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01/21/14 Chef JP Anglo

Trying Chef JP Anglo’s new restaurant Sarsa is like taking a bite out of local surf culture. Anglo prepares our islands’ standards with daring and a little international sway: a pritchon pancake with a side of hoisin chili, stuffed bangus with XO sauce, a battalion of sarsa (or sauces) that give festive fare even more kick. This is food that befits sharing among sunburnt friends and alternating between swigs of San Mig Pale, an image reflected by the surfboard standing in one corner of Sarsa and the tropical utopia of Anglo’s Instagram account. Under @chefjayps, you’ll find the famously bald chef charging into La Union surf with buds like actress Mylene Dizon; cruising around the city in his electric blue Vespa; even sharing a recipe for extra-crispy garlic chips like a culinary shaka brah to his 24,000-strong followers.

Online and as a judge on local offerings of MasterChef and Junior MasterChef, Anglo exhibits a carefree persona that belies a decade spent pouring blood, sweat, and onion-induced tears into two restaurants and slaving away at culinary school (Le Cordon Bleu Australia).

It hasn’t been all sunshine and sauce for Chef ‘Jayps,’ who talks to NOUS about dealing with critics and feeling down and out in kitchens Down Under.

Before you put up Sarsa last year, you had two restaurants in Bacolod, your hometown.

I have a Chinese restaurant that’s 11 years old called Mai Pao—shortcut for siomai and siopao. Then I have a second restaurant called Mu Shu, a six-year-old Filipino-Asian restaurant that becomes clubbish at night. It’s become the place to go, a restaurant with a bar vibe. As a chef, I try to bring it back to being a restaurant but sometimes the market just calls for it.

Is that why you decided to put up an Ilonggo restaurant in Manila?

Chinese was my base cuisine. My grandfather’s from China and the sister of my dad is a really good Chinese cook, so I was influenced by that. My journey as a chef is going around in a circle. I experimented with Asian food in Sydney, in my training and the culture there. Now that I’m back, I’m going back to my roots. I wanted Manileños to try Ilonggo food in a relaxed atmosphere. I want to share my lifestyle.

How did the passion for food begin in the first place?

It started as a frustration at home. We never had good food, up to this day. I would always run to my lolo’s house, where my tita is, for good Chinese food. Then finally, when I got older, I’m like, screw it, I’m gonna take this seriously and go to school for this.

Training in Australia, did chefs also imbibe that chipper Aussie attitude or were they hardasses?

Oh yeah. I was there for five years and it was hard. I didn’t get any physical abuse but I got a tray thrown at me. My preparation tray for my mise en place was incomplete so it was thrown at me. (Does Aussie accent) ‘It’s fuckin’ incomplete, mayt.’ Ganun lang. I wanted to cry. Kasi them, hihiritan ka tapos matalim na hirit. As this young Filipino fresh off the boat, you’re like, Oh my God, I went to cooking school and already worked in the Philippines. But I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to really prove that I can keep up. So that’s why I’m really strict in my kitchen here because that was my training. 12-hour shifts back to back. Working on Christmas day, working on New Year’s day…

Have those tough experiences made it easy to deal with food critics, especially when so many people deem themselves critics today?

You just gotta do your best because you cannot please everyone. You just gotta put your head down and fucking work. Yesterday, there was a lady who voiced out her opinion and she was totally right. I just said, ‘Can you excuse me because I’m really angry. I want to fix what you just told me.’

How has TV exposure and your hefty Instagram following changed things for you? 

I can’t be suplado in public anymore because by nature, I am suplado (laughs). But I have no gray, eh—I’m either really outgoing or really suplado. I can’t be in between.

I’m assuming the stress of the kitchen got you into surfing?

In Australia, I only surfed twice because I was always in the kitchen. But I worked in front of the beach. While all my colleagues were surfing during their breaks, I was not because I was busy prepping. Because I was slow. So now that I’m here in the Philippines, finally, dream come true: I can surf when I get the chance. Yesterday, I just came from a surfing trip. What we do is we head out at night so that you can sleep on the bus.

I can imagine a chef is an asset to buddies who are hungry after a surf session.

Yeah, at the beginning (laughs), it was nonstop cooking. We have a house in La Union and every week, we would be throwing a party for everyone. But right now, I’m on vacation mode. I just want to be served. It’s hard kasi sometimes as chefs, we work all week and by the time that we go out and dine, we want it to be spot-on. I’m paying for this meal, give me correct service, proper food. One time, I was at my favorite Chinese restaurant and this girl was so bitchy. She was not giving me the standard service that they give. I called her colleague, ‘Dude, nag-trabaho din ako like her, okay? And if she has fucking problems at home, don’t bring it here.’ I’m not being a princess here or anything. We are in the business of serving people and your customers will feel it if you’re fake or not.