Innovate from the Heart: An Interview with Chef Paolo Dungca
Chefs Paolo Dungca and Tom Cunanan of PogiBoy in Washington D.C. took center stage on the cover of Food & Wine magazine. The duo were part of a showcase article, "Pinoy Pride" written by Khushbu Shah, photographed by Scott Suchman & Greg DuPree, and illustrated by Gica Tam, which put the spotlight on this generation of Filipino chefs and gave overdue respect to Filipino cuisine. Additionally, PogiBoy served up their iconic Tocino Burgers with bright purple Ube Buns at the Food & Wine Classic Grand Tasting Pavilion. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Chef Paolo Dungca after the festival to briefly talk about his experience.
PogiBoy landed the cover of Food & Wine: The Innovators Issue. Everything about this cover makes a bold statement, from the vibrant colors to the cultural significance of spotlighting Filipino Chefs. What does innovation mean to you, in the context of food?
Dungca: "For me, the word innovation is forward, outside-the-box thinking. It’s breaking away from the strict confines of how Filipino food should be. Innovation, for me, is cooking unapologetically. There are no rules. Our job as chefs to constantly push the boundaries." The Food & Wine Classic is a widely celebrated event, but it also has a reputation for being quite the undertaking for the exhibitors. How did you prepare for the festival and how do you feel now that the weekend has come to a close? Dungca: "Food & Wine Classic in Aspen was such a dream for me. As a young cook, you read about this prestigious event and hope to one day be invited. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be a part of it. It was such an inspiring trip that when you get back you want to keep pushing the envelope. My heart is full."
What advice do you have for Filipinos trying to find their place in the culinary industry?
Dungca: "Figure out what kind of cuisine or food you want to cook and work for the best that does that type of cuisine. Learn from a mentor. That's the most important thing. You have to be able to learn from someone that does it the best and you figure out your style through time and experience."
Where can people find you online if they want to keep up with you and with PogiBoy? Dungca: "They can keep up with us on any social media platforms: @paolodungca, @pogiboydc"
Readers can also pick up an issue of Food & Wine: The Innovators Issue to get more on PogiBoy and to learn about how Filipino food is breaking into the mainstream.