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Food, Family, And Fame: Chef RV Manabat On Becoming A Well-Loved Chef

"If you want to be successful in the food industry, kailangan masipag ka, kailangan matapang ka."

"If you want to be successful in the food industry, kailangan masipag ka, kailangan matapang ka."

Filipinos are known foodies. Every occasion is celebrated with a scrumptious feast; birthdays, anniversaries, or even just having friends over–anything you can think of–you can bet there’s platefuls of delicious dishes waiting for you at the table. And this very Filipino tradition is what chef, restaurateur, and YouTuber Chef RV Manabat grew up knowing.

“Although my father was not a politician, he had a lot of friends and visitors,” he told My Pope Philippines. “So my mother would cook several dishes a day. Palaging may handaan.” He says it was why he got used to having several dishes in one meal–and one of the reasons why he developed a love for food. (Read: A Prayer For Family Mealtime)

A shared love for food

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Photo from Chef RV Manabat Facebook

According to the celebrity chef, even in his childhood, he was surrounded by food. He would join in going to the market when he was young, and while growing up he became more and more involved in the kitchen. “Lahat kami sa family mahilig kumain, mahilig magluto,” Chef RV said.

They even had a schedule on what dish they would be eating for each day of the week! “For example, on a Friday, we eat munggo and fish. On a weekend, we eat adobo, nilagang baka,” he shared.

So did he always see himself becoming a chef because of what he grew up around? The answer is not really. Chef RV says that while he and his family have a shared love for food, it wasn’t necessarily a childhood dream to pursue culinary. “But ever since I developed a love for food, siguro it was a given na ‘dun din ako papunta,” he mused.

Eventually, when he realized he did want to become a chef, his family gave him their full support and was happy with his decision. “They’ve been very supportive to all of us kung anong gusto naming tahakin,” the chef said. (Read: WATCH: Kokoy de Santos on Life, Acting, and His Passion for Cooking)

Dreams finally realized

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Photo from Chef RV Manabat Facebook

And when he finally began culinary school, it was like all the stars had aligned for Chef RV. “All of my aspirations turned into reality. Nakikita ko na mismo ‘yung professional kitchen, and I was learning the professional way,” he shared. But the most memorable part of it all? The competition.

‘Yung makikita mo nang there are other people in the same field na pwedeng mas marunong, mas magaling kaysa sa’yo,” Chef RV told us. But of course, he did also treasure all his learnings from his time there–especially the preparation techniques he still uses up to this day.

Well-loved family recipes

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Photo from Chef RV Manabat Facebook

Now he shares these learnings, along with his favorite recipes to his followers on YouTube and Facebook. And some of his favorite recipes to share are of course his nanay‘s dishes. Chef RV even features his mom in some of his videos–the two of them just enjoying cooking family recipes together.

You may be wondering why he shares these recipes to his almost a million YouTube subscribers, when some consider their family’s recipes as their best kept “secrets”. Chef RV has one simple answer to that: “Something beautiful is not meant to be kept a secret.”

Explaining why he said that, Chef RV says these recipes make them happy. “Kami as a family, ‘yung pagluluto ay a form of bonding. And when we share it to family and friends, or even customers, sumasaya sila kasi masarap ‘yung pagkain,” he reasoned, “So why not share it to others, ‘di ba?” (Read: A Lesson From St. Lawrence: The Importance of Sharing Food)

When asked what family recipe he’s most thankful to have been taught, Chef RV answered his mom’s leche flan recipe. He shares that her nanay’s recipe for the Filipino dessert is “really delicious” and it wasn’t something that he learned in school. “May mga bagay kasi na hindi tinuturo sa professional kitchen kagaya ng kailangan pigain mo ‘yung leche flan batter gamit ang katsa, ‘wag mong haluin nang mabilis. These are heirloom techniques na minamana pa sa mga ninuno,” Chef RV shared.

Gaining traction on social media

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Photos from Chef RV Manabat Facebook

And according to him, he thinks these recipes are part of the reason why he now has a huge following on social media. “It’s educational. I think ‘yun ‘yung number one na nagustuhan ng mga tao. Second, they get uplifted because the recipes are very easy and accessible,” Chef RV says.

But did you know that the chef didn’t expect to gain this much followers at all? “Hindi ko actually in-expect, kasi siyempre ‘di ba sa kusina ka lang, eh. At saka ‘yung title na chef, pinasosyal lang ‘yan na term, pero ang totoo, nagluluto ka lang talaga sa kitchen,” he explained.

Aakalain mo ba na may taga-luto na papanoorin at magkakaroon ng one million subscribers? Iba kasi ‘yung mga katulad nila Rachel Ray na celebrity chefs talaga na vini-video-han habang nagluluto. Ako naman kasi nagluluto lang tapos pino-post ko ‘yung video–those are two different things,” he stated. (Read: 3 Valuable Lessons From the Kitchen, According to Chef RV Manabat)

A jack of all trades

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Photos from Chef RV Manabat Facebook

But of course, even though his channel’s popularity was unexpected, Chef RV is grateful for each and every single person who has clicked on his videos or channel.

But did you know that apart from the YouTube fame, he is also an award-winning cookbook author? His two cookbooks–Baking Secrets and More Baking Secrets–have received distinctions in the past. The first one, Baking Secrets, was even shortlisted for a Gourmand Award, an international award for cookbooks, in 2012!

Amazingly, these two cookbooks weren’t really planned. “Traditional kasi ako, I write all my recipes in a notebook. Then during college, my best friend–whose family was a printer for National Bookstore–sabi niya ipadala namin ‘yung notebook ko sa National tapos ipa-publish namin,” Chef RV shared, smiling. “‘Nung na-publish, nagtuloy-tuloy na siya. Whenever I had a compilation of recipes, we would print it out.” (Read: 7 Strategies Food Business Owners Can Get From Grab PH’s Food Trends Report)

And on top of YouTube and cookbook writing, Chef RV is also a restaurateur–having a namesake café and restaurant in his hometown of Biñan, Laguna. They serve pastries, baked goods, and hefty meals to customers. They also offer culinary and baking classes there, taught by Chef RV himself! The chef is truly a jack of all trades.

YouTube and beyond

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Photo from Chef RV Manabat Facebook

So, after all this success, where does he see himself in five years? “Siguro I’m continuing the restaurant and the cake shop. Siguro rin after five years, laos na ako sa YouTube. Sigurado ‘yan,” he laughingly said.So I’ll be continuing the restaurant, then I’ll be retiring. Because when I retire, I’ll be working full-time at the restaurant and the cake shop.

And when asked what piece of advice he could give to aspiring chefs out there who would want to be like him someday but need a little more push, Chef RV had this to say: (Read: LOOK: Social Enterprise In Singapore Helps Kids With Special Needs Through Selling Filipino Food!)

“If you want to be successful in the food industry, kailangan masipag ka, kailangan matapang ka. May mas magaling sa ‘kin, pero ang pinag-iba namin is matapang ako. Humarap ako sa camera kahit natatakot ako ‘nung simula; sumalang na lang ako. Parang sa pagkain lang ‘yan–’pag hindi mo sinalang, mapapanis. You have to cross the bridge.” 

Of course, he added that they should enjoy their time in culinary school, “Enjoy it. Enjoy the moment.”

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