- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Filipina Battles Top Chefs

AsianJournal, News Feature, Momar G. Visaya/AJPress Posted: Nov 26, 2008

NEW YORK For the past four seasons, Bravos Top Chef has created a cult and steady following among foodies, gourmands and fans of both food and television.

This is why when the top-rating show premieres this week with its fifth season, people will once again be glued on their screens watching 17 brand new cheftestants outdice and outcook one another, and this time, the chefs take on The Big Apple.

For the Fil-Am fans, theres another reason to get hooked, yet again.

Her name is Leah Cohen, a 27-year old sous chef from Centro Vinoteca, a famous New York City dining destination.

"My friend knew someone in casting and recommended me. I sent a video in and they called me," Leah told the Asian Journal in an exclusive interview.

Apart from the year and a half that she worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy, she has spent her entire life in New York and comes from a Filipino, Russian-Romanian Jewish background.

Leahs mother was raised in the Philippines and moved to the US when she was 26. She met her future husband in the Philippines, where he went for dental school. They got married in the Philippines and moved back here immediately.

Leah currently resides in New York City but calls Scarsdale, a New York suburb, her hometown.

"Ive been visiting [the Philippines] since I was five years old. I usually go once every two years so Ive been there a lot. We have a house on an island and an apartment in Manila. Ill probably go there again next August," Leah shared.

The island where their familys house is on Carabao Island in Romblon, where only the treacherous Tablas Straits separate it from the world-famous Boracay beach. Leahs mom is from the town of Alcantara.

Leahs favorite chef is Marco Pierre White and she counts salt, olive oil, butter, garlic and any pork product as her must-have ingredients. She loves Italian, Filipino and Thai cuisine, but homemade pasta is what she enjoys making the most.

She shared that her favorite Filipino dish is fish sinigang and she has no favorite dish to cook but she loves to eat garlic fried rice, fried egg and bacon for breakfast.

"I realized that I wanted to be a chef when I was 18. I grew up in a family that loved to cook and eat. We had family dinners all the time and holidays and special events," Leah added.

When she was in Italy for a year and a half, Leah made sure shed learn about the Italian culture and their way of life. She worked in Sicily for a year and went to school for six months, where she studied and earned about regional Italian cuisine.

"I learned about their culture, about their regions, why certain foods come out of that region. Up north they eat more like heavier food and in the south they eat more fish and not much pasta. I learned about the ingredients they used and their proper combinations," she added.

For Leah, the best part of the job as a chef is "taking ingredients and creating a dish from your ideas."

"Its like art, where you are being creative. Making people happy, thats why we cook," she explained.

Our conversation meandered to the casual observation that Filipino cuisine, up to this date, remains to be under-appreciated by mainstream America. She shared her two-cents worth.

"In New York, there arent many good Filipino restaurants. I feel like people are not exposed to the cuisine. Some people are not willing to try. People should just be more open-minded about trying out more exotic fare. But then again, there arent many Filipino restaurants in the city," Leah observed.

Asked why she joined this seasons show, she replied, "I wanted to get my name out there into the public. There are tons of line cooks in New York and theres not really much that separates you from anyone else."

Leah said she followed the past seasons of Top Chef, especially the ones where she where she saw Josie Malave-Smith (Season 2) and Dale Talde (Season 4) duke it out with their fellow chefs.

"I met Dale last week at a Grand Central event and I think he is awesome. Im a fan and I was so happy to see him make halo-halo on the show," Leah shared.

Overall, Leah said that Top Chef was a positive experience.

"While I was going through the process, I didnt realize how educational it would be but after the whole experience, I found out that the show really helped me become a chef," she said.

Now, Leah is confident that this experience, which made her hone her craft more, plus her Bachelors Degree at the Culinary Institute of America and her immersion in Italy would bring her places as she strives harder to achieve her dream. In this highly-competitive industry, it is all about experience and exposure, both of which she has achieved.

Related Articles:

Hail To the Chef: Cooking His Way to the Top

From Hells Kitchen Comes a Heavenly Reward

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011