Bacolod boy Chef JP Anglo lives a jampacked culinary life. Between managing and promoting his restaurant businesses, growing online as a culinary and lifestyle influencer and riding the waves as an avid surfer life is pretty full on for him. He believes in turning up the volume on homecooked Filipino flavors (with the particular featuring of Ilonggo cuisine) and giving people a chance to experience them cooked with the utmost care.
As one of his more recent Ilonggo-inspired restaurants Sarsa continues to gain recognition and traction, JP, endearingly dubbed "Chef Jayps," continues to push for excellence in Philippine cuisine. He does this while building and balancing a fun and active lifestyle.
We're quite psyched to see where Chef Jayps is headed with his career if he's not chilling while heading for the coastline. He recently also got the opportunity to meet Anthony Bourdain at the World Street Food Congress 2017 right here in the Philippines, where Bourdain praised the flavors of Sarsa resto's grilled offerings like isaw and liempo. Tap the left and right arrows on the Instagram slideshows below to sift through.
Describe yourself in three words.
"Fun. Intense. And passionate."
Where did you grow up and what were your first significant experiences with food?
"In Bacolod City, visiting my aunt’s kitchen across the street from our house. Basically kasi, my grandfather is Chinese and then my aunt is a very good Chinese cook. So, I would always feel free to watch her cook in her kitchen. I was often inspired by that. That’s what sparked the interest in cooking."
"I think I must have been eight or nine years old? Also prior to that, when we migrated to the States when I was seven. Pero mabilis lang, like two years lang. So that time, I had to learn to make my own meals at a young age. That’s how it started. I think the first dish I cooked was garlic rice. The garlic rice progressed to a misono rice, and then the misono rice progressed to a chicken curry."
What does a regular work week look like for you now?
"During the week I basically get one day off. From Tuesday to Sunday I go around different stores...one store a day, plus our commissary. I try to be fit, because for surfing, and because of what I do. I eat for a living, so I need to balance it out with exercise."
"Now, I work out smarter. It’s all surf-related, yung mga workout ko. So, applicable sya. It’s not for vanity. It’s for functionality."
How many restaurants or businesses do you have now? Which ones have gained specific attention from the public?
"I have a total of eight restaurants. It started in Bacolod called Mai Pao. It’s a Chinese restaurant that's roughly 14 years old. Mu Shu is about 9 years old. They’re both Chinese restaurants with my dad and a partner and then the Asian restaurants that are with friends and then Sarsa, I believe has gained the most attention."
"Sarsa was launched with my sister and her husband and a business partner. So, it’s the four of us who started it four years ago. We wanted to bring Ilonggo-Filipino food to Manila and it’s not just inasal, bachoy, and kansi. There’s more to it. So, we are a regional Filipino restaurant but more contemporary in style."
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Where'd you go to school and at which point did you decide to become a chef?
"I went to school in Bacolod. All along, I’ve always wanted to cook professionally. At first though, I thought I wanted to become a director. Because I wanted to become an artista. I think at some point, I remember I tried to audition for Ang TV. Yeah, but in the end I didn't end up auditioning. When I saw the line of people I changed my mind! I went to a school that majored in journalism. So one year lang ako doon, sa Siliman University. In school, I directed plays. That was one thing I was good at, speaking and English declamation. Basta, I was failing in all the subjects. I was somewhat of a problem child before, not as good in some subjects with the exception of home economics and speaking."
What is the toughest thing about being or starting in the food business in today's modern world?
"There’s so much competition. Nowadays, it’s getting harder and harder. Everyone’s skill set is getting higher and higher compared to when I came in. They weren’t doing much Pinoy food back then. Now, a lot of restaurants are doing Pinoy food. There are so many budget airlines so you can travel. With the rise of social media, the advent of smartphones, the world is getting smaller and smaller, so kailangan tiyaga talaga. Yun lang talaga. You gotta have that never say die attitude."
What tastes flavors do you lean on comfortably? What do you love most about Philippine cuisine?
"It’s the taste of home. It’s what we grew up with, no matter what, no matter how hard or long your day was. I remember when I was working in Australia we would do eight to twelve hour shifts in the kitchen. After work, when you get home and if you see newly cooked adobo and a rice cooker it just brightens up your day and it warms and comforts you. The taste is nostalgic and it gives you that warmth. It makes your day better kumbaga. Yeah, cause it’s what we grew up with. We have a lot of good memories of our food."
What’s the non-gourmet dish from your childhood that you always go back to or crave for?
"This is pretty bad, Vienna Sausage! Lately, though I haven’t eaten it. I’ve been trying to avoid processed food. So, I would have vienna sausage, room temperature sticky white rice, and two sunny side-up eggs, with a little bit of oyster sauce, fried garlic, and sea salt. Yon. Tapos, I would have that everytime the night before my day off. That's my big reward. I’m getting actually goosebumps cause we’re talking about it."
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How do you chillax on a non-workday?
"I always want to be at home and do nothing on a non-workday. Yeah, couch potato. Watch Netflix or go surf. Dalawa lang yan. Lately I realize that because of my job, I’m extroverted. I talk to everyone. I try to talk to everyone because I have to and because I like to. Yeah, I like, I’m very sociable person. But when I shut up, I really just want to keep to myself. When I’m by myself, I’m actually very introverted. I’m very shy, suplado, and yeah. Yeah like, f*** off. (Laughs) On Spotify, I have a playlist. Well, I like to listen to Kundalini songs. When I relax, I like to listen to Kundalini songs. Eto sya. Snatam Kaur. Yeah, and then I like to listen to this song in particular. Sort of like a meditation song. Very long. Like eight minutes. I listen to this when I brush my teeth, when I start my day."
What's does a perfect Friday night look like for you?
"Ah, a Friday night out? There should be good food, good deals, and good company, preferrably not in mainstream places. I think surfing kinda changes my perspective when it comes to material things and when it comes to social outlook. I guess the surfing culture grounded me, because of it I’m more simple."
What are your favorite apps and who do you follow on IG for food and surf motivation?
"Instagram, Netflix, and... NBA, the NBA cause of the playoffs. Yeah, the playoffs. Yes, F***! Sorry (looks at phone) nanalo kasi yung Cleaveland. (Laughs) Sorry. Cleaveland fan! I play basketball. I like playing it, but I still prefer surfing. Surfing is really for me.
What would you say to young people aspiring to be chefs like you one day?
"Be very sure. Kasi it’s not as cool sometimes as some people think it is. It may look cool. You think it’s easy, but it’s not. Be very sure kung gusto mo talaga gawin kasi it will require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. You might have no social life. If you’re single, just to begin with, you might not have time for a love life either. Kung beginning pa lang ng relationship nyo, the hours are crazy. You know kasi diba it’s opposite time slot. I mean, pag-uwi mo, tulog na siya. Paggising niya, ikaw yung tulog. Pag bakasyon nya, ikaw yung nagtratrabaho. And the other way around."
"Just be very clear kung ano yung pinapasukan mo and commit. Commit to it one hundred percent. Kasi, a lot of people, retreat or surrender because they’re not as committed and because it’s not as glamorous as they thought it would be. So, my advice is to weigh everything. See if it’s really what you want to do. Kasi, you can also choose to be a home cook. And the pay (for starting in a culinary career) actually is (expletive deleted) not unless you have your own restaurant. So, but how do you get to that stage? You have to work. You know, you have to learn first. Bahala ka na. Diskarte mo na yan."
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Photos by author and from: Instagram.com/chefjayps