Chef Nicco Santos dishes out career advice for aspiring chefs
Many would beg to differ, but the man behind highly successful restaurants Your Local and Hey, Handsome firmly believes that cooking should always be done with other people in mind.
“It needs to be for somebody else. I always cook for someone else. If it’s for myself, it’s not as fulfilling but if it’s for someone, it’s always t make someone happy. It’s there to make a connection—for me,” Santos said in an interview with Rappler.
Santos gives a new dimension to the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
In his case, it’s the hearts of friends he captures through his cooking.
Santos' parents were separated, so he sought refuge in the company of friends. He soon learned that the best place to gather them was around the dining table.
He shares, “I’ve always wanted to cook as an excuse to bring my friends together, to kind of fill up the void of not having a family growing up. That’s really how I am. I really want a reason for us to get together.”
“It’s funny. Sometimes I cook and sometimes they’re just there and I don’t even talk. I just stand, take care of everything, and make sure everyone’s eating and happy. For me cooking should be that way, in the context of bringing people together. So for me, that’s the most important.”
Santos’ foray into the restaurant industry began after a culinary journey around Southeast Asia. Singapore cuisine resonated with him the most, finding a way into his heart and soon, his kitchen.
The young chef and Axe ambassador imparted his knowledge in a masterclass for aspiring chefs as part of the Project You campaign, which aims to challenge participants to go the extra mile and maximize their potential in their respective fields.
While Santos himself spent two years in culinary school to equip himself while pursuing his dream, he believes that formal education isn’t necessary for one to be part of his team, or to succeed in this field.
“You don’t even have to be cook, to be honest. My cooks, the ones I’ve had the longest time with me were my drivers, the household help. They’re my longest-running staff; they’ve been with me for 12 years.”
“The reason they even started was because they saw me having a hard time in the kitchen and wanted to help. That was my driver, yung helper namin (our helper).”
“For me if you’re doing it for somebody else, if you’re not doing it for yourself, that’s enough for me,” he said.
Santos was pleased to mentor the chef aspirants, and with good reason. “I’m just trying to see how I can elevate the industry better, make sure everybody’s in it for the right reasons.”
“I just want to take care of it. I have a 3-year-old son and I want him to grow up knowing that if he ever becomes a cook, it will be a really good place for him to excel. For me it’s really the future; I’m looking at the future.” – Rappler.com