It’s not often that restaurants from the Philippines gain any kind of international recognition. In fact, it’s a rare feat. That’s why it’s extra significant that Toyo Eatery now ranks No. 43 as the only Philippine entry in the prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.
In truth, we had a pretty good hunch that there was a possibility for a win when we chanced upon the Toyo Eatery team—Chef Jordy Navarra, his wife Maya, sous chef JP Cruz, and junior sous chef Edmund Marce—boarding the same flight to Macau along with our small group of press folks. Of course, they were under strict instructions not to reveal anything just yet. But we had our hopes up. After all, Toyo Eatery is no stranger to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, having won the Miele One To Watch Award last year. This award is presented every year to a restaurant that hasn’t ranked in the Asia’s 50 Best list, but that shows a lot of promise as a rising star in the region, with the hopes of entering the list in the future. Well, it took Chef Jordy and his team just 12 months to fulfill the expectations gained from last year’s award.
Held for the second year in a row at the Wynn Palace Macau, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is certainly a glamorous affair, with the best of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the region converging over several days of wining and dining. On the day of the awards ceremony held on March 26, Chef Jordy showed up at the pre-awards cocktails sporting the distinctive bright red scarf that all winners are given to wear. At that point, the cat was out of the bag, as that red scarf confirmed that Toyo Eatery was indeed among the 50 best.
The question was, though, where would he land on the list? When I asked him how he was feeling, he simply replied, “We’re nervous and excited!” But the truth is, any restaurant that makes it to the top 50 is already a winner, and for the Philippines, it was already cause for celebration. (Antonio’s and Gallery Vask have previously ranked the list, but last year marked no Philippine restaurants included.)
What makes this inclusion among the 50 best especially meaningful is that Toyo Eatery places the spotlight firmly on Philippine cuisine, providing a crucial way for international diners to connect and appreciate our cooking through Chef Jordy’s modern renderings of traditional Filipino flavors and ingredients. While he experiments with progressive ideas and techniques—perhaps learned from early stints at The Fat Duck in the United Kingdom and Bo Innovation in Hong Kong—he steers clear of any pretension, preferring to identify with the “low brow” local street food and canteens, as well as the farmers and fisherfolk that provide the ingredients he and his team get to play with.
Back in Macau, as the awards ceremony started, and the countdown began from restaurant No. 50 upwards, our small contingent of Filipinos waited with baited breath with each announcement. At No. 43, the host called out Toyo Eatery’s name, and Chef Jordy, May, and chefs JP and Edmund—all donned in Filipiniana attire—proceeded on stage to receive The Best Restaurant in the Philippines award, to the enthused cheers of our group.
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Chef Jordy understands the import of Toyo’s inclusion in the list, and he hopes to be followed soon by other Philippine restaurants. That same evening, he shared, “I think we all deserve more representation for sure. And it’s just nice to see familiar faces and all the Filipinos coming out, people working in Macau, everywhere. It’s just proof that we should be here more.” It was a gracious nod to the countless Filipinos working in hotels and restaurants around the world, and the recognition that such an award means for them.
With “big name” chefs from around Asia warmly greeting him, it’s clear that Chef Jordy is now part of that hallowed circle of international chefs recognized and praised around the world. And with Toyo Eatery being the lone Philippine representative of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, invitations to do collaboration dinners and attend prestigious culinary events will surely come flying in. But when I asked Chef Jordy what was happens next, he simply said, “We’ll just try to do our best and enjoy it, have fun, and still try and improve every day.” We’re looking forward to seeing him back on the list next year, and hopefully with a few more Philippine restaurants in tow.
For more information, visit TheWorlds50Best.com.