|Sharwin Tee hosts a show titled "Curiosity Got the Chef." Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Chef Sharwin Tee is using his newfound fame to promote Filipino cuisine, mainly through his cooking show on cable channel Lifestyle Network.
“Curiosity Got the Chef,” inspired by his idol Stephen Yan of “Wok With Yan” fame, features Tee’s own twist on traditional Filipino dishes. The show is his prize for winning Lifestyle Network’s reality cooking contest, “Clash of the Toque-en Ones.”
Outside his show, Tee holds cooking classes at Xavier School (where he started out as an English teacher) and occasionally shares his skills at events that highlight Filipino culture.
Tee spoke to ABS-CBNnews.com about his passion for Filipino cuisine and how it could be elevated to greater heights with proper timing and exposure.
How do you describe your cooking style?
I’d like to call it “modern Filipino” rather than fusion. I take old recipes, heirloom recipes, and play around with textures.
Overall, I’d like to keep things simple. As much as possible I try to use ten ingredients or less. I want things fresh and clean.
What, in your opinion, is the state of Filipino cuisine today and why?
I think Filipino cuisine today is in a crossroads. There are enough young chefs willing to develop Filipino cuisine, but we can’t seem to get over this “hump.” Many Filipinos think that our food is not as “refined” as French or other European dishes. But it is. We’re as the same level as other cuisines.
Filipino cuisine is no different from French cuisine. It also stems from tradition and necessity. All the chefs are ready to push it. We just need the other side, the audience, to be excited about it.
But I’m not blaming the “audience.” It’s just about timing. We just need more exposure, to show people how Filipino cuisine is like.
Our cuisine is good. The flavors are very good. We just have to come up with a flavor combination that will work with other cultures.
What are the ingredients you like to use while cooking?
I use mostly Filipino ingredients. Bagoong (shrimp paste) is the most awesome ingredient. I also like using coconut milk, our own salt, basil and thyme.
I like using bacon a lot, too, as well as butter.
Aside from Filipino ingredients, what can we always expect to see in your fridge or kitchen?
Bacon – it goes well with everything! There’s also butter, Spanish-style chorizo, eggs and mustard.
Let’s say you can eat three dishes every day for the rest of your life. What would these be?
Pinoy-style barbecue, a good piece of steak, and fried chicken.
What about three things that you would never, ever eat or serve?
I always try everything at least twice. But I’d probably stay away from anything that moves or is still moving, like live octopus. And something dirty, too.