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We see how the Kapampangan are unafraid to innovate in the kitchen, which validates their status as our culinary capital. It’s no surprise then that Pampangueno chefs get recognized worldwide, one of them being Chef Sau del Rosario. With his group of friends, Chef Sau started Culinarya Pampanga, a collective of chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and educators. They aim to showcase and provide customers with quality Kapampangan dishes, in one form or another.
Sau Del Rosario of Cafe Fleur
Chef Sau Del Rosario has more than twenty years of cooking experience. An internationally trained chef, he has spent time in the United States, France, Singapore, Thailand, and Shanghai. He's skilled in French and Asian cuisines but loves Kapampangan above all. His restaurant Cafe Fleur serves traditional dishes like Kare-Kare, with truffle macadamia sauce for a twist.
Den Lim of DenLim's Kitchen
Chef Den Lim grew up with a family that made LA Bakery, a known bakeshop in Pampanga. He has initiated his own culinary ventures since, including DenLim's Kitchen. Described as a hipster-inspired private dining place, DenLim's Kitchen takes reservations only to give guests that exclusive dining experience. Dishes include the Pugon Liempo Wrap, in which the lechon is cooked in a pugon until it's crispy.
Howard Dizon of Howard Dizon's Catering Services
Chef Howard is no stranger to preparing food for special occasions like weddings, birthdays, or baptismals. He heads his own food business, Howard Dizon's Catering Services. Chef Howard is known for his dish called Asadong Dila, which consists of cooked ox tongue with castañas or chestnuts.
Cherry Pasion-Tan of Apag Marangle
Chef Cherry Pasion-Tan serves as one of two minds behind Apag Marangle, which in Kapampangan means "dining in a farm". This is exactly the concept of the restaurant, which adopts the Bahay-Kubo design for that rustic feel. The menu stays on-brand as well, with dishes like Chili Garlic Frog and Ginisang Camaru or stir-fried crickets.
Vince Garcia of Rainforest Kichene
Chef Vince Garcia still is in his twenties but he already heads his own culinary group. Included here is his restaurant called Rainforest Kichene, which greets customers with its luscious, green scenery. Chef Vince offers signature dishes like the Salted Crust Lechon Belly or the Seafood Paella.
Judy Uson of Cafe Noelle
Chef Judy Unson is a proven creative, both in fine arts and in the kitchen. A cake designer, she moved to Pampanga to head culinary schools and homegrown restos like Cafe Noelle. Chef Judy named it after her daughter, a gesture as sweet as her signature red velvet cakes. The cafe also serves savory dishes like the homestyle roast beef.
Chef Froi Cruz of Cioccolo
Chef Froi Cruz is the owner of Cioccolo Bistro and Cafe, a “secret hideaway” that offers customers a “place to go loco”. Indeed, the place is far from the city center and offers dishes for special occasions. Chef Froi’s regulars love his Afritada Chicken because of his own way of stewing the chicken in tomato sauce. Best to taste it for yourself.
Chef Nico Bailon of Bale Dutung
Chef Nico Bailon has chefs for parents, which explains his culinary passion. He now manages the family venture, Bale Dutung or “House of Wood” in Kapampangan, known for their homey interiors and unique dishes. Chef Nico’s Adobong Pusit stands out from the usual one because he uses certain ingredients and techniques. Many swear by it.
This culinary alliance offers savory dishes, sweet treats, bottled goods, and such - all fresh from Pampanga. The current community quarantine hasn’t stopped their service, thanks to online delivery services like Frozen Manila. The process is simple: I place my order on the service’s website, pay via bank transfer or GCash, then schedule a pick-up or ask them to book a rider.
I used to raise my brows when people would tout Pampanga as the culinary capital, but Culinarya Pampanga made me a believer. The collective shows how serious they are with their goal through the food they create. They've anticipated the needs and demands of their customers by utilizing online delivery and offering sought-after products. It’s a privilege to savor these chef’s creations, and I look forward to my next order already.