He does not eat to live, he lives to eat.
Aaron is an internationally recognised Chef de Cuisine, who is artfully crafting his way to the top. His smart flavour combinations are what won him the Chef Espoir 2015 for Île de France by renowned guide, Gault et Millau. Aaron’s restaurant in Paris, Dix-Huit, was named as one of the best restaurants Le Figaro in 2014. He was recognised by the TV show Tres Tres Bon, received two Toques from the Gault et Millau guide 2015 and is listed in the Michelin Guide.
When Isip landed in Manila from France, he set out to accomplish his goal: to showcase how our local flavours and ingredients can be front in centre, stars of the show. In December, he put up a pop-up restaurant in collaboration with F&B concept developers, the Moment Group. This endeavour thoroughly impressed Manila’s most discerning palates, leaving everyone wanting more! Isip has many big plans for his future in the culinary world. We cannot wait to go along with him on his thrilling journey!
Read on to get the inside scoop on chef Isip and his vision for the Philippine culinary scene.
Philippine Tatler: What influenced you to become a part of the culinary world?
Aaron Isip: I've always loved eating good food and cooking for friends and family but it was only after graduating from college that I realized that I wanted a career in Culinary Arts.
PT: How do you think you have evolved as a chef? How has your cooking evolved?
AI: My palate has evolved immensely over the years, through extensive eating and traveling. Whenever I travel to a new place, I try to discover the local food as much as I can. If I can, I try to do a cooking course to learn more of the local cuisine's flavours. This teaches me how to create new flavour combinations that I was never used to before. I honed my cooking techniques through more than a decade of intense work under some of the best Chefs in France, but I think what's more important is how I found my own style of cooking and flavour profile. My cooking now is more true to what flavours I enjoy rather than following what I learned from my previous mentors. My travels have remarkably shaped my style of cooking.
PT: What do you look forward to doing with your cuisine now that you are based in the Philippines, in Asia?
AI: I am looking forward to using more of our local produce, especially the bounty of our seas and our diverse tropical fruits.
PT: Do you have any other projects you are working on? I know you are thinking about opening a restaurant in Palawaan – why there? Can you give us a little sneak preview on what you’re thinking about or dreaming up?
AI: I have an upcoming 4-hands event in Provence for the Easter season. I will be working alongside the Chef of the beautiful Domaine de Manville in Provence and we would do our own interpretation of 5 seasonal ingredients - Asparagus / Langoustines / Ube (which I'm bringing to Provence myself) / Suckling Lamb / Strawberries. It would be interesting to see what the French can come up with our very own Ube. I would also be doing a Filipino-inspired brunch for the event.
Yes, I am thinking of opening a restaurant in El Nido Palawan. I would like to be closer to nature and since it is one of our best tourist destinations, I would like to show the bounty of our local produce to the tourists and visitors of the islands through my food.
PT: If you could cook any other cuisine what would it be and why?
AI: Probably Vietnamese-Thai. I really love the use of fresh Herbs in Vietnamese cuisine and the mastery of melange and balance of flavours in Thai cuisine.
AI: Fast and easy recipes like Pasta and the occasional Silog and other Filipino favourites -- since there are no Filipino restaurants in Paris.
PT: What challenges have you encountered that have made an impact on you?
AI: One of the hardest challenges I've encountered was working as a foreigner in a French kitchen. I had to work extra hard (double than my French colleagues) to prove my worth. It was also challenging to head a French Kitchen as a Filipino. My character as a person has definitely developed because of this.
PT: Do you have a favourite ingredient?
AI: Yes, Patis/Fish Sauce. It's the essence of Umami.
PT: How did your experience in France shape you / What big lessons did you learn in France?
AI: I developed my love for fresh local produce (wherever I may be cooking) through working in great kitchens in Paris. My previous chefs taught me how to enjoy and celebrate the seasons by using the best seasonal ingredients available and respecting them by making them shine in each dish.
PT: I know this is a tough question, but if it was your last day on earth, and you were allowed to have a 3 course meal as your last meal ever, what 3 courses would you have?
AI: Wow, this is tough. But I would have to say:
1) The perfect Kinilaw/Ceviche as my starter. Belon Oysters would be a big contender too.
2) My favourite BoBun as my main dish.
3) A cheese platter from some of the best Fromageries in France, served with bread from say, Pain et des idées in Paris as my dessert course.