With the Philippine culinary scene in full swing—with restaurants popping up left and right, and diners becoming more adventurous yet discerning—a good number of local chefs have joined the ranks of the “rock stars” of the culinary world.
Just like their international counterparts who became instant celebrities, these talented Filipino chefs are now starring in their own TV programs, serving as judges in cooking reality shows, and bagging their own endorsements deals.
One such rock star is Chef Rob Pengson, with boyish charms to go with his cooking skills. Pengson is considered as one of the original poster boys of the culinary scene, topping most of the “cutest and hottest chefs” lists, churned out by the witty minds of tri-media.
And while he is now a household name among boob tube fans and netizens, his skills and years of experience in top notch kitchens have long proved his worth.
Let’s take a look back
Together with his wife, Chef Sunshine Puey-Pengson, he opened The Goose Station, one of the first degustación restaurants in Metro Manila that won local and international recognitions during its seven-year existence. His work didn’t end there, however as he soon lent his name to some some of the most recognizable restaurants in the city, namely, Hyve and Vyne, Hungry Hound, Niner Ichi Nana, and Olive Tree Kitchen and Bar.
From kitchen to classroom
Taking his skills further, Pengson found fulfillment in sharing his knowledge through education.
“There’s been a lot of changes in my cooking. Originally it was more European, then eventually it became more Filipino mixed, that’s one. But ultimately over the years, what really changed was my outlook on how strongly people can affect other people’s lives which is why I am [now]in education,” the chef told The Sunday Times Magazine during his endorsement launch with multi-vitamin brand Pharmaton.
Giving further details,Pengson said, “Education touched my life so drastically—for me it felt like it turned me from a zero to an eight in two years.”
Pengson started young in his passion for cooking, exposed to the kitchen at the early age of six. And so it was not surprising when he eventually pursued formal training through a two-year Associates Degree course at the California Culinary Academy in the US at 19.
As he began his career—undoubtedly thriving as a chef—Pengson also started teaching in culinary schools until he became courageous enough to open his own institution.
“I have now a culinary school–it is called Global Academy and we have four branches in Metro Manila. [This is proof of] how I got started really being serious with education,” Pengson shared.
He might be considered as someone who has it all, but a dream is still in the works for the young advocate.
“There are a lot of people out there who maybe aren’t good with traditional education but when you give them technical skills based on education, they flourish. To give them the latter is my ultimate mission in life,” Pengson declared.
This mission is what drives Pengson to open a new “school” that’s beyond culinary classes—he wants to have a skills-based school that is apt for modern times.
“It is a technical school that helps people change their lives really quickly; it is a fast-paced intensive education, so results are very important. It is very innovative and out of the box,” Pengson further detailed.
Asked why he wants to do it, the teaching chef philosophically answered, “I believe that education in its traditional form is not as impactful in today’s world. Education has stayed the same for decades but the world is changing with every model of the iPhone,” he laughed. “But seriously, every year, social media is affecting the way we communicate, the way we learn.
“YouTube, for example, is affecting the way our kids learn, the way we do marketing, and even the way we do business online. So many things are changing and education, I feel, is not evolving as fast as industry requires and I want to change that.”
To end, Chef Rob Pengson summed up what his professional life is all about today: “Cooking is my passion and education is my advocacy.”