Luigi Muhlach may have been through rough patches in his life, but appearing before a group of journalists for a pocket press interview on a quiet Thursday noon, Igi stood tall, happy, and proud of this new phase in his life.
No longer is he Igi Boy, the love child of Aga Muhlach and Janice de Belen, but Luigi, husband to Patricia Petil and father to Alejandro Miguel, 2, and Adrianna Isabel, 1.
At 25 years old, he is certain now that his passion lies in food, cooking, and the restaurant business. And true to this passion, he is now a chef and a restaurateur.
His phillychangas—or deep-fried classic philly cheese steaks enfolded in tortilla wraps—are a hit among foodies who frequent the midnight food market Mercato.
Meanwhile, his restaurant, Luigi’s Pinoy Comfort Food, is a gastronomic experience tucked away in BF Homes, Parañaque City.
Last August 23, Thursday, on the 17th floor of the GMA Network, Chef Luigi was proudly announced as the new chef-host of the long-standing cooking show Del Monte Kitchenomics.
He will appear on the five-minute program with co-host Jolina Magdangal starting August 29.
The show will air twice a week: Wednesdays at 11:25 a.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.
Luigi told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in a separate interview: “It’s my first time to host a show actually.
“I’m excited, at the same medyo kinakabahan din kasi since first time ko, parang pag taping day, kinakapa ko pa, e.
“Pero excited naman ako since mahilig naman ako magluto. Ever since I was a kid—I loved eating, I love food. My wife, we go out to different restaurants. Hilig talaga namin yun!”
Luigi married Patty in civil ceremonies at Hacienda Ysabel in Tagaytay on October 24, 2009. The two are enjoying their lives as newbie parents to their toddlers.
Luigi said that he was happy engaging in the simple things that make a family work—such as his mixing it up with Alejandro and Adrianna in the food department.
“Actually, I cook risotto for my kids. Yesterday, I made cumin pesto chicken.
“Nakakatuwa lang. Tapos, minsan yung baon ng anak ko sa school... kakaiba talaga kasi yung mga baon ng mga kaklase niya, cereals. Pero yung kanya… wow!”
His two-year-old son just started going to preschool last June.
Asked who the better cook is between Patty and him, Luigi chuckled, “Ako na lang! Wag na siya!”
This he takes back after enjoying a good laugh, “Hindi, okay naman. Okay naman. Niloloko ko lang siya na pag siya yung nagluluto, hindi masarap yung pagkain.”
Luigi said that he cooks a special Japanese dish for Patty. “Meron akong ginagawang sakizen udon. Halos palagi naming niluluto yan. Gustong-gusto niyang kinakain yun, e.”
They bond over restaurant hopping and food tripping, which of course break their plans to live more thriftily.
“Parati kaming kumakain sa iba’t ibang restaurants. Minsan nga tina-try naming magtipid, e.
“Kaso lang pag may narinig kang bagong restaurant, alam mo yun? Ang sarap kumain talaga sa iba, e. So ang dami… iba’t ibang cuisines tina-try namin.”
LOSING WEIGHT. Last March, Luigi and Patty also made a decision to start living a healthier lifestyle.
They were among three couples who joined the Fit ‘n Right challenge with the goal to shed weight.
Luigi said that, so far, his efforts have resulted in a loss of 70 pounds and counting!
He talked about his fitness regimen, “I work out every day talaga. As in, two hours a day! Kunwari ngayon may press con, mamayang gabi na lang ako magji-gym niyan.
“And then may oras talaga yung kain ko. Small meals every three hours.”
He does calorie counting, he said. “Nag-enroll ako sa calorie counting … 1,200 calories a day lang ako!”
He sees to it that he gets a balanced meal each time because “when you work out, hindi rin puwedeng walang carbs, e.”
His workout consists of cardio and weight training, where he adds more repetitions to, say, lifting dumb bells, rather than lifting heavier ones.
The challenge is extra difficult for him since he and his wife are trying to establish themselves in the food business.
His key plan?
“Kasi tikim lang naman ang gagawin ko, e. Usually, yung alone time ko sa bahay, I cook talaga for my kids.
“Yung mga meals namin sa bahay, nagluluto talaga ako. Yun na yung pinaka-practice ko, di ba? And then, sila na yung kumakain nun. Hindi na ako.”
