Jeremy Villanueva

Jeremy Villanueva

On returning to the UK after his time on the ship, Jeremy was offered a position by his former head chef at Le Gavroche at Mayfair’s Le Boudin Blanc, where he remained until 2016. However, reinvigorated by his time spent on board with the chefs from the Philippines, he also began to further his knowledge of Filipino cuisine. ‘I had to relearn a lot of the techniques,’ says Jeremy. ‘I called my family back home to try and get the recipes that we were served as kids. Luckily there were a few other young Filipino chefs doing the same thing so we’d talk and exchange ideas.’ When he eventually left Le Boudin Blanc, Jeremy even decided to briefly work with a friend doing Spanish tapas to see the influence that Spain’s historic colonisation of The Philippines had on its cuisine. ‘It was all part of the learning process,’ he adds. ‘It also helped me look at the food I was cooking at home and think about how to refine it for a restaurant.’

In 2018, Jeremy was approached by Filipino restaurateur Rowena Romulo to become executive chef of her first London Filipino concept Romulo, and was finally able to start cooking his native cuisine professionally. ‘All the dishes at Romulo have their own stories of how they became what they are,’ says Jeremy. ‘A lot of them are family recipes which have been passed down too, so it’s something very personal that the Romulo family are sharing with their guests. I always respect this so even if I’m presenting something in a more modern way, the core of the dish is still there.’

More recently, as executive chef at Rowena’s second London restaurant Kasa and Kin, Jeremy has been able to be more playful with the dishes he serves, which are more contemporary in nature and partly inspired by Filipino street food. ‘The rules are different here,’ he explains. ‘Perceptions of Filipino food are changing and we’re trying to express that. You can get fried chicken and American spaghetti in the Philippines now. It’s not an isolated corner of the world. Manila has always been an important trading point all across Southeast Asia and in the US and its food reflects these influences.’

For Jeremy, food is about more than just the cuisine and having spent almost twenty years learning French cooking, that will always be a part of his style. ‘My interest lies in gastronomy as a whole,’ he says. ‘For me it’s not necessarily about whether something is French or Filipino, it’s the flavours that make me tick. My techniques are obviously heavily influenced by my training, so sometimes I won’t do things in the traditional order, but it’s the end result that’s important.’ It’s this freedom in his style of cookery, along with his combination of influences, that makes Jeremy’s food so exciting and intriguing.