Of TV and Royalty: Success Series with Chef Frances Tariga
By Reena Llanillo
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – “Mom, I made it,” are the four words that Chef Frances Tariga used to describe her time at the James Beard House in 2017. It was in that moment, being given her own dinner segment at the prestigious James Beard House, that she knew she earned her spot. It was the highlight of her career, the career of a happy-go-lucky kid from Manila, now one of New York City’s critically-acclaimed chefs.
Last February 15th, Chef Frances graced Enderun Colleges with a talk on how she made her name in the Big Apple, a destination where many aspiring chefs desire to make a mark for themselves. Having begun her career in the Middle East, working in the first seven-star hotel in the world and gaining the favor of UAE’s royal family, she landed an opportunity as a Personal Chef to the Royal Ambassador of the UAE in the United Nations, which brought her to New York. She later took roles as an Executive Chef to restaurants of various concepts, including Buddakan, and competed on some of the popular culinary shows on television, such as Top Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen.
As with anyone who begins a career, Chef Frances was no exception to struggle. When asked how she coped with the recurring challenges she encountered in her many roles, she answers recalling her time at Top Chef,
“When you’re feeling uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.”
She had been a Sous Chef at Catch when she competed on the renowned culinary television show and admitted that a feeling of intimidation had initially taken over her knowing she was cooking against a room of Executive Chefs. This feeling slowly disappeared because she is a firm believer in resilience. Lack of comfort is often associated with misery and can be regarded as a hindrance to growth. She shed new light on this perspective by saying that comfort does not result in growth.
Having also opened restaurants, a common misconception, she told the room full of aspiring chefs, is delegating a ‘bestseller’ or a winning dish on the menu.
“When creating a menu, everything must be a winner,” Chef Frances urged.
Moreover, she also tackled the importance of establishing an identity where the concept is conveyed with clarity, and believing in one’s own concept. The negative connotations that ‘what ifs’ bring should be disregarded as long as the flame of belief remains burning. “It might not work but at least I believe in it,” said Chef Frances, her passion evident in the words she uttered.
The Filipino Top Chef owes her success to her resilience, how she strongly encourages to ‘keep going’ the way she did despite the difficulties, and her association of comfort and growth.
After making a name for herself in the international scene, challenge-hungry Chef Frances is now embarking on a journey to introduce innovative ways for farm-to-table cuisine to Filipinos, a cuisine she has come to love and master.