While other kids his age were watching cartoons, Chef Don Colmenares preferred watching cooking shows. And at a young age when others were dreaming of becoming an astronaut or a pilot, he was already sure that he wanted to become a chef - a career choice that was not popular yet at that time.

“Our family is a very traditional family that their career path for you was to be a doctor, to be a lawyer. And in the family you’d find a lot of those. You find a lot of doctors but you rarely find that one career that will stick out in your family. And during that time that was being a chef. The term my lolo (grandfather) gave it was manugluto (someone who cooks). So it was a different scenario at that time because a lot of people didn’t understand what “chef” really meant, what cook really meant. So I had to take Political Science to make lolo happy. But I wasn’t happy. And after a year and a half I decided, I told them straightforward, ‘This is not what I want. This is not what I love doing.’ And so they said ‘What do you really want to do?’ I said I want to go to culinary school. I want to be a chef. At first they got mad, lolo got mad and everything, but my dad supported me, my mom supported me because they saw the passion when I said I wanted to be a chef. So I pursued it, I enrolled in Enderun Colleges.

But unlike others, he does not have a signature dish. He has a signature move, though.

“I give classic dishes a small twist, present them with a new look, but keeping their original taste. Presentation is a thing because in the industry of food, a lot of times you use your different senses. Taste, smell. But the moment the food is brought out to you, what’s the first thing that you see? When you look down and you see a bowl of this kadyos (Pigeon peas)…when you’re at home, it looks perfect. But when you’re in a restaurant, outside of your house, and then you see like they just put everything in one bowl without any effort, it’s like ‘I’m paying for this? I can have this at home and it looks better at home.’ Now for that scenario not to happen, we have to present it in a way that when they taste it, it’s KBL (Kadyos, Baboy, Langka). But it doesn’t look like KBL. It’s an overall experience from visual to smell to taste… everything is there. That’s actually the biggest challenge - how we keep things traditional. You can always evolve, you can always develop, and you can always add to something to make it look better.”

Curious to see how Chef Don Colmenares creates a truly unique look for the classic Pancit Molo? Check it out here.

Text by: Flo Reyes
Videography by: Grilled Cheese Studios
Photos by: Stephanie Lindaya

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