meet Chef Manalo
Meet Chef Manalo! Manalo works in the heart of house at Ando, where he seeks to build community through good food.
We sat down with Manalo to hear about his upbringing, food, and his journey in the hospitality industry, and here’s what he had to say.
Q: What led you to where you are today?
M: I was born in the Philippines and moved to New York City when I was 9. Upon moving, one thing that I thoroughly missed was the emphasis of family and community that I grew up with in the Philippines. This sense of nostalgia brought me back to the Philippines when I was 18 to attend university. I told my mom that the reason I was going there was to study and fulfill my family obligations in pursuing higher education, but really it was because I missed the community of extended family that I was a part of. All in all, my time at university was fruitful.
I completed a 5 year course in architecture and hold a B.Arch. I ended up working in the architectural industry for a total of 3 years. However this sense of building and being a part of a community still called to me. After trying out a few different industries like sales, social work and tourism, I found the food and hospitality industry. This is when things really started to click for me. The parts of my life that I had longed for for so long became apparent and showed itself in the type of community and culture that only the people who have worked in the industry know. Good food is always at the center of good community.
“The parts of my life that I had longed for for so long became apparent in the community and culture that only the people who have worked in the (restaurant) industry know. Good food is always at the center of good community.”
Q: What do you think is the most important thing for a chef to learn?
M: I think that all good chefs, whether 5 years or 50 years into the craft, will tell you that they still don’t know what they’re doing. There’s always a new thing to learn, the best way can always be made better.
But as a young chef, I have found that understanding the language and art of command is one thing that is often understated in the “what should chefs learn” conversation. Aspiring cooks and chefs should ponder these things. Instruction, authority, authorship, the giving and taking of orders in a restaurant are an important part of having things run smoothly during service. I work with some younger chefs who possess amazing talents in technique and intelligence, but lack the understanding and confidence of command. These guys are going to surprise themselves when they realize that they have everything it takes to excel by learning to command that truth.
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
M: Being a father to my daughter, Ami. It’s not as much an accomplishment, but a constant work in progress. I am most proud that I can keep up with that work in progress, on top of pursuing all of my personal and professional goals.
Q: What do you love most about Ando?
M: The staff and crew. Our Head Chef Ryan gives us a lot of room to take ownership of our work and our responsibilities, that keeps us all motivated. Everyone of the chefs that I work with in Ando has a desire to push his or her own comfort level for the good of the team. We always have each other’s backs when it comes down to the nitty gritty.
“I find my inspiration in my desire to build communities of tomorrow. … I think hard about what brings people together, about what makes them want to break their routines and get together for the sake of togetherness.”
Q: Where do you look for inspiration?
M: I find my inspiration in my desire to build communities of tomorrow. It’s a little bit abstract, but in my work with food and hospitality that’s what I strive for. I think hard about what brings people together, about what makes them want to break their routines and get together for the sake of togetherness.
For example, I was taught to cut sashimi pieces in even numbers if there are two people sharing the platter. Cutting them in equal pieces makes it so that each person has the same amount as the other, no hassles. However, I like to do the opposite. When I know that there are two people sharing the platter, I cut sashimi pieces in uneven numbers. In this way, I can encourage an interaction between the two parties.
“Wow, I really like the Tuna, do you think I can have the last piece?,” says one. “Absolutely!,” says the other. “Thank you!,” says the one.
It can go a million ways, but that’s what opens up possibilities.
Thank you, Manalo, for sharing your thoughtfulness and passion for pushing the boundaries and building community.