In the usual run of things, it’s the like-minded individuals that hit it off and connect. But Joel Binamira and JP Anglo prove that an odd pair can get along and develop a deep bond despite the difference in age, interests, and professional background.
Joel is a management whiz and has 15 years of experience in strategy consultancy for finance companies around the world—“Joel is the master of the operations, logistics, strategy, structure, HR,” says JP describing Joel. He is trained to employ traditional methods and strategies.
JP, on the other hand, is a known chef-restaurateur and surfer—artistic, adventurous, experimental and spontaneous.
Their paths collided though their penchant for food and travel as revealed in “Show Me The Market,” a travelogue cum cooking program that they co-hosted together on ANC. In it, the two experts check out a particular locale’s market and recreate the signature dishes of that place based on the raw materials and condiments available.
Spending a lot of time together while filming the show allowed them to develop a bond. “Being with [Joel] is so informative, inspiring. A source of life lessons,” he quips. The Negrense chef admits he’s drawn to people he learns a lot from, so it was a no-brainer that Joel became top of mind when he was thinking of a possible godfather for his wedding with Camille Malapas; the couple tied the knot on December 1, 2018.
Joel recalls the moment JP asked him to be their ninong: “We were in Fundacion Pacita shooting the final takes of “Show Me the Market’s” Batanes episode. JP asked me a question, ‘How long have you been married?’ I said ‘27 years.’ He said, ‘That’s a long time! Do you have tips for someone who’s about to get married?’ I said, ‘Probably one of the biggest pieces of advice I can tell you is that the flame kind of goes out to a certain degree in a marriage, but it’s really the friendship that continues until you die. So you have to learn to be your partner’s best friend in addition to being her spouse.’ I thought it was just me giving a normal piece of advice. Then he looks to me and goes, ‘Why don’t you be my ninong?’”
An ‘all-star mentor’
JP looks at Joel as his mentor. “Every time I go to Joel’s house, it’s like to going to business school,” he reveals. “There’s so much information in an hour. It’s like an extensive course on logistics or on human resource. Recently, we talked about food history, and again, he bombarded me with information. It’s inspiring, and at the same time, it pushes you to be better.”
JP admits that at this stage in his career and personal life, Joel is the kind of mentor that he needs—someone to help sort out and put structure to all his ideas and aspirations.
The two recently visited Manila Boys Town to teach the kids there livelihood skills. It was JP who thought of the project, and he invited Joel to join in. The idea was born in a gotohan in Batangas while they were waiting to film. “Our simultaneous questions were: ‘How come street food here in the Philippines is not as appealing as some of our neighbors in Southeast Asia? Why don’t people do something more with their goto or lugaw?” recalls Joel. “Then he said, ‘Could we help kids—like, guide them toward starting a food-related business, for example?’”
The plans to do the workshop at Boys Town took shape when JP read an article about Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and how he’s helping to keep the kids off the streets. As what happens typically, it was Joel who took care of the workshop outline and the logistics, while JP took care of the creative aspect, which included the recipe that they taught the kids.
Joel is the kind of mentor who doesn’t spoon-feed his mentee. For JP’s presentation at the prestigious San Sebastian Gastronomika in Spain this October, Joel helped refine the flow and structure of his talk. The gastronomy congress is an annual culinary convention that serves as a platform for chefs from all over the world to present and learn about gastronomic trends. “Joel gave some sort of a road map,” shares JP. “He did not give me the answer. He let me think but he laid it out—this is how to do it. Now, do the legwork, do your homework.”
Joel, who is the founder of Zubuchon and marketmanila.com, says it’s really the way he operates, whether he’s dealing with people who work for him, his relatives, or his friends. “Of course, when you send someone you like into the fire, you don’t want him to not be able to answer a question, you want him to excel,” says Joel. “There’s this desire to let people excel always, then you feed them whatever you can. If they don’t want to eat it, that’s fine. But then, you did everything. People who know me know that I can be pretty intense, but it’s intense for their benefit”
Learning the surfer philosophy
What JP brings to the table, says Joel, is his devil-may-care attitude and out-of-the-box thinking—traits being a surfer and a chef brought out in him. “You see him cooking and you realize, there are no rules—and why should there be when you’re cooking?” Joel muses. “What I’ve learned from him is to be a little bit more experimental, a little bit more ‘fly by the seat of your pants.’”
Before putting up the lechon brand Zubuchon, dubbed as “the best pig ever” by the late Anthony Bourdain, Joel had “worked over 100 hours a week” in financial consultancy. “It’s a very time-consuming business, very rewarding but very tiring,” he admits. He retired at age 38 when their daughter was born. “I promised my wife that I’d be around to raise our daughter, so I came home [from overseas].” But after three months, boredom set in. “My wife noticed that I was arranging my clothes by color and stripe. She said, ‘You better figure out something you want to do.’”
One of his friends suggested he write about food or visiting markets, and that led to the creation of the blog marketmanila.com. “Every day I studied two, three hours on a certain topic, ‘Why dalandan is dalandan?’ or ‘How dayap became key limes?’ And that’s just innate curiosity for tracking a story down; for fear of saying something inaccurate. You want to be accurate.” Cooking lechon for Bourdain sort of was his big break in the food industry, which led to the opening of his chain of restaurants in Cebu and Metro Manila.
“I learned the business side of things outside the food arena and then by happenstance fell into a love for food, which turned into a business,” Joel says.
For the duo, it’s the age difference that makes the bond interesting. “He makes me feel like I was 30 years younger because he does things that I may have done in my 20s and 30s but did not do. Now, when I do a dish, I think, ‘Okay, what else would I put? What else would JP put? How would he approach this?’ And I think that’s part of the idea of hanging out with different-aged people,” he says.
From JP, Joel learned that it’s okay to loose, to be less risk-averse. “I guess that’s from surfing because me, the first thing I would think in surfing is, ‘Are there sea urchins? Will I land on my back? Will I die?’ Whereas, he just goes out and surfs, right? And that’s exactly the best corollary. That would be me saying, ‘I may die.’ And that may be him saying, ‘I’m gonna have a great day today on the waves.’ So if you mix the two, then you get the best of both worlds.”
The experimental nature of a younger person and the wisdom and experience of an older one make a very good combination, as these two prove. “I guess combining knowledge and creativity is very powerful,” says JP.
Sharing their knowledge to the kids of Manila Boys Town, Joel and JP realize even more the importance of passing on one’s wisdom. “If people with some skill, people with some experience just spend some time volunteering, giving some of that experience to the younger people, we’d all be better off.”