Coming from a family of doctors and dentists, Don Patrick Baldosano naturally considered embarking on a medical career when he was younger. But the trajectory of his life would change after he came across a TV announcement on ABS-CBN. Back in 2011, the network was looking for kids who wanted to join the first Junior Master Chef Pinoy Edition and Don thought it might be fun to give it a shot.
He had no real cooking experience—he was 12!—he’s but he grew up with delicious food. His family members were mostly from the Visayas and his palate has been exposed to a wide variety of dishes. After passing the interview, Don started to explore the Baldosano kitchen to get some basic cooking skills. He passed a couple of elimination rounds and became one of the 20 contenders in the show.
For five months, Don attended tapings at ABS-CBN. Pretty memorable was preparing Crispy Frog Legs for a challenge. “I think I won that cooking challenge, that’s why I remember it,” he recalls smiling. “I marinated them in milk and deep-fried them afterwards.”
The best part of the competition was being exposed to all sorts of ingredients and cuisines. “That’s when my passion for cooking started to grow because I got to experiment a lot in the kitchen,” he says. “It makes you imagine ano ang pwede mong magawa in the future.”
Even as a kid, Don was already very competitive. So when he made it only to 9th place in the tilt, he was naturally heartbroken. His journey was cut short and he got discouraged. “I didn’t cook the whole time that I was in high school. But I told myself, one day I’ll be in the kitchen again and I’ll be a good cook,” he recalls to ANCX.
With his chef dreams back-burnered, he concentrated on getting into medical school. After three terms of Biology at De La Salle University, however, he realized his heart was yearning to be elsewhere. He wanted to cook again. So while in med school, he would also work in professional kitchens—until he realized it’s foolish to continue pursuing a course he wasn’t passionate about. He moved to the College of St. Benilde (CSB) and shifted to Hospitality Management focusing on Culinary Arts.
It was in CSB when the young man’s appetite for cooking got really intense. He joined every competition there was—inside and outside the university—to sharpen his culinary chops. While studying, he was also staging at the acclaimed Toyo Eatery in Makati. Working at Chef Jordy Navarra’s restaurant broadened the teenage boy’s knowledge on Filipino cuisine and he discovered the many delicious things one can make with Philippine produce.
Eager to understand the range of tastes and behavior of the Filipino diner, he transferred to Fyre Rooftop Lounge, a bar and casual restaurant in Poblacion. After several months, he opened a food stall in Mercato Centrale called Saing (Filipino for the process of cooking rice) which served rice bowls featuring different local food grains.
Don decided to move to Enderun Colleges in 2018 to take up a certificate course in Culinary Arts. It was during the latter part of that year when he bravely ventured on a passion project he called Linamnam Mnl, a private dining concept aimed at bringing out his creativity in preparing Filipino dishes. He was barely 20. He set up shop at the family backyard in Marcelo Ave., Parañaque in a bahay kubo his father built.
“When I was cooking in Junior Master Chef, I hated Filipino food,” the 23-year old admits. “I considered it secondary to all the other cuisines. Back then, I was keen to learn French and Italian cooking because I thought dun lang pwede i-apply ang fine dining.”
But as his exposure to the culinary arts got more serious, Don realized it would be a disservice to his own culture to be studying other cuisines before his own. That’s when he decided to devote his time to studying Filipino food. Going to different palengkes and eventually traveling to places all over the country allowed him to learn about local food in a deeper, more meaningful way. One of his favorite things to do is talk to vendors selling local produce. “Every time I talk to them, ang dami kong natututunan from their own province,” he says.
When the pandemic lockdowns were lifted, he scheduled trips to provinces like Laguna, Quezon, and Bulacan right away and reached out to locals to learn about their products and unique culinary practices. “One time I went to the tourism offices of different provinces and asked about their best producers of kesong puti. That way, I got to understand how different kesong puti is from city to city, and use that knowledge in my cooking,” he says.
In Linamnam, Don chooses to focus on recipes that incorporate Filipino ingredients not very well known in Manila. “I try to get produce from different parts of the Philippines,” he says, “so that whenever we would explain the dishes to our diners, we also get to share kung saan galing ang mga produce.”
In his effort to continuously explore possibilities and showcase the best ingredients, he even started growing animals in his backyard—black pigs, native chickens and ducks. “I control the diet of the pigs,” he shares. “Some are mainly rice-fed. Some are mainly camote-fed. Sometimes corn and rice. We’re trying to play around kung ano’ng flavors [ng meat] ang lalabas.”
In Linamnam, Chef Don prepares an 11-course degustacion. The dishes change depending on the produce available. One of his current favorites is his ginataan inspired by a dish from Tiaong, Quezon. “In Tiaong, they serve sinaing and pritong isda with ginataang kamatis. I played around with it—serve sinaing na shrimp cooked in kamias and libas leaves. Then I top it off with the crispy head of shrimp and raw sayote. Then we have a sauce of ginataang kamatis and latik,” he says, his eyes brightening.
He's a big believer that a Filipino meal is never complete without kanin, so rice is a consistent ingredient in the meals he serves. He cooks it over burnt butter and burnt soy sauce. He sometimes serves it with Calumpit longganisa with cream underneath, and with whatever flowers and vegetables his team has foraged.
One of the desserts he serves is Mangga at Pulot, which features Guimaras mangoes with honey sourced from different parts of the country. The honey is curdled and the dish is finished off with buco ice and mulberries.
From his peaceful base in the South, the guy has quietly built a reputation as a talent to watch. When his name comes up in conversations among foodies and chefs, it is always with quiet, sincere admiration for his food, his character and the work he does.
“First time I had his food, I already knew he offered something special,” says the food writer and cookbook author Angelo Comsti. “Have never met a chef, so young at that, who is so dedicated to his craft that he not only travels far every week to talk to farmers, forage and discover regional food, but also tends to his own chickens and pigs for his meals so he can manage their diets, and consequently, flavor and fat content. That’s really something to be admired and I hope he doesn’t lose the drive and desire.”
“Don is a breath of fresh air and it shows in his food: organic, sustainable and very artistic,” says Chef Sau Del Rosario of Café Fleur.
“Innovative but not corny. Once in a generation talent but he also happens to be a f@#king nice guy,” says Chef Raul Forés of Made Nice and Mamou. "All jokes aside he’s got one of the best tastings in the country. It’s only a matter of time before the whole world takes notice of the brilliance that precedes Don Patrick Baldosano.”
The past few years have been a great learning experience for Don, and that’s what he intends to share with local and foreign diners moving forward. “Sobrang daming dishes na sa probinsya lang meron,” the young man observes, his optimism blending so well with his cheerful disposition. “I think wala lang talaga silang voice kaya hindi natin alam dito in Manila or sa ibang lugar sa Pilipinas.”
With Linamnam, Don’s goal is to elevate Filipino cuisine but still keep the Pinoy cooking traditions alive. The restaurant is closing its doors this May, however, but only temporarily, to accommodate renovation work. “Rest assured there will be thousands banging at the doors when he reopens,” says Forés. “In a weird way, I’m glad he’s going to take a break and recharge,” says Comsti, “because I know only better and bigger things will come from it.”
Photos courtesy of Don Baldosano