What influenced you to become a part of the culinary world?
My then girlfriend, now my wife, Carla Guevara-Laforteza is fantastic in the kitchen and whenever she cooks something really special I would get really interested. Eventually, I asked her to teach me some basics. As I learned new techniques and work on different flavours, I thought cooking is something I see myself doing for a long time. From there I got formal culinary education and as we say, the rest is history.
What is it that you love about food?
Before I became a Chef, I used to be a performing artist. Since a few years back, I’ve shifted my talent and craft into a new form of art –which is cooking— creating unique flavours and distinct tastes that allows me to continue to express my feelings and inspiration.
What inspires you both in and out of the kitchen?
I’m inspired by different things but first and foremost, by my family. They are the reason why I love to cook. I experiment with new dishes and flavours at home and will ask my wife and kids what they think about it.
The guests at the resort are well-travelled individuals and it’s interesting to hear what they say about my food. From there, I get inspiration on how to improve, push my comfort zone, and experiment and try to fill the gap and provide customers what they are looking for.
My travels are also highly inspirational. I’m able to introduce new flavours, try on a new technique or create a fun art inspired by the things that I see around.
What are your favourite ingredients to work with? Or what foods/ingredients are always in your pantry?
I like working with Japanese ingredients and these are the flavours and elements that I always have in my pantry.
What was your basis or inspiration for creating Azure Beach Club's menu?
Azure Beach Club’s menu is a reflection of two things. First it speaks of what the place is about - refreshing, relaxing and fun. This is evident on the styling and plating. The menu is also a manifestation of the different flavours, cuisines, and techniques that I have learned throughout the span of my career, which perfectly fits into the beach club concept where we offer Modern Asian fare.
Were there Filipino touches / flavours you incorporated?
There are a number of desserts that are truly Filipino and Cebuano but throughout the menu I used local produce and products to make sure we help in providing for local farmers and community sustainability.
What is your personal favourite dish on the Azure menu and why?
My personal favourite is the citrus-cured salmon carpaccio with seaweed salsa and lemon wasabi sauce. It’s a very light and refreshing dish that translate to simple happiness for me.
If you could cook any other cuisine what would it be and why?
I’d really like to cook Nordic cuisine. In my recent trip to Denmark and Sweden, I learned different techniques. I particularly like how the cuisine retains the original flavor of the main ingredients, especially seasonal produce. I think this will work great with the products we have in the country.
What would you like to tell people when they are eating your food?
Enjoy the show!
What challenges have you encountered that have made an impact on you?
The 9-11 tragedy in New York City. When that happened, it took me more than 2 months walking the blocks of NYC looking for a job. I've almost given up being a cook and just take any job or career to sustain the livelihood of my family but my wife told me to pursue my dreams. It’s a good thing I listened to her, because I probably won’t be here today if I didn’t.
How has Azure Beach Club evolved? What’s New?
The menu in Azure Beach Club is always evolving. We introduce something new every couple of months, while keeping the classic and favorites. We’ve also been running a signature Saturday brunch event called FOAM. We hope to bring Azure Beach Club to more places in the country. Soon in Boracay and Manila.