Charles in charge | The Manila Times

Charles Montañez says he’s educated the French means, conceding that as ‘the muse of all issues culinary.’

Charles Montañez says he’s educated the French means, conceding that as ‘the muse of all issues culinary.’

“I got here from expertise from the bottom up, so no matter adverse I went via, I make certain it doesn’t occur once more. We’re all mates. The individuals I work with within the kitchen are my mates.”

THE rock and roll mythology that labored within the picture of some infamous world cooks doesn’t apply to Charles Montañez.

Whereas the chief chef and chief working officer (COO) of Grupo Alegria works in unseen rooms behind his open kitchen, he insists that is simply par for the course.

Tempers and toxicity don’t make his kitchen and his eating ideas.

“Cooks these days, parang masyado silang nabibigyan ng pointless publicity and voice slightly than specializing in what actually issues,” he mentioned.

“I’ve constructed the corporate and the place to not be like that. I got here from expertise from the bottom up, so no matter adverse I went via, I make certain it does not occur once more. With my profession, sa firm kasi wala [toxicity] eh. We’re all mates. The individuals I work with within the kitchen are my mates,” he mentioned, throwing no bone to our disappointment at a missed Pinoy-version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

Chef Charles strolled in for the interview whereas doing his traditional rounds at Alegria Manila with an equable stride, simply because the open kitchen was breaking into the hum of scheduled service.

Alegria is dimly lit. The wash of purple atmosphere is languid class. However within the parlors of its finest tables, one may knock again beers, sangrias, cocktails blowing bubbles and settle right into a convivial Latin American tableau.

The kitchen bedlam that has turn out to be a Hollywood and actuality TV trope is nowhere to be heard. Only a suspicion of cultures — of Chef Charles’ French coaching within the culinary arts and his Latin American taste swatches — colliding in peace.

“We’re very unorganized proper now,” he confided, not a lot with a worry of fallout at that type of privileged peek of the enterprise facet.

The assertion even smacks of pleasure as a result of it alerts the aggressiveness that introduced his Alegria ideas up up to now.

At prime strip Uptown Parade within the Taguig central enterprise district, the high quality eating Alegria iteration could be Chef Charles’ crown jewel.

This Alegria, the flagship, is his favourite, the excessive be aware of a symphony of ideas he calls: “Alegria for everybody [joy for everyone].”

“This idea has been boiling for the previous 5 years,” he mentioned. “This has all the time been the objective. The opposite eating places are sustaining this trigger.”

The “others” can hardly be consigned to the peripheries of eating. They’re crawling, from Manila to Alabang to Boracay.

To this point, there’s a cantina (Cantina Alegria in Molito, Alabang), a heat and fuzzy brunch place (Café Alegria in Burgos Circle, Bonifacio World Metropolis) and Buena Vida, its boutique membership on the fourth ground of the Uniqlo constructing.

“I’ve all the time needed it to be a tasting menu restaurant,” he continued, flicking off the five-year backstory. “However then, after we have been beginning the corporate, we needed to prioritize sustainability. We did not have publicity but. So we had to verify it is going to work.”

Taking part in it secure meant marrying the five-, seven-, 10-course formalities with a bar. Chef Charles couldn’t dive into the deep finish of high quality eating regardless of having purchased out earlier eating places approaching closure and flipping them into the group’s ideas.

He did this with companions who additionally occur to be shut mates and kitchen mates in previous gigs.

Chef Charles oversees operations whereas one other companion is accountable for advertising and marketing and one other mans the enterprise entrance.

“We have been with one another for thus lengthy. We adopted one another round. Once I opened Alegria 5 years in the past, I had the identical pioneering workforce. Most of them are head cooks already,” he mentioned.

Sous chef Gilbert Borja and pastry chef Chico Orcine are with him in Alegria Manila.

“We needed to be secure with our first strategy; we would have liked one thing to lean on to. If the meals does not work, the bar may,” he mentioned.

Chef Charles commutes to Singapore, the place final 12 months they opened Alegria.

There is not a logical calculation of how sleep suits into his system, however who wants downtime?

He claims, nonetheless, that it whacks up his artistic concepts.

“Downtime makes you consider different issues [other than your best ideas]; you get disorganized.”

But once more, the composure. Pondering of meals 80 p.c a day, per his approximation, is all a part of a lifetime dream sequence. That is his easy one-step course of —- “the issues I dream about doing.”

