Tag Archives: Dale Talde

Dale Talde on Pinoy Cuisine:‘It’s the next big thing’

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Part of me thinks it’s [Filipino cuisine] the next big thing that’s gonna catch,” Dale Talde, one of the more famous and colorful contestants on the recently-concluded Bravo reality show Top Chef told the Asian Journal in an exclusive interview Monday, June 23.

“It is the original fusion food, you can’t get more original fusion than that, with the Spanish, Chinese, Malay and the native influences. We just need to put it out there,” he said.

Talde will now forever be known as that chef who introduced halo-halo to mainstream America via the popular show. He is proud of who he is and what his gastronomical influences are. If he had his way, he’d be putting more Filipino food to the forefront.

“I have seen people who do not have any idea what the Philippines is or where it is located. I think it is a very misunderstood culture and it’s a shame,” Talde said, and he is hoping that through food, he will be able to showcase what Filipino culture is all about.

It is Dale’s dream to open a small and cozy restaurant that will serve some of his favorite comfort food.

He considers anything that his mom makes, specially her pancit, pancit molo and batchoy as his comfort food. “I love batchoy, it’s my favorite thing. When I open my restaurant, I want to open a very simple batchoy and barbecue place, something simple and really good,” he quipped.

Dale’s mom hails from Iloilo while his dad is from Negros Occidental. The last time he visited the Philippines was 19 years ago, when his grandfather died. He has been planning to visit and he hopes he can do it in the next couple of years. He was born in Chicago and was brought back to the Philippines where he was raised for a couple of years until his parents could financially get on their feet. Growing up, he moved back with his family and was raised in a suburb just outside Chicago.

The following are excerpts of the interview:

Asian Journal: How did you get into ‘Top Chef’?

My ex-girlfriend and I are big fans of the show. She really pushed me to do it. A lot of the guys I used to work with in my old kitchen at Morimoto said I was a bit dramatic and a bit highstrung and they thought that I would be perfect for the show.

AJ: What happened after the show? What are your plans?

I went right back to work at Buddakan. I have things on the line. I would like to do some more TV work so I came up with a concept for a show with a friend of mine and we’re pitching it to some people. I have a screenplay that I am trying to write based on the restaurant experiences I’ve had. We’re doing the Top Chef tour and I am also doing a demo for the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). I want to travel and continue the learning process.

AJ: How old were you when you realized you were into cooking?

I was probably 9 or 10. I grew up in a Filipino household and my mom used to do all the cooking. She always made dinner and that’s what we ate. One night, I didn’t feel like eating what my mom cooked and I wanted pancakes with apple on it. My mom was like, ‘No you can’t have pancakes and apples because I’ve made dinner already. If you want that, then you make it.’ I was, ‘Okay, then I’ll make it.’ At that moment, I realized that it was something I liked to do.

AJ: You prepared and served halo-halo on the show.

I grew up eating halo-halo so I knew it as a Filipino dessert. My aunt owned a grocery store where you can buy prepared food in Chicago. She had an ice shaver and she used to make halo-halo and when we had block parties, she would prepare halo-halo and she’d offer it to the neighbors. I knew going into the show that I had to do a dessert and this was my one dessert.

AJ: What is your favorite Filipino dish to cook?

This may sound absolutely ridiculous but I don’t cook Filipino food as well as I know I should, and this may sound ridiculous. I can make kare-kare and it’s good. I love to make and eat kare-kare.

AJ: How about non-Filipino dish?

This is so bad. I don’t cook at home. It’s my job to cook at the restaurant and I cook 12 hours a day so when I come home, I eat. When I do cook, especially when I cook for my loved ones, I go for the simple ones: barbecue and pasta. I am getting older so I am watching what I eat. I try to eat a little healthier. Everything’s so plentiful here, compared back home. There, you only eat what’s available. Here, everything’s available to the point where there’s excess and it’s not healthy for you. If you want to eat lechong kawali four times a day, you can, but it’s not good for you.

AJ: What kind of food do you love eating?

Noodle soups like the Filipino batchoy, Vietnamese pho and ramen are my favorite comfort and hang-over food. I love that type of eating: you pop in, you get a bowl and eat. It’s fastfood but it’s really, really good.

AJ: If you had your way, how are you going to make Filipino cuisine more acceptable to the mainstream palate?

It’s not trying to make the food what it’s not. Let’s be perfectly honest. A lot of the food that we make is not pretty. You can pretty it up by putting it on a beautiful bowl but for me it’s about keeping things simple and doing them perfectly. Like batchoy. Not a lot of people know about it, even first-generation Filipino Americans.

If I can take batchoy and make it perfect and turn one of those fast-foody places into something that’s hip and cool as the place to be, and serve San Miguel beer, barbecue on a stick, siopao and batchoy.

