ASIDE FROM A FEW PRESTIGIOUS annual international awards ceremonies, it’s not often you get a critical mass of the world’s best chefs together in the same room, but for Gallery by Chele, all the stars aligned in Manila for a festive weekend celebrating the evolution of the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary and many years of friendships made across the food industry.
Gallery by Chele, which was just named one of the best restaurants in the Philippines in our T+L Tastemakers awards, is itself a celebration of Philippine ingredients that ties into modern times while also adapting to the head chef’s Spanish background. Since its inception, the restaurant has set out to prove that they could create a dining hotspot with true substance, and have traveled across the Philippines learning the traditional cooking methods of locals and documenting their findings. With knowledge and respect, chef-partner Chele Gonzalez and executive sous chef Carlos Villaflor strive to elevate Filipino cuisine, bringing a refined yet diverse approach to their menus.
The star-studded ‘Gallery by Chele: A Decade’ was an exclusive affair reminiscing on the restaurant’s most memorable dishes and showcasing first-of-their-kind collaborations with seven of the coolest chefs cooking in the world today. Flying in were international culinary talents Virgilio Martínez from the No. 1 restaurant on the World’s 50 Best 2023 list, Central in Peru; Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz in San Sebastien, Spain, who recently was awarded the 2023 Icon award from World’s 50 Best in addition to ranking No. 31; Julien Royer from Michelin-three-starred Odette in Singapore who scored No.1 on Asia’s Best Restaurants in 2019 and 2020; and Spanish icon, Josean Alija from Nerua Guggenheim in Bilbao, a one-Michelin star establishment in the Guggenheim museum.
Together, they joined the heart and soul of the Philippine restaurant industry, with the likes of Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, a progressive Filipino hotspot that is globally known for its modern take on traditional dishes who also recently received the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award 2023 from World’s 50 for its honorable practices with the local community. Also present: icon Margarita Forés (Cibo di Marghi/Grace Park/Lusso), commonly recognized for introducing Italian cuisine to the Philippines while eventually integrating it with local cuisine, who was in 2016 named Asia’s Best Female chef and has been knighted by the Italian government. And, she was joined by the awesome Bruce Ricketts of perennially acclaimed Mecha Uma, an “absurdly delicious” creative Japanese omakase that will soon shut its doors after nine years with a new dining adventure to come.
“This event goes beyond just celebrating our 10th anniversary. It’s our way to say thank you to our close friends who’ve had a hand in shaping what Gallery by Chele is today,” said chef-partner Chele Gonzalez. Originally hailing from Torrelavega Spain, Chele built his resume by working in Spain’s best kitchens like El Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca–and for Andoni at Mugaritz, which Chele says has been one of the “greatest culinary impacts.” He relocated to Manila for a chef’s gig at the Sofitel Manila. After the restaurant shuttered from a hurricane, Chele met with architect Carlo Calma and they decided to open Gallery Vask, which at the time was a new kind of restaurant that incorporated Chele’s love of modernity in food and his Basque background with Filipino cuisine.
The menu in this artsy, fine-casual space started as tasting-only, and hit No. 35 on Asia’s 50 Best List in 2018. They rebranded to Galley by Chele, and then after covid and its damaging effects on the F&B industry, introduced a la carte options. Many signature dishes like Pearls (Scallops) and Sweet Corn Tamales remain, however Chele and Carlos were seeking a more approachable space that felt welcoming and warm, and still . Yet, though the dining options might have changed, the heart and core of the restaurant has never wavered and is still promoting Filipino culture to the world. You’ll now find Gallery By Chele on Asia’s Best Discovery list.
Back to the event, we were dazzled with an 11-course menu featuring Chele and Carlos’s signature dishes like the 500, a silky soup with red snapper based on a 500-year-old recipe from Mindanao, as well as their Tiradito, a ceviche-like dish that pays homage to the Filipino kinilaw. The visiting chefs pulled their weight, chipping in such dishes as Royer’s famous Kampot pepper-crusted pigeon, and zurrukutuna, a Basque bread soup by Aduriz. After the party was the after-party: snap-happy media, long-time Gallery customers, and chefs drinking, lechon-grazing and dancing the night away, thanks to Chele’s impressive DJ skills. “At the heart of our celebrations is a belief that our friendships, both here and abroad, are what make Gallery by Chele a better restaurant,” Carlos said as we headed the next day to Shake Shack for a Filipino-inflected pop-up by Navarra of Toyo Eatery, further punctuating the notion of a supportive culinary network.
What’s next? Calma, the acclaimed Filipino architect and visual artist who brought Chele’s restaurant dreams and visions to life, is teaming up with him again for a secret project set to open in 2024. T+L had the first sneak peek that began with an exciting helicopter ride across Manila to a stunning outdoor space that will be home to a new Spanish restaurant concept in a building that could easily be considered a work of art. There’s a lot more going on that will be shared by the team in due time and T+L is sure to be there early, so watch this space!
www.gallerybychele.com; 5/F Clipp Center, 11th Ave corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines; six-course dinner Php 4,400, 10-course dinner Php 5,500.
Images courtesy of Gallery by Chele.