Chef Tatung: Cooking My Life

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Writing this first column for has taken me quite a while. I’ve made up so many reasons to delay it until now. Unlike writing cookbooks, a column is quite personal and rigid because of the regularity you have to write it. I am still intimidated by the idea.

Navigating through this process feels like walking on a tightrope. I really wonder what to write about. Would anyone read this? I would really like to find out the answer. But here it goes.

Writing is like cooking. It involves a thought process. It requires a skill set. It requires focus and tells a story, intentionally or not, about the piece of work itself and the person creating it. And oftentimes, it is meant to be shared with someone other than the cook, or the writer.

Both cooking and writing take longer to do than to consume, thus some prefer not to do it at all.

You can convey valuable and meaningful messages through writing and cooking. In writing, things can be read more clearly, while in cooking, it can be tasted and felt.

But the impact of both activities goes both ways. To the giver and receiver.

Chef Tatung Signing

Cooking, to me, has gained a whole new meaning over the years. What started as a hobby when I was barely 10 years old, turned into a passion in my teens, then my livelihood later in life had a significant impact to my way of thinking. And I tell you, when you have to cook for your life, things change.

In the foreword of my first book, Philippine Cookery: From Heart to Platter, Felice Sta. Maria wrote that there existed a term from Central Philippines circa 1880 that revealed a core value in Filipino cooks at that time, the word “naya naya” which meant ‘the enjoyment of preparing and serving a meal”. The term also refers to a happy person.

Though the term may have been lost in time, we continue to feel naya naya among many of us cooks, who painstakingly toil in the kitchen not just to eat delicious food ourselves, but to share that joy with those who are willing to partake of the feast, no matter how simple it may be.

And this brings me to where I find myself today. The joy of teaching more people to cook. Through my channels, books, and to the teams I get to cook with in my restaurants.

Perhaps I may not be able to cook for everyone I know. The privileged few I get to cook for, more often than not are those who are within my close circle, my family at home who I cook for on occasion the simplest of meals to keep us rooted in traditions, normalcy, and the reality of life.

And when I get the opportunity to cook in the simplest ways, I find truer connections with people because we celebrate not my cooking skills or my achievements, but the connections we develop in the course of sharing the meal.

Both writing and cooking can be powerful. It can win hearts.

Now I cook and write to live life fully.

And in everything you do, there are always many ways of seeing things depending on where you come from. And through my many years of winning and losing over and over, I have come to the understanding that it is only when you pursue your truth do you find comfort in the simplicity of who you are. No embellishment will make you feel better about yourself.

Chef Tatung Quote

So in this writing, I decide to go and bare my truth, sans fears and hesitation.

Make sure to follow the journey of Chef Tatung on YouTube and Instagram.


Chef Tatung's mid-life phase is really something—so amid the myriad of things he does as a home cook, content creator, book author, CEO of Vertical Kreatives, and running several restos—he decided to add this website column.
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