The Filipina chef who introduced boodle fights in Paris says it is ‘always a jump off point for creativity.’
Being a chef is a dream Erica Paredes pursued late in life.
She was a freelance makeup artist, beauty editor, food and lifestyle writer, as well as editor-in-chief and sales and marketing director of Calyxta before flying to France to train at Le Cordon Bleu for a year.
Following her time studying at the famous French school, she worked in a few Paris restaurants and shortly after, began her private chef business.
She began cooking French dishes to appeal to Parisian diners but soon realized that dishing up Filipino food is the way to go for her.
“I’ve been cooking this way for a few years now,” she tells Lifestyle Asia. “I’m trying to run in this direction.”
In 2019, she decided to do a boodle fight in one of her supper clubs after setting up one for a small group of friends.
And it became a hit. Her boodle fight-style table spreads—complete with rice and viand on top of a giant banana leaf—were full with Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike eating with their bare hands.
At the moment, Paredes is cooking more food in the French capital—this time, as a resident chef for Mokoloco, a restaurant in Paris. Founded by Japanese pastry chef Moko Hirayama and Lebanese-born chef Omar Koreitem, the place is known for letting foreign chefs take over its kitchen for three months.
“I was recommended by common chef friends who thought I would be a good fit not just for the direction of the restaurant, but also as a person with the owners,” she says.
Until November this year, Paredes will be in charge of all the cooking at the spot with what she knows best—Filipino food and flavors.
Her menu, she says, is ‘always and forever will be’ inspired by Filipino food she loves to eat and has fond memories of.
“It’s a jump off point for creativity,” she adds. “I play from there, making sure I use local and seasonal ingredients and everything is made from scratch.”
Among the dishes in her Mokoloco menu is her personal favorite, ribeye with Maranao rendang sauce.
“I remember trying it a couple of times in the past at the family parties of my good friend who is a Muslim from Lanao,” she says. “I remember really liking it that even over a decade later, I wanted to do my version of it.”
She’s also introducing other Filipino flavor-infused food offers such as the vegan aubergine kare-kare, pork barbecue with passionfruit glaze and fennel atchara, fried artichokes with bagoong-gochujang mayo, and calamansi Basque cheesecake with polvoron crumb.
“Though I am first a creative serving food that reflects me, I’m proud to represent Filipino food [in Paris],” she says. “You won’t find traditional recipes on my menus but sometimes, I will even add things like bagoong, pandan, calamansi, or use coconut vinegar in my recipes that give a distinctly Filipino flavor on non-Filipino dishes.”
Being this innovative is a priority for Paredes.”I’ve always been creative so it’s really important for me to be able to play around and not just follow a traditional recipe,” she says.
Just as important for the Filipina chef, though, is giving her best in every dish.
“Living and working in France has really helped me learn and appreciate eating seasonally, appreciating where your food comes from, as well as respecting ingredients and your customers,” she says. “[That’s why] I cook with soul and deliver the best possible outcome, even for the simplest dishes.”
Opening her own ‘home’
Paredes is now taking this passion for food and work ethic in cooking up something big of her own.
The Filipina chef reveals that she is opening a restaurant next year.
“I’m really looking forward to having my own ‘home’ after a few years of pop-up stints and residencies, as well as delving into takeaways at the height of the pandemic,” she says. “I will always have more to learn but I’m up for this challenge.”
Banner Photo from @ericaparedes on IG