“Doon, we cooked a Filipino-inspired menu, and we won gold!
"We’d always win medals every year, and we’d always come home with awards ever since.
“So, iyong movement na iyon was sort of like an affirmation na iyong mga Pinoy and our talents are really beyond our shores. Dapat talaga ipinapakita.
“And at the same time, parang sinasagot na rin namin iyong tanong.”
Chef Fern then gathered that the reason why Filipino food is not well-known internationally is because it is not even popular in our own country.
“Sa sariling bayan natin, ano'ng pagkaing sikat? Japanese? Italian?
“Tingnan mo iyong mga top restaurants sa Pilipinas, it’s not Filipino. It’s not even on the list.”
Chef Fern observed that when it comes to food, Filipinos are stuck with a colonial mentality that is akin to an inferiority complex.
“Parang patago pa tayo, e. Parang may complex pa tayo.
“So now, I wanted to break that mold by just being ballsy, by just putting it out there, and saying, ‘Yeah, we spent millions in a restaurant that serves fried tilapia—the lowly fried tilapia—and the fishballs that you make tusok, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that!'"
It is, to him, simply coincidental that the Filipino pride movement has gotten bigger nowadays, thanks to the Department of Tourism’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign.
And Chef Fern is serious about saying that his advocacy is not just a fad.
“I think, to be a Pinoy, more than ever, now is the best time. Hindi ako nakiki-ride on sa Pinoy pride. I just really think that this is the right time.”
CELEBRITY FAVORITES. Apparently, Chef Fern’s hunch is right.
His group officially opened the restaurant only last June, and already it's getting rave reviews from customers, including some of the country’s hottest showbiz stars.