Feast of Flavors: Filipino chefs to watch at the 2023 NYC Wine & Food Festival

Paul Qui (Golfstrømmen), Rob Mallari D’Auria (Kalye), Tom Cunanan (Soy Pinoy) (Top, Left-Right); Dawn Estrada (Cake Jars), Augee Francisco (Kabisera), Diana Manalang (Little Chef Little Cafe) (Bottom, Left – Right).      Photos Courtesy of Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One

Filipino foodies and gourmands in the tri-state area are in for a treat next weekend as New York’s most renowned culinary festival takes over the Big Apple. The much-awaited Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) returns to celebrate 16 years this October 12-15 with more than 80 events featuring over 500 chefs from around the world who come together with God’s Love We Deliver to support New Yorkers affected by severe illness. 

While there were only a handful of Filipino chefs participating in previous events, this year’s NYCWFF is proud of its crop of Filipino talents participating.

“For this year’s sweet 16, there’s more opportunities than ever for fans and industry experts to unite and celebrate,” said festival founder and director Lee Brian Schrager. “We have an incredible ensemble of talent, showcasing today’s top chefs, culinary and lifestyle personalities. We’re also pleased to share new, not-to-be-missed events like The Cookout, an homage to Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary that harmoniously blends New York’s most ingenious chefs conjuring their signature flavors alongside performances from the genre’s most iconic figures.”

NYCWFF is widely recognized as the largest wine and food festival in New York. Among the events happening at this epic gastronomic celebration are a variety of walk-around tastings, intimate dinners, pier parties, master classes, and brunches that will take place at locations across the city – from the Intrepid on Pier 86 to the new Hard Rock Hotel in Times Square to Aspire One World Observatory on the 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center.

Celebrity chefs Jet Tila and Masaharu Morimoto return to NYCWFF this year with sold-out events.

There will be live culinary demonstrations from some of the most celebrated talent like Marcus Samuelsson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Kardea Brown, Robert Irvine, Andrew Zimmern, Scott Conant, Jet Tila, Jeff Mauro, and more as part of the Grand Tasting.

The fan-favorite event makes its return to Hudson River Park’s Pier 76 where a sprawling 245,000 square feet outdoor area will be transformed into a gastronomic wonderland showcasing hundreds of winemakers and distillers from the Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits portfolio.

Those looking to learn from today’s top content creators about the latest trends and engage in thought-provoking discussions on the intersection of food, culture, and tech should grab tickets to FoodieCon presented by Instagram.

Among the Filipino chefs and businesses we are excited to see are Chef Paul Qui (2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southwest), Tom Cunanan (2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic), Frances Tariga (winner of Morimoto’s Sushi Master), Alexis Antonio and Rob Mallari-D’Auria (Kalye), Kimberly Camara (From Kora), and Diana Manalang (Little Chef Little Café), joining Janice de Castro (Keyks), Dawn Estrada (Cake Jars), Augelyn Francisco (Kabisera), Francis Jereza (fuku), The Boiis Co, are all returning this year.

Where to Catch Them

Paul Qui, who rose to culinary stardom after winning Top Chef and followed this up with a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest is part of the French Bistro Brunch (Sunday, October 15 at The Standard Highline) hosted by Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian.

Born in Manila and trained in classic French and Japanese cuisine, Qui takes a modernist approach to food that’s delicious and authentic, yet playful and unexpected. A master at marrying classical techniques with local flavors, Qui draws inspiration from Filipino, Japanese, Spanish, and French culinary styles. He is co-owner of Houston-based restaurant group FAM Hospitality, which includes Neo-Fjordic meets Gulf Coast seafood concept Golfstrømmen, named the #1 restaurant in Houston by the Houston Chronicle.

Tom Cunanan, after being a finalist in 2017 and 2018, won the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic. He is part of sold-out Asian Bites & Karaoke Nights, hosted by Food Network’s Jet Tila, the LA-based master Thai chef, and Esther Choi, the influential Korean-American chef of mökbar.

In February 2022, Paul Qui brought Cunanan on board to partner along at Soy Pinoy in Houston. Along with his new vision of Filipino comfort fast casual food, Cunanan will also be opening a fine dining restaurant, Hermie’s, and bar Boy Rose honoring his mother, the muse behind his culinary career.

Cunanan was at the helm of Bad Saint when it was recognized by Bon Appétit magazine as the #2 Best New Restaurant in the country in 2016. Pete Wells of The New York Times gave the restaurant a three-star review, writing that “the food that Tom Cunanan and his cooks prepare under columns of wok smoke is richly compelling no matter how many prior run-ins you’ve had with Filipino food.” Eater named it one of the 38 essential restaurants in America in 2017-2019.

