Filipinos Success’ Stories: Kaya Ko; Kaya Mo!
If I can; You surely can!
Interviewed by Marianne Rosal
Marianne Rosal graduated from the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Alberta. She appreciates a good cup of coffee, and enjoys books, music and traveling in her spare time.
Food has always been center-stage in Filipino culture. For Edgar Gutierrez, one of the most celebrated chefs in Edmonton, cooking and food have always been his passion.
Having started the popular Mexican eat-out Tres Carnales, he also recently opened the sophisticated Mexican dining restaurant, Rostizado.
Edgar, born in the Philippines, went back to his roots when he opened a tambayan-style kainan called Kanto 98 St. Kanto serves a modern twist on Pinoy street food classics like pork barbecue, liempo, as well as Filipino-favorite ulams such as adobo and spaghetti and chicken combo.
From balancing three different kitchens, Edgar’s love for cooking can be tasted in every dish he’s created. For a chef, he says, “So many different emotions go through a person when cooking in a restaurant setting. You really have to be in the moment to execute a perfect dish. Team work, adrenaline rush, and of course technique and plating.”
This love of food, of course, started at home. “The catalyst I would say was my mom. I was exposed to hotel kitchens at a young age (15) where my mom worked as a banquet captain and learnt from great chefs.”
His family’s influence was the starting point of his passion for food. He recalls that, “I’ve always liked food. For as long as I can remember. I always looked forward to eating…but the time I fell in love with cooking was when my grandmother deglazed a pan while making Pata Tim. She seared the Pata and deglazed with water vinegar and soy sauce. I was blown away for some reason. Been cooking ever since.”
Since then, he pursued his passion by taking an apprenticeship program in NAIT’s program for culinary arts.
From there on, he ventured into opening his own business, Tres Carnales. To Edgar, the hardships of opening the first restaurant involved logistics, “I would say I struggled with designing the kitchen as I didn’t expect the amount of food I was going to have to cook. Also, learning the Mexican cooking was very tough.” While Mexican and Filipino cuisine are both influenced by Spanish cuisine, Mexican food uses a lot of sili more so than in Filipino cuisine. Edgar says that, “I can see where we got some of our techniques, like tamales, guisados or cocidos. We use a lot of fermentation, they use a lot of ingredients. We are simpler yet complex. Mexicans can go super complex.”
Edgar reconnected with Filipino roots when he started doing arnis. Having to balance three businesses, Edgar uses exercise, specifically the Filipino martial arts style, arnis, or kali, to work through the stress. When asked if he intends to start a Filipino restaurant eventually, Edgar mentions that he initially had no intention of doing so. “I was a fan of my mom’s cooking, but I was pursuing other cooking techniques. It wasn’t until I started arnis, where I reconnected with Filipino ways of cooking. That’s when I had an idea.”
Edgar Gutierrez, the man in three (3) of the most famous kitchens in Edmonton, started his passion for cooking in the kitchen of his Filipino home. He is a model for young kababayans who want to pursue their creative passions, and more than that, he’s putting the Filipino plate in mainstream Edmonton cuisine.
While not an easy feat, and definitely a high-pressure industry, Edgar gives the following advice to young entrepreneurs on how to deal with failure: I would tell them to get a second job but never ever give up on the passion. Always focus on what got you started in the first place. The second job is to get you out of the hole. Hustle even harder when facing failure.
He says that he has no advice to give to his 18 year old self, as he never would have listened. And asked if he had one last meal, that it would have to be, “sinigang na baboy, steamed rice.”