Alegria Manila at Uptown Parade, Bonifacio Global City offers a Filipino-Latin American tasting menu. Contributed Photos

Alegria Manila at Uptown Parade, Bonifacio World Metropolis affords a Filipino-Latin American tasting menu. Contributed Photographs

Alegria Manila at Uptown Parade, Bonifacio World Metropolis affords a Filipino-Latin American tasting menu. Contributed Photographs

It is the identical deal with on issues that has him lining up the group’s again places of work into the environment friendly and extra disciplined drill. Order additionally preoccupies them lately. This is not anarchy both.

It began when he dipped his little fingers as a younger boy into his mother’s cooking. Not for a cheeky cop of a sauce, however to truly tweak it. He was all the time “messing together with his mother’s cooking,” so to talk.

Then adopted years of kitchen indoctrination which may have held down the exploratory habits of tinkering with custom. He was, naturally, educated the French means, what he concedes as “the muse of all issues culinary.”

He earned his chops on the Worldwide Faculty for Culinary Arts and Hospitality Administration and on the World Culinary and Hospitality Academy within the Philippines. He did the rounds of kitchens comparable to Ibiza in Bonifacio World Metropolis and the Movenpick Lodge in Cebu.

He labored in numerous eating places in Singapore. That was all of his 20s, and he’s donning the chief chef’s hat fairly early. At 30, he’s already anointed by referees comparable to Tatler Eating.

He finds Latin American delicacies a pleasant equilibrium between the self-discipline and quality-driven strategies of Western culinary traditions and “the punches of Asian flavors.”

He has beforehand labored with Spanish delicacies, however he will get a twinkle on his eye testing culinary borders.

“Latin American (LA) delicacies is nothing I have not completed. After which I requested myself — I needed to do one thing that I did not have any expertise on simply so it is going to hold me very excited in the case of exploring. I noticed how deep and related LA delicacies is to Filipino. We share a really similar palate,” he mentioned.

Nonetheless, he retains a degree head on the affect his group might need on the Philippine meals scene.

“I do not suppose we will get to affect what Filipino delicacies ought to be, however I feel the perfect factor about what we’re doing proper now could be that we’re influencing individuals by not being keen to be restricted by the foundations.

Trendy occasions are speculated to be utilized for creations, so we simply carry on creating. So, if there’s something that I’d need to affect the younger era on is that … they will simply do no matter,” he broadly let on in regards to the individualism of style, as Alegria’s interiors would have it.

Work by Filipino artists intensify selection tables, and the ceiling’s silvery overhangs guess on one other aircraft of journey.

Journey is what they’ll get within the tasting menu, though there are acquainted and comforting fallbacks on native substances.

Chef Charles personally loves the okoy tostada which crusts up some kalkag (dried child shrimp from Iloilo) right into a kind of taco shell and tops up with pumpkin, flax seeds and native crab meat in mussel crème.

Programs comparable to child corn from La Trinidad, Benguet with a rollover of crunchy quinoa, Aklan oysters in Yakult leche tigre, mango and cilantro oil, rove native farmers’ produce.

That wasfrom the primary quarter lineup; it is anybody’s guess how and the place Chef Charles may transfer within the subsequent tasting menus.

Accolades must be purely incidental, and that is how he’d like to play it. He has considered the best ones (hey, Michelin stars), in all honesty.

“However I do not need to be confined by it.”

He overtly declares a structured defiance of culinary canon and the glamorization of the high quality eating trade. He stresses its tough edges. Plating by deft and delicate fingers over the open kitchen “is just 25 p.c of the job.”

“Custom ought to all the time be revered, but it surely ought to by no means be afraid of innovation.”

This sounded extra from an elder statesman slightly than the clichéd unhealthy boy of the kitchen or a man who simply is aware of the onerous work of it.

About me

Position Mannequin

My father

First paycheck

Once I was 20, it was P3,500 for 2 weeks price of labor.

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Morning ritual

Examine on my canine, Salsa, who was named after the perfect factor you may placed on a taco as I might prefer to suppose I am the taco and he’s the salsa. We’re finest mates!

Finest talent

My sense of being undaunted by any type of mixing and matching of no matter there’s in life.


Sustainability for my firm, and to have a home by the mountain and simply grill over wooden hearth in the back of my yard for the remainder of my days.