Ep. 12: Amy Besa - Culinary Philosopher and Restaurant Vet

Amy Besa is a writer, speaker, and veteran restaurateur.  Together with her husband Romy, she has led her restaurants - Cendrillon in the mid-90s and Purple Yam (Brooklyn, NYC and Malate, Manila) today - into critical acclaim long before Filipino food became "trendy".  

Her book, "Memories of Philippine Kitchens", was the first Filipino cookbook I've read and along with her many posts on social media, formed the basis for a lot of what I know about Filipino food today.  

In this inspiring and heartfelt conversation recorded right in Purple Yam, Amy talks about heady and philosophical concepts such as authenticity, romance, cultural appropriation/preservation, and our responsibility to understand our food, in a simple yet profound way.

Give this episode a listen for a glimpse into one of the most accepting, hopeful, and wise takes on our food today!


0:00 - Concept #1: Open Kitchens...
3:45 - Authenticity defined: Whatever Nature provides
6:20 - Studying the palate and what to do if you were raised on Processed Food
7:45 - Concept #2: ...Hidden Flavors + the blasphemies of cooking adobo
13:20 - "Don't elevate the food, elevate YOURSELF to the food"
16:00 - On whether we respect our own ingredients enough
17:05 - Ray Sokolov on the Filipino ability to preserve food culture/practices
19:20 - On how little we know about the rural Philippines
21:15 - On nature’s built-in flavor pairings
22:45 - On “mind blown” moments: Food That Was Ours, Food That Was Borrowed.
26:40 - On being jaded and falling in love
29:10 - On the miracle of the meal
34:10 - On the corporate demand for homogeneous food
35:45 - On the quest for knowledge vs. trends // “Your food has to make sense!"
39:05 - On the need for you to contribute something
40:05 - On cultural appropriation and humility 

Rapid Fire:
Influential people: Alice Waters, Jane Grigson, Allan DavidsonElizabeth David
Resources: Oxford Companion to Food, Savoring Gotham
Ingredients that describe Amy: Garlic, Vinegar, Salt

Alugbati (Malabar Spinach
Sineguelas (Spanish Plum)
Magic Sarap
Sukang Iloko
 (Ilocos-style Vinegar)

Website: Purple Yam
Instagram - @amycbesa
Facebook - Amy Besa
E-mail - acbesa49@gmail.com