Chef spotlight: Chef Jordan Andino
By Jenn Wolf
Born in Canada, raised in California, chef Jordan Andino has been sharpening his blade since he was a young boy. The exuberance and vitality with which he attacks life shines through in his cooking, and in his many successes. Though his wheels are literally always spinning, Jordan still found the time to slow down (kind of) and give Taste.Company a little peek through his lenses.
Jordan first of all congratulations! These last few years have brought a whirlwind of accomplishments for you. Let’s talk about your journey so far:
Photo Courtesy by Eric Curtis
How old were you when you first envisioned being a chef?
The first time I knew I wanted to be a chef was when I was around 12 or 13. My dad brought me in from the kitchen and he said – I was working at his restaurant – and he said: “You know what? I want tell you something but don’t tell the other cooks. As of now, and as we stand, you are better than everyone else in this kitchen.” I was so young, and my dad was tough, he’s never given me that kind of credit before. So when he said that, I thought: “that’s amazing!” And that’s when I knew I was on to something. I had been cooking for paying customers since I was 9, and I didn’t know that that’s what I wanted to do, but when my dad gave me that speech, that’s when I knew that I wanted to be a chef.
And your father cooks Filipino fare as well?
My dad has owned 2 restaurants in Toronto, Canada, so a lot of my foundation is from him. His style is basically French-Italian influenced by Filipino. He’s now a corporate chef, which means he makes more money, works fewer hours and has less responsibilities, so he just hangs out with his family – which is great! My cuisine and my palate came more from my grandmother, his mom.
Where in the Philippines are your grandparents from?
Photo Courtesy by Colin Cooper
So, your father is located in Canada. What brought you to the US? Was it school?
My mom and dad had me very young when they had me. They were 17. I guess you can call me an “oh shit” baby. Eventually, they grew up and went their own way, and my mom took me with her to LA where she pursued acting and modeling, and my dad stayed in Toronto. My culinary background comes from every summer and winter: instead of going to summer camp and being a kid, I would leave LA, and go to Toronto, to cook and train with my dad.
Even though you have a long list of accomplishments already, your career is still rather young. You’ve already been featured on a ton of TV shows. Tell us a bit about that.
So, TV isn’t something I always wanted to do. It just kind of fell into my lap. I’ve always wanted to be a chef and I’ve always wanted to cook, be respected by my peers, be creative, and just learn and grow in kitchens. When I was working at this venue called Sidebar, one of my friends submitted me for the TV Show Chopped, and I actually got it! And that’s what started my TV career. Upon doing that, I realized that it’s fun, it’s suitable for my energy (and my lack of shame), and it’s something that I could utilize to help further my career, which is giving Filipino food the notoriety that it deserves, and understanding that you can do fine dining Filipino. My goal in life is to give Filipino food a Michelin star.
Being in the spotlight all the time can be difficult. Are there trade offs? What are some of the difficulties that you’ve encountered?
I would say going around and traveling has been great, but also difficult to work around. We have 2 restaurants right now, and we just opened a pop-up, so with all the TV appearances, it’s sometimes hard to concentrate on the restaurants. Being in the kitchen and cooking food is, at the end of the day, my true loves. So being away from it can sometimes be hard. However, my partners have been supportive and grateful and they all work with me. And I know that TV is a means to get to my ultimate goal – which is being a restaurateur, and to be in the kitchen cooking.
What was your favorite TV experience?
I would definitely say that judging Chopped was incredible because I judged Chopped with 2 of the 3 judges that chopped me! So that was a really amazing experience. I was just like, where it started, 4 years later, on the day, and I’m sitting there, judging with people from Chopped! I’ll never forget that.
Also, I would say that when I was on the Celebrity All Star Thanksgiving, last year. I sat at this long Thanksgiving table with 30 chefs and Celebrity Chefs that I have grown up watching and revering, respecting and learning from, and there I was, in the same room, in the same pictures, as their peer. That was insane! I was literally sitting next to Martha Stewart and Geoffrey Zakarian, Daniel Boulud, and Bobby Flay and Marcus Samuelsson. I thought: “How am I here with you? I watch you!”
So, those two experiences I’ll never forget the feeling and the excitement. I was just like a child.
Photo Courtesy by Eric Curtis
Tell us about your restaurants. They started off as 2nd City, and are now known as Flip Sigi. Tell us about the name change and how all of that came to be.
