About The Chef
Chef Felipe de la Cruz brings the flavours of Morocco to the shores of Boracay
On a breezy midday, surrounded by coconut trees and powdery white sand, Chef Felipe de la Cruz is busy assembling his latest culinary creation. Over a piece of flatbread, he spreads a layer of house-made onion jam and tender chermoula chicken shreds. Next, he lays down strips of cucumber julienne, tomato brunoise, and marinated grilled bell peppers. Rocket arugula leaves and a sprig of coriander add bursts of green to this mouthwatering blend of ingredients. The resulting delicacy – a Mexican-inspired take on the classic Arabic pita sandwich – is a delectably tangy mix of sweet and spicy notes.
Such inventive play of Mediterranean-based flavours is a hallmark of Chef Felipe’s style – one that he showcases so capably in his Boracay restaurant, Kasbah. A born-and-bred Pinoy, he grew up shuttling between his hometown of Bacolod City and his father’s house in Manila. From his Negrense roots, he inherited a love for good food. And from the streets of his Malate neighborhood – a hangout of the Philippine capital’s boheme set with its iconic row of quirky fusion restaurants – Felipe picked up a more international palate.
“I’ve always been keen on Italian, Latin, and most especially Mediterranean Cuisine”, admits the 44-years-old head chef, “As a boy in old Malate, I remember eating at Middle Eastern restaurants down my street. So when I first tried Moroccan cuisine I felt instantly at home with it. I was familiar with the aromatics and the spices; thus the flavor profile.”
Felipe pursued his love for cooking in Los Angeles where he earned a chef’s diploma at the Art Institute of Hollywood’s International Culinary School. Here at one of the world’s great food capitals, Felipe worked on his chops for three years, at restaurants ranging from old school European, to northern Californian and classic Asian. From these varied kitchens, Felipe learned some life lessons to complement his culinary skills.
“Passion drives you to create but it’s a test of character to actually do professional cooking”, he says of his time spent overseas, “The pay was low and the hours were crazy. But I loved the rush! I loved working with highly efficient people and I still do”
He brings this hard-nosed, passion-driven attitude to work everyday at Kasbah, which he now oversees as a part-owner. The pace of life may be a lot slower, the hours more laid-back on these shores, but this always-on-the-go chef isn’t complaining one bit.
“The lifestyle is definitely different”, he observes, “But I love the diversity of the people here, and the island culture that we’re all part of. I love the multi-cultural environment and the relaxed atmosphere – there’s nothing like it in the Philippines or abroad.”
Chef Felipe reflects on all this as he whips up another culinary creation – a delectable, spice-infused Creamy Harissa Seafood Tagine. This dish and many others on the Kasbah menu may have their roots in the sweltering sands of Morocco, but they have certainly found a home amidst the lapping waves and swaying palm trees of Boracay – thanks to this man and his classy-cool restaurant.facebook_account