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Pinoy chef showcases Filipino food at UK’s biggest cookout festival

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Ferdinand Montoya is the first Filipino to join Meatopia, the United Kingdom’s biggest grilled meat cookout and considered a legendary event for food lovers in the UK held at Tobacco Dock, London on August 31, 2018.

Budgie, as he is more popularly called, joined a powerhouse lineup of 47 other chefs from around the world who were handpicked to be part of the festival.

Chef Budgie served Filipino barbecue skewers (diced pork shoulder marinated and glazed in soy sauce, calamansi juice, banana ketchup, 7UP, garlic, and ginger) with atchara to hefty queues of people during the festival.

An estimated 4,000-5,000 people per day attended Meatopia, which is on its sixth year this year.

Chef Budgie moved from Sydney to London in 2012 and left his job in the information technology industry to pursue his passion for food. He honed his culinary skills from working in the kitchens of top restaurants in London including the Michelin-starred Restaurant Story, Soho House & Co., Flat 3, and Foley’s in Fitzrovia, a restaurant famous in London for marrying Easter and Western flavors.

“I think food is the gateway into anyone’s culture. Food transcends the barriers that separate us—be it politics, religion, or race and allows us all to connect through our primary human function of eating,” Chef Budgie said.

“Once people start trying Filipino food, it gives them the confidence to ask questions about where and how the flavors came about. That dialogue opens them up to not only the culinary culture but the rich cultural history of the Philippines,” Chef Budgie said.

Although he was raised in Australia, it was his mother’s cooking that ultimately inspired Chef Budgie to rediscover his Filipino roots. Pinakbet, adobo, and other popular Filipino dishes ignited his interest to learn more about Filipino culture through the Philippines’ rich and diverse culinary tradition.

Since learning how to whip up Filipino dishes, Chef Budgie has been constantly expanding his repertoire of Filipino dishes while at the same time reinterpreting Filipino favorites to tickle the discerning taste buds of Londoners. In fact, he plans to embark on a month-long visit to the Philippines to learn more about how to prepare Filipino food, especially lechon.

Budgie’s love affair with Filipino cuisine spawned Sarap London, a supper club in London that is gaining widespread popularity among London’s culinary circles. Sarap London aims to retell the story of Filipino cuisine to today’s generation of foodies.

“For me this has been a journey of rediscovery to my cultural heritage. I never planned to make Sarap into something more than a side project and certainly not something I had intended to pursue as business. But the more I rediscovered the more I fell in love and the more my enthusiasm grew. My aim is simple really: I want Filipino cuisine to have its own identity in the culinary world,” Chef Budgie said.

Through Sarap London, Chef Budgie has been giving traditional Filipino food such a sisig, adobo, and lechon kawali a unique and contemporary twist, as a way of introducing the cuisine to those who have never tried it. “Think lechon kawali and adobo sliders, cassava tarts, and sea bass kinilaw nestled nicely in ube taco shells!” he said.

“The energy of younger generations of Filipinos in the United Kingdom to use food as a medium to tell the story of Filipino culture is inspiring and invigorating,” said Ambassador to the U.K. Antonio M. Lagdameo.

“By introducing Filipino cuisine to the British in a creative and innovative way, second generation overseas Filipinos such as Chef Budgie are among our most effective purveyors of Philippine culture in the U.K,” Amb. Lagdameo said.

Meatopia was founded by American food writer and historian Josh Ozersky, whose claim to fame was his stint as editor of New York magazine’s food blog, Grub Street. The festival was later exported to the U.K. by Birmingham chef Richard Turner. (Source: Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines)

(Photos credit: Meatopia, Sarap London)

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