So, Flip Sigi, which was previously known as 2nd City, started off because my 2 partners, whom I had met in the Hamptons wanted to open a fun, cooler Chipotle. When they brought that concept to me, I said: “I don’t think that’s the best idea because I think Mexican food is on it’s way out, or it’s just not trending as much. “So, I said: “Let’s put a Filipino twist on it.” Then we decided to add my personality, my vivaciousness and my energy into the decor and vibe of a restaurant. We wanted to call it something close to Filipino, but without being overtly Filipino. So, we named it 2nd City, for Cebu, which is the second largest city in the Philippines, where my mother is from. At the time, that’s just what made sense.
Flip Sigi is a Filipino Taqueria. It has Filipino foods in Mexican vessels. Sandwiches, tacos, bowls, burritos, with a little Filipino love sprinkled all about. It’s by no means authentic Filipino. I don’t pretend to be authentic, nor do I try. That’s really where the tidal wave of Filipino cuisine started in my life, and I do think that we help propel that into mainstream media.
The name change came when the second restaurant opened because we wanted to embrace the Filipino aspect a little more. We also realized that when we started, Filipino food wasn’t the coolest thing ever, but at the time of the second restaurant opening, it was definitely trending, and people definitely understood it more, so we wanted our patrons to hear, recognize and appreciate more Filipino in the name. “Flip”, which is a slang term for Filipino, and Sigi, which means “Go”. So it literally means “Go Filipino”. We also thought that by making customers appreciate something more Filipino, we would, in turn, appreciate more the Filipino in what we do too.
Photo Courtesy by Joanna Garel
What are the Filipino flavors that you infuse your food with?
There are 3 Filipino flavors that are found, in one way or another, in almost every recipe that I make: tamarind, calamansi, and longganisa. Those 3 unique flavors are incorporated into in every dish at Flip Sigi because I think that those are the 3 most flavors that people can identify with the most.
Are there any flavors that you would like to use but you can’t, because they’re not accessible here in the US?
Yes. It’s not that the flavors are not accessible, because I can recreate most of the flavors that we get from the homeland. However, it’s more about “I don’t know if people are ready for that, and until I can find a great way to present it, both visually – that’s a big one – as well as from a palate stand point, that’s when I will start introducing it.” Eventually, as more Filipino chefs arise, and Filipino food becomes more popular, people will be more open to “understanding” a wider variety of the Filipino flavors.
You were recently in the Philippines visiting your family. What do they think about what you’re doing here?
It’s weird, but my family literally thinks that I’m a celebrity! And it’s so strange! I showed up to where my grandparents and family grew up, and was greeted by a 20 piece marching band! There were at least 100 people on the streets waiting for my arrival. It was so bizarre and so amazing, and definitely everything I do, I try to support them and my family over there, and in LA and Toronto. It’s weird that they look at me like a celebrity, because I don’t even see myself like that and I definitely feel the support and love.
Tell us a little bit about your partnership with Kings Hawaiian.
Ah! So, Kings Hawaiian approached me because Spam approached me. I did a Spam sponsorship deal – I love Spam, I grew up eating it, I serve it in my restaurants – and from there was recommended to Kings Hawaiian. And I, no joke, grew up eating Kings Hawaiian dipped in chocolate milk, or coca cola. And that’s a thing! That’s a snack! Still until this day, I’ll sit in front of the TV, watch sports center and dip Kings Hawaiian in chocolate milk. It’s the greatest thing ever!
Photo Courtesy by Joanna Garel
Your most recent TV project was a show on the Cooking Channel, Late Night Eats. Tell us about that!
We filmed 13 episodes. I went around Canada and the US, trying 3 restaurants per city, so 39 restaurants, trying the best drunk-late-night foods.
Where can we watch this?
If you don’t have the Cooking Channel, you can buy episodes on ITunes or on YouTube.
What do you have coming up? Where should we look for you in the future?
Currently, I have a Target commercial running.
I’m also in 3 upcoming episodes of Chopped, as a judge, which I’m not entirely sure when they air. I was also a judge on the finale of Worst Cooks in America. I selected the winner. I’ll also be a keynote speaker at Boston Universtity, for a Filipino organization out there. And then, our third Flip Sigi recently opened in Soho, so if you’re in New York, definitely check it out.
What’s your ultimate goal?
My goal, when I was younger, which I luckily and gratefully attained when I turned 27, was to open a restaurant in New York City before I turned 30. Now that I’ve accomplished that, the new dream – because we always need new dreams – is to bring 1 Michelin star to a Filipino restaurant, my Filipino restaurant, before I turn 40.
We’ll be looking out for it Jordan! Thank you so much for your time.