Netflix’s ‘Chef Chico’ offers delicious viewing experience


“Replacing Chef Chico” is a taste test of how far Filipino creatives can satisfy the international audience. 

And from the rave reviews and positive feedback it has been receiving since it was released globally last Nov. 24, it looks like the first Filipino-produced series on Netflix has passed the test.

As of this writing, the 8-episode “Replacing Chef Chico” ranks 9th for non-English TV worldwide. It appears the audience is craving a second serving. 

Allow me, like the chefs in the series, to expound on the ingredients and the process of creating this delicious viewing experience. I’m equipped to do so, having been there since the table readup to the wrap. I played Chef Carlon, the sous chef who clearly wanted to replace Chef Chico.

Planning the menu

The series is a creation of Project 8 in collaboration with Cornerstone Entertainment. Creator and showrunner Antoinette Jadaone said writing the pitch and the first draft started three years ago, and went through rewrite after rewrite. And while the audience may feel the similarity to “The Bear,” Jadaone said the initial influence came from “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“I wanted a series with an overarching story, but each episode tackling a sub-story like an anthology,” she said.

The intention was clear, Jadaone said. She wanted to showcase Filipino cuisine to the global audience. But first, there has to be a story behind each menu. 

It was when Netflix came in to produce its first Filipino series that things fell into place.

The show’s director, Dan Villegas, said that from the get go, they wanted the three main players—Piolo Pascual, Sam Milby and Alessandra de Rossi—to lead the cast composed largely of theater actors.

Preparing the actors—Milby, de Rossi, DMs Boongaling (Rye), Paulo Angeles (Juancho) and myself as Carlon—involved a weeklong, 8-hour-a-day culinary workshop at the Magsaysay Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Inc. under Chef Mae Montalban. (The other actors playing chefs, kitchen staff, and waiters are either students or graduates of the Magsaysay Center.)

In the past, actors took the initiative to learn new skills in prepping for a role. This is the first time, I think, that the producers sent their cast members to undergo professional training; after all, their roles required specific skills and demeanor. 

There I learned that for high-end restaurants and fine dining, the kitchen is far from fine with its similarity to a military boot camp. Or a film set of yore. There’s lots of cursing, passwords (passing hot, service, et cetera), and clockwork precision. Oh, but I also learned what a mirepoix is (sauteed chopped vegetables used in sauces), how to debone fish and chicken, and the uses for differently-colored chopping boards.

No, Sam Milby didn’t learn all the F words during the training. While he earned much flak from viewers for his Chef Chico cursing, Milby does not curse in real life. He got a headache after each scene that he was required to display the character’s temper.  

The service

The eight-dish menu of “Replacing Chef Chico” is “a medley of lovely, unpredictable twists best served on small plates and loaded with new flavors,” reviewer TrashPanda wrote on “The refreshing focus on growth and self-actualization is a welcome departure from that tired recipe and makes for an enjoyable bingeable experience.”

In the series, each guest had a life story to tell, mostly of women trying to survive and cope on their own. Chef Ella’s struggle to be head chef in a male-dominated culinary world is reflected in the stories of women diners experiencing various conflicts in their lives.

The magic lay in the food preparation, which also included a narration of how the special ingredients were sourced directly from local farmers, abused women and indigenous people. 

Jadaone, who is also head writer, said the dialogues on the asin tibuok, pako, heirloom rice, and strawberries were the last addition to the narrative. She said that over and above the women agenda, she felt the need to advocate for indigenous ingredients and buying direct from producers as essential to making the plate of stories more palatable. That the show succeeded in that aspect was noted by blogger Greg Wheeler (, who described the series as “a compelling Filipino drama, one that may not push the boat out and deliver anything new, but what it does cook up is certainly tasty.”

Likewise, Rishabh Chauhan ( wrote that “the show manages to charm, delight and tug at the heartstrings just fine.”

So are we on for another serving? The better question, perhaps, is this: What will Chef Ella’s kitchen serve next?

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