PURSUING CULINARY STUDIES. Prior to falling in love with cooking, Luigi relayed how he struggled to find his path.
“Ang dami ko kasing course na [kinuha]. Sobrang dami!
“Siyempre, pag nag-college ka, hindi mo alam kung ano talaga gusto mo, di ba? So, I took up psychology, interior design, export management.
“And then, when I hit culinary, yun na yun.”
He finished his studies in Culinary Arts at the American Hospitality Academy and in Restaurant Management at the Enderun Colleges.
He likewise took up a crash course in baking deserts at the Café Ysabel in San Juan, where his celebrity chef mother Janice also studied cooking.
A non-sweet tooth, Luigi stated, “Wala akong alam sa desert talaga. I don’t cook desert. I don’t bake at all.”
He is more of a “meal person” who enjoys his Filipino, Japanese and French dishes.
He said he had interned at eventologist Tim Yap’s restaurant, Robot, as well as at the Bellevue Hotel.
ENTERING SHOWBIZ. Asked if he expects this hosting stint to open doors for him in showbiz, Luigi answered, “Siguro kung bibigyan ako ng chance, why not? … I just have to lose weight.”
Luigi recalled how he was hesitant to enter the entertainment circuit when he was younger.
“Nung una kasi, ayaw ko kasing mag-artista. Alam mo yun, yung medyo magulo, e.
"Nakikita ko naman sa parents ko na parang, wala na silang privacy.
“Dati I just want a normal life, tahimik kami ng mga anak ko, ng asawa ko, di ba? Parang masarap na ganun.”
Today, however, he is good and ready should an opportunity present itself. “Pero siyempre, hindi ko pa rin bibitawan yung cooking,” beamed Luigi.
AGA MUHLACH. While he once said that he wants to be like his father, Luigi never meant to take off from Aga’s triumphs in showbiz.
What he meant, he explained to PEP, was he wanted to copy Aga’s humility and compassion for others.
Luigi believes that nothing he will do will match his parents’s achievements. But he is not competing to begin with.
“Hindi naman, hindi naman. It’s different. My Dad… Aga Muhlach is Aga Muhlach. Hindi naman ako nakikipagkumpitensiya sa kanya because… he’s my dad!”
JANICE. It is no wonder that Luigi found his passion in cooking. Aga, says the chef, loves to eat. Janice, on the one hand, loves to cook.
“Yun din yung bonding naming ng pamilya ko— kumain sa labas, magluto sa bahay, mag-barbecue, ganyan.”
When he was first given the Del Monte Kitchenomics project, Luigi got some advice from Janice, who hosts NET 25’s cooking and talk show Spoon.
“On hosting, sinabi lang niya sa akin na just be yourself. It’s easier...pag hindi ka umaarte nang hindi naman ikaw.
“Mas madali kung paano ako ngayon, pag ganito ako sa camera, mas madali.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanya, ‘Ma, paano mo nagagawa yung habang nagluluto ka, nagkukuwento ka?’
“Hindi ko kaya talaga! Hindi ko talaga kaya. It’s either masisira yung pagkain ko or masisira yung sinasabi ko,” expressed Luigi.
As generous as Janice is in giving him hosting tips, Luigi said his Mom never shares her recipes with him.
Half laughing, Luigi said, “Hindi siya nagshe-share ng recipes sa akin. Ayaw niya ako bigyan, e. Ang damot nga, e. Sulat mo nga yun! Si Mama madamot sa recipe!”
He continued, “May mga recipe yun, minsan pag pumupunta ako sa kanila, meron siyang nilulutong masarap, tinatanong ko, ayaw niya sabihin talaga. Di niya sasabihin sa akin.”
He remains a fan, nonetheless, of Janice’s kitchen prowess. His favourite dish of Janice’s?
“Yung white adobo! It’s the best.”
Up to now, Luigi wonders how is Mom concocts the dish.
“I don’t know nga, e. Ayaw niya sabihin. Pero ang sarap talaga, e.
“Basta ang alam ko lang, may liverspread, may suka, may patis, pero may iba siyang ginagawa, e.
“Siguro yung procedure ng pagluto niya is different. It’s really good talaga, it’s really good!” he says in praise of his mom's cooking.