Mahilig talaga ako sa matamis eh,” he said.
5. He thinks love can make any dish “sexy.”
Encarnacion said he is not particular about going to “romantic” places or trying dishes with so-called aphrodisiacs to set the mood for love.
“Mas gusto ko sa house lang,” he said.
As cheesy as it may sound, Encarnacion believes that food can be “sexy” depending on how much passion and effort a person put into it.
“Luto ng mahal mo, ‘yun para sa akin ang sexiest dish. Kahit ano pa ‘yun, kahit anong lasa, sexy ‘yun para sa akin,” he shared.
And how can he describe himself using food?
“Bangus, dahil matinik ako,” he said, laughing.