Husband and wife team Chef Romy Dorotan and Ms. Amy Besa have been making waves in the Filipino food scene for twenty years. Their first restaurant was Manhattan’s Cendrillon, in operation from 1995 to 2009. They now own and operate Purple Yam. Originally located in Brooklyn, New York, the restaurant has since expanded to include a location in Malate, Philippines.

From September 7 to 13, Besa and Chef Romy--accompanied by Chefs Bryan Tim Ong, Rap Cristobal and Noah Villaluz of Purple Yam Malate--will be in The Netherlands as guest chefs for De Karpendonkse Hoeve, a restaurant that has received a Michelin star each year since 1979. 

How did Team Purple Yam land this gig? 

As it happened, some frequent flyers at Purple Yam Malate hosted Ingrid van Eeghem, owner of de Karpendonkse Hoeve. According to a recent Rappler article, the regulars made a point of introducing their foreign guest to Philippine cuisine. Van Eeghem was hooked; she asked her hosts to contact Besa about the possibility of a guest chef week.

Can’t say we blame her--we got hooked on Purple Yam when we visited Brooklyn last fall. The food was phenomenal, not to mention what Chef Romy had to say about it.

"[What] I don’t like is ‘How do we elevate Filipino food?’" he told us in our Tagalog-English bilingual conversation. "A lot of people don’t really know our food if they say that. They see it in a restaurant setting, in a turo-turo restaurant, but that’s not really our food. That’s part of what restaurant food [is]. But when you say ‘elevate Filipino food and cuisine,’ what does that really mean? Do you know what it means? Do you really know what the taste of this is, what is the taste of adobo? You know ‘elevating’ doesn’t really mean taste, it means the garnishing, the presentation. In which, I totally disagree… Most people ask, ‘Why are we not mainstream?’... Because it’s brown, it doesn’t look good… Innovate, beautify… If you source your vegetables well, the ingredients are good, you prepare and cook it well, [that should be enough]. If you start twisting your carrot flowers and tomato flowers, what does that fucking mean? Is that innovating?... The sense of beauty has to be organic to the dish."

 

A snippet of Purple Yam's Menu

Alternating between English and Tagalog (translated here), Chef Romy described how he got his training in the kitchen.  “'Self-taught' is not the right word. I worked in restaurants. You cannot be reading and cooking on your own. People taught me how to cook in the restaurant.” “And then I started, of course, reading cookbooks and feeding staff. And then that’s how I learned the vocabulary. But it’s all French-based, the terminology. Because the restaurant world actually uses the French system, how to produce food.”  

Alternating between English and Tagalog (translated here), Chef Romy described how he got his training in the kitchen. 

“'Self-taught' is not the right word. I worked in restaurants. You cannot be reading and cooking on your own. People taught me how to cook in the restaurant.”

“And then I started, of course, reading cookbooks and feeding staff. And then that’s how I learned the vocabulary. But it’s all French-based, the terminology. Because the restaurant world actually uses the French system, how to produce food.”

 

Breadfruit chips with Bicol Express

Breadfruit chips with Bicol Express

Eggplant Kulawo (burnt coconut cream)

Eggplant Kulawo (burnt coconut cream)

Ukoy (vegetable and shrimp fritter) and Eggplant Kulawo (burnt coconut cream)

Ukoy (vegetable and shrimp fritter) and Eggplant Kulawo (burnt coconut cream)

Taco Nori: beef tapa, fried garlic heirloom rice, pomelo, persimmons, oranges, spring mix nestled in a crispy nori (dried seaweed)

Taco Nori: beef tapa, fried garlic heirloom rice, pomelo, persimmons, oranges, spring mix nestled in a crispy nori (dried seaweed)

Kare-Kare and Adobo sa Gata (coconut cream)

Kare-Kare and Adobo sa Gata (coconut cream)

romy dorotan purple yam new york brooklyn
Lobster sinigang soured with guava, lemon and tomato.

Lobster sinigang soured with guava, lemon and tomato.

House-made ice cream, langka (jackfruit), avocado, and ube (the eponymous purple yam)

House-made ice cream, langka (jackfruit), avocado, and ube (the eponymous purple yam)

Buko (coconut) pie, a calamansi meringue pie with guava ice cream

Buko (coconut) pie, a calamansi meringue pie with guava ice cream

Go holla at Purple Yam in Brooklyn (1314 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11226) or in Malate (603 Nakpil Corner Bocobo Street, Manila, Luzon, Philippines). In Manila, make sure to call for reservations +63 9267133523.