NEW YORK — Cooking at the James Beard House is reserved only for the most promising chefs or culinary masters, like Marcus Samuelson, Daniel Boulod, Nobu Matsushita, and Fil-Am top chef Sheldon Simeon – who showcased his winning okra dish and lumpia appetizers last February.
Joining the ranks of these master chefs is Filipina top chef Frances Tariga, who recently prepared a 5-course meal upon the invitation of the James Beard Foundation.
“My career is on the line here, so I prepped like 2 days in advance,” Tariga said. “I bought my best cooks, all the people that are working with me right now are my strongest cooks because there’s no room for mistakes.”
The James Beard Foundation Awards is considered the “Oscars of the food world,” and cooking at the James Beard House is like having a Broadway debut or performing at the Carnegie.
“It’s like a dream come true, you know, like all chefs wanna be featured as the chef here, and I got the chance to be involved right.”
Tariga, the executive chef of Megu, showcased not only the modern Japanese menu at Megu. 80 experienced New York diners with refined palate also got a taste of her Filipino roots.
For starters, guests were treated to vegan rainbow dumplings, skuna bay salmon nori taco, and a Japanese version of tapsilog – called tap-sushi-log.
It’s an a-5 wagyu beef tapa roll with quail eggs on top.
Chef Tariga elevated “sinigang na hipon” to James Beard level.
“For example yung sinigang, everyone loves it, it’s just that it looks disgusting… so I’m making it in a whole different level, I’m using botan ebi, which is the spot prawns from Santa Barbara.”
For the main course, Chef Tariga’s Miyazaki a-5 wellington is fit for Upper East Side royalty – this wagyu beef costs more than $100 a pound.
This watermelon king crab salad was served right before dessert – it’s Chef Tariga’s way of rebooting the palate.
For dessert, Tariga prepared coconut sticky rice or biko balls, and a mash up of ube and leche flan that is truly an explosion of Filipino flavors.
“I just wanna show them that basically, you know, South East Asian cuisine is like really the next big thing, and of course the Filipino cuisine is like really the next big thing.”
Chef Frances Tariga did just that. Diners and the James Beard Foundation have nothing but praises for the next big Filipino chef in the Big Apple.