Frances Tariga (Trust Bae)

Frances Tariga, who recently won the new sushi competition Morimoto’s “Sushi Master” will join her mentor, famed Japanese-born Iron Chef and Food Network veteran Masaharu Morimoto in “An Evening with Two Sushi Masters,” in a sold-out dinner at the Tavern on the Green. Chef Frances showcased her journey through omakase at the sushi competition and stuck to her Filipino roots as she created an authentically modern take on the traditional Japanese omakase which later inspired Trust Bae.

Among the celebrated chefs slated to take the stage in front of a live audience at the Festival’s 135,000 square feet culinary playground, Grand Tasting featuring culinary demonstrations at Hudson River Park’s Pier 76 are Robert Irvine, Andrew Zimmern, Geoffrey Zakarian, Scott Conant and Alex Guarnaschelli, among others.

Joining this array of star chefs for both days of the Grand Tasting are Kalye, Janice de Castro of Keyks, and Francis Jereza of Fuku.

Francis Jereza (fuku)

Jereza is the director of culinary at Fuku, the fried chicken joint from David Chang. After graduating from The International Culinary Center (ICC) in 2015, Francis developed his culinary chops at Rotisserie Georgette before joining the Fuku team in 2018. Born and raised in the Philippines, Francis draws from both Asian and American influences in crafting Fuku’s menu of epically spicy, crispy, and saucy fried chicken.

Jae de Castro (Keyks)

Chef Jae, as she is fondly called, spent the majority of her career as a marketing and communications director in the financial and professional services world. It was not until she decided to become a stay-at-home mom did she realize her love for dessert making. Keyks is known for their Twinkie-inspired desserts called Keyks, Kukis, and childhood treats made in a more “delicious fashion” to bring a higher level of childhood nostalgia to people’s palates and hearts. Chef Jae’s innovative products and flavor pairings are inspired by our Filipino roots, memorable everyday experiences, and travels.

Kalye is the latest addition of Filipino joints in the Lower East Side, joining Kabisera, Gugu Room, Mama Fina’s, and Pig & Khao. The restaurant’s menu is a reflection of owner Rob Mallari-D’Auria’s deep connection to his Filipino roots, featuring dishes like savory adobo, flavorful longganisa, and delectable ube pao. Kalye has become more than just a place to eat; it’s a symbol of love, determination, and resilience.

Three Fil-Am chefs – Kimberly Camara, Augelyn Francisco, and Diana Manalang – are part of Spritz Society’s Disco & Drinks event, a late-night, drink-focused danceathon is held at Harbor NYC, a new rooftop venue on the Hudson River that offers incredible views of the surrounding city.

Augee Francisco and her partner, Joey Payumo opened Kabisera, their first food and beverage business together in December 2017, in a 200 sq. ft. space on Allen St. in New York City’s Lower East Side. They have also opened a second Kabisera location inside the Canal Street Market on 261-267 Canal St., as well as her latest opening, Chinatown Deli.

Kimberly Camara is the Chef and co-founder of Kora, a Filipino-inspired bakery started alongside co-founder Kevin Borja after industry lay-offs during COVID-19. Both veterans of teams like for NYC teams like USHG and Make it Nice, Kimberly who is a Culinary Institute of America alum and proud Filipino Queens native, alongside Kevin, explore Filipino culture and cuisine through heirloom recipes combined with their decade of experience in food and beverage.

Kimberly Camara (From Kora)

Diana Manalang, a seasoned professional in the hospitality industry, brings over ten years of invaluable experience to her two thriving establishments in Long Island City: Little Chef Little Kitchen and Little Chef Little Café. Armed with a background in marketing for renowned brands like Swarovski and a wealth of knowledge in restaurant management, Diana infuses her ventures with a genuine love for food and exceptional customer service. Before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey, she played a vital role in crafting innovative restaurant and food hall concepts. Notably, she contributed significantly to the success of the esteemed Bareburger Group, ultimately rising to the esteemed position of Managing Partner.

The Boiis Co is part of The Great Big Apple Bake-Off, a sold-out family-friendly baking competition event hosted by Food Network chef and TV personality Carla Hall and “king of sweets” Duff Goldman, founder of Charm City Cakes, host of Food Network’s “Kids Baking Championship.”

Last year, Rivy-Major Oponda of The Boiis Co highlighted their classic Mochi Filled Cookies in Ube, Matcha, Salted Caramel, Apple Cider, and Black Sesame. “We feel absolutely thrilled and honored to be even considered to be a part of this event. Being surrounded by such amazing and creative people is truly inspiring,” Oponda told the Asian Journal then. “We strive to continue in bringing Filipino culture, and flavors, and sharing our creations as we go.”

Some of the events like dinners hosted by celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud, Martha Stewart, Dominique Crenn, Rocco DiSpirito, Marc Murphy, and Marcus Samuelsson are already sold out but tickets to some select events are still available online at nycwff.org.

Last year’s dinner with Maneet Chauhan, Amanda Freitag and Leah Coehn was sold-out early, like many of the events in this year’s NYCWFF.
Photos Courtesy of Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One


Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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