She scours the world for the best dishes and works alongside rock-star chefs. As well as being the driving force behind Cross Cultures — an events platform that promotes cultural exchange through food — Cheryl Tiu is also a taste-hunter for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. In the course of her work, she’s foraged for ingredients at Malipayon Farms in Cavite with Gert De Mangeleer of Belgium’s three-Michelin-starred Hertog Jan; championed Ethiopian cuisine in Manila with Eat Ethio’s Helina Tesega; and brought in Gaggan Anand and his team for a “four-hands” dinner event at Gallery Vask (now Gallery by Chele). We asked the woman with the best job in the world a few things we’ve been curious about.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience in the Philippines?
Toyo Eatery and Gallery by Chele have done an excellent job of elevating Filipino cuisine. Their tasting menus are compendiums of their respective journeys around the provinces of the Philippines, weaving together the country’s history through the use of local ingredients — working closely with our local farmers and fishers — and the stories behind each dish.
And in Asia?
I think that Asia’s street food and casual eateries are some of the best in the world. I particularly enjoy going to hawker centers and food markets before experiencing a fine-dining restaurant’s tasting menu of these local favorites.
What’s your favorite Filipino dish?
Sisig (sizzling pork), hands down.
And your favorite Asian dish?
Any variation of dumpling — xiao long bao, gyoza, mandu, momo, har gaw, manti, wonton or samosa.
How often do you travel?
Quite often. I’m in two to three different countries more or less every month.
What’s the one thing you never leave home without when you travel for work?
My cellphone — it’s my working camera too.
What’s one travel trick you’ve learned from experience?
Going the extra mile or going out of your comfort zone may feel uncomfortable, but is generally rewarding in one way or another.
You have to eat so much — how do you keep fit? I eat out sooo much and that’s my biggest struggle — fighting weight gain! In the Philippines, I do indoor cycling at Electric Studio regularly — around four times a week. Then, occasionally, I’ll do a still boxing session at Flyweight.
Dream flight seat mate?
Malala Yousafzai. I’d definitely want to talk about how she turned seemingly overwhelming adversity into an opportunity to make the world a better place — and also, her life now as a 21-year-old university student in Oxford.
Fearless forecast time: When it comes to food and dining, who are the ones to watch in the Philippines and Southeast Asia?
Garima Arora of modern Southeast Asian restaurant Gaa in Bangkok is, in my opinion, one of the best female chefs in the region. I first met her when she came with the Gaggan team to cook with us at Cross Cultures in the Philippines two years ago, and now she’s helming her own kitchen and doing amazing things. Her restaurant just became the first helmed by an Indian woman to win a Michelin star. In the Philippines — and I’m not just saying this because she’s my aunt — Happy Ongpauco-Tiu, who is upping the juxtaposition of private dining and entertaining in Manila; Raul Fores of Made Nice, who now also helms the kitchen at NoKal; and Quenee Vilar, sous-chef of Hey Handsome and Your Local.
This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Smile magazine.