INK Alumni Feature: Broad Opportunities Abroad With An Enderun Alumni
Delving into the international scene can prove fruitful especially to those looking for opportunities and success. However, this is easier said than done as one must possess certain qualities that can contribute to a better outcome and reap the benefits. Hard work, discipline, the strength to rise up again in the face of adversity, and the willingness to learn are just some of these qualities that are vital to achieving success.
Jappy Afzelius, an Enderun alumnus, is a prime example of an individual who took advantage of his international experiences to seize the opportunities on greener pastures and get to where he is now.
Jappy is originally from Negros Occidental, he then studied and graduated from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Manila in 2006 which allowed him to land a career as a mortgage banker in San Francisco. However, Jappy wasn’t so satisfied with the path that he took as he had always loved to cook. He went back to the Philippines in search of a culinary school and found Enderun Colleges.
Although Jappy’s stay in Enderun was momentary— he took the 15-month culinary certificate course offered to college graduates – he maximized the knowledge that he had acquired. Before taking classes in Enderun, however, Jappy had little theoretical knowledge in the industry but was confident with his practical skills as he enjoyed cooking outside of school especially with his family and his ‘barkada’. Enderun allowed him to fine-tune his skills and he is most thankful for the Enderun staff — most notably Chef See, Chef Thomas, and Chef Marc for instilling the knowledge in him.
During his downtime, he worked in the college’s butcher shop and the Tent when there were events, which allowed him to sharpen his techniques and gave him an edge over his peers. Being selected by Chef See to work at Alain Ducasse’s Allard Restaurant in Paris, Jappy did not hesitate to seize the opportunity to take the leap and he worked there for 8 months. Because of his performance in Allard, he was sent to work at Benoit in New York, another restaurant by Alain Ducasse where he worked for a year and which gave way for Jappy to meet other Filipino chefs in the city. Having a passion for Filipino cuisine, Jappy partnered with Filipino chefs and like-minded individuals. It is also notable that he worked in Manila Social Club in Brooklyn during this time and opened various pop-up restaurants in the city.
However, things took a downward turn when Manila Social Club closed within two years of Jappy coming onboard. He felt burnt out and began to question the career path he took as a chef. Seeing this as a chance to focus on himself and learn new things, he attended the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy to pursue a course in Food Studies, more specifically, Food and Culture for his master’s degree. The course was heavy on theory, focusing on aspects such as writing, photography, and wine, but was also heavy on practical executions on food photography, food writing, and travel. After studying for over one year, Jappy was then sent by the school to Japan to write a thesis on the interaction between Shintoism and Buddhism within the context of food in the Shogun Era. With all the hard work and determination Jappy had put into his paper, it proved to be fruitful as he won ‘Best Thesis’ when he came back to Italy for graduation.
With his rekindled passion for cooking, Jappy has moved onto a new project — Tsismis NYC. Opened on June 16 of 2019, it was once a wine bar that featured an extensive selection, but as Tsismis NYC acquired its full liquor license in 2020, it has slowly evolved into a restaurant that focuses on Filipino cuisine and is a fun, hangout bar that boasts a wide array of cocktails and gins. Promotional activities and catering with other firms and events, such as Major League Baseball and Fox News helped the restaurant gain a steady and strong following. The resto-bar is a hit with the locals and Filipinos alike, with crowd favorites being some of the specials in their menu, namely Aligue Pasta, Sizzling Bulalo, and Bangus Sisig; Vegans can try their Kale Laing as well.
When the global pandemic hit, Tsismis NYC struggled with challenges as soon as the first lockdown in the US was announced, much like many other businesses. With all the perishable inventory sitting in the kitchen, Tsimsis NYC cooked and gave the stock to the surrounding neighborhoods to put the leftover ingredients to good use. Wanting to help out in those dire times, Jappy met with individuals from World Central Kitchen — a non-profit organization run by Chef Jose Andres from Spain. They partnered to help feed the frontliners who were working tirelessly day and night. “Thankfully we were able to survive, we were able to pivot, and at the same time, we were able to help,” Jappy shares.
Outside of Tsismis NYC, Jappy has put together a culinary consulting agency named Republika Kulinarya. Its website is also a platform where Jappy writes about his travels featuring Filipino restaurants that are dotted all across the United States. “It is a passion project that I’m doing that builds a network of Filipino chefs and that I write about,” Jappy explains. He has said that the platform is also a space to give young, Filipino chefs an idea of where to go if they ever decide to work in a Filipino kitchen in the US. Ultimately, Jappy is ecstatic with the collaborations and friendships that are made possible because of the platform he has established.
According to Jappy, regardless of setting up a business locally or internationally, it is key to have a vision: “don’t lose focus or track of what you’ve envisioned… you just have to work hard and persevere”. Jappy’s word of advice to upcoming chefs and entrepreneurs is that you must stay disciplined as early as possible especially in school. “Try not to be absent as your attitude in school can reflect on how you work in the future”, Jappy explained. He heavily emphasized the importance of going to school as this is the platform that an individual starts his/her career path, “School is a backbone that will help you in the future”. Jappy advised. Hard work truly does pay well if one has the proper attitude to go with it. As quoted by Confucius, “it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop”.
Our ability to adapt to change is a crucial factor for success. No matter what comes our way, we must not falter in order to keep going even in the face of adversity. Jappy’s story may serve as an inspiration to those who are willing to give their best to achieve their goals in life. His unceasing determination allowed him to keep learning even if he was at a standstill to reach the happiness and success that he has hoped for.