Let’s be more creative. Pan de sal sandwiches. We eat pan de sal by itself. It’s reinventing something that Filipinos are used to eating and now will be marketed to a wider market. Let’s start with something small like this, and siopao and batchoy.

AJ: Your message to fans and viewers who supported you this season.

To my Filipino fans, salamat. I hope I did you guys proud. I hope I put someone out there, specially to us first generation Americans who do not have someone in the media that they can look at. Growing up, I didn’t have that. I did not have some to look at and say that person is like me or looks like me. I am not saying that I am a role model, I am not. Hopefully, some people saw that and felt, ‘I can relate to that dude. I can relate to his frustrations. I see what he is going through’. Thank you. We are doing it, Filipinos, we are putting it out there.

For my non-Filipino supporters: thanks for everything. Look out for me man, it’s going to be a big year. It’s going to be a good year.


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Life lessons Dale Talde learned from ‘Top Chef’

by Momar G. Visaya/AJPress

NEW YORK – “Salamat. I hope I did you guys proud. I hope I put someone out there, specially to first generation Americans like me who do not have someone in the media that we can look at,” Dale Talde, the Filipino American chef from Chicago told the Asian Journal in an interview Monday, June 23.

Top Chef, the Bravo reality show which is now on its fourth season, just ended one of its most successful runs.

The show averaged three million viewers weekly and up 28% in adults 18 to 49 from last season. There’s no doubt that it is cable television’s top food show.

One of the show’s resident judges, chef Tom Colicchio said in the reunion episode that this is the strongest group of chefs ever.

Padma Lakshmi, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, shared her thoughts on the show’s resurgence in viewership. “Never did I think it would become this big, huge thing, but I’m very proud to be a part of it. It’s like this big little show – people have never heard of it or they’re obsessed,” Lakshmi, the show’s host said.

Equally as proud is Dale himself. He is the second Filipino American to be one of the competing chefs, after Season 2’s Josie Smith-Malave. “My ex-girlfriend and I are big fans of the show. She really pushed me to do it, and I am happy I did,” he shared. Dale trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and worked at some of Chicago’s fine dining restaurants before moving to New York to work as chef de cuisine at Morimoto. Prior to the show, he was working as sous chef at Buddakan.

While the show focused on the chefs running after the perfect dish, Dale believes that there’s more to it than just that.

“The perfect dish does not exist. It is for me a metaphor for the drive that one has – never being satisfied, never being content. It’s never gonna be there. You will never get it. Everyday you need to go to work and say, ‘This is what I want’. It is not really the dish but the drive to get to that dish,” he said.

Dale was one of the more controversial cheftestants of the show. While he was perceived as someone who had bad temper and attitude problem, a lot of the show’s fans expressed their disappointment online via blogs and message boards when he was unceremoniously booted out during the show’s ‘Restaurant Wars’ episode.

“I deserved to be in the Top 3 but because of my ego, I blew it. I should have let her be executive chef. It’s all water under the bridge now. The show is over and I am glad how everything panned out. I showed my skills well and I am very happy I had the opportunity to do that,” he shared.

The last six contestants were divided into two groups. They were given a budget to come up with a concept for a restaurant and run it for a day. Dale’s group had him sharing the limelight with Lisa and Spike. The other team had eventual winner and the first female Top Chef Stephanie, Richard and Antonia.

Dale’s team lost. Lisa contributed two dishes that the judges didn’t like but since Dale was the executive chef, he got the boot.

Another reason cited for his elimination was a dish he prepared called ‘Butterscotch Scallops’. Guest judge chef Anthony Bourdain wasn’t happy with this dish and called it “supremely bad”.

Suppressing his laughter, Dale recalled, “The dish was supposed to be done with sea bass but when we went to the market they didn’t have enough sea bass. I thought I could do it with scallops although I knew that scallops are naturally sweet while sea bass is not that sweet. That’s where the dish failed.”

There have also been posts that focused on a conspiracy theory, about producers not wanting to have back-to-back Asian Top Chef winners. Last season’s Top Chef was Hung Huynh, a Vietnamese American.

Dale said he made friends during the show and he hopes to keep them. He shared that he got closest with Stephanie and Richard. “Steph is a great friend of mine. I knew her way back from Chicago. With Rich, I really made a connection with him,” he said.

As for regrets, Dale admitted that he should have played the game differently.

“Things happen, I made a mistake. At that point, I didn’t play the game right. I should have just let Lisa be the executive chef and I should have taken the back seat and watch her fall down. My ego got way big,” he quipped.

After the show, Dale went right back to resume his role as sous chef at Buddakan, one of New York City’s hottest restaurants. He is also working on different projects at the moment such as a new concept for a TV show and a screenplay about his restaurant experiences.


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