Filipino culinary stars at MFWF: Jordy Navarra (upper-left), Nicole Ponseca(upper-right), Yasmin Newman (lower-left), and Ross Magnaye (lower-right).


As Philippine food gains prominence in Australia, four Filipino chefs are set to serve the country’s iconic and heritage cuisine on 12 and 13 March at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) happening on 8-24 March 2019

MFWF is an annual event held in March by Food and Wine Victoria Ltd. since 1993 to promote Melbourne and Victoria’s food and wine culture. On its 27th edition this year, the month-long celebration is set to celebrate the trends and techniques in the culinary world that has an influence in Australian communities.

Rising up to the challenge is Filipino-Australian chef Ross Magnaye, who is the head of Rice Paper Sister Restaurant—a place that serves finger-licking Asian street food and iconic food fusions in Melbourne.

Joining him are culinary icons Jordy Navarra, Nicole Ponseca and Yasmin Newman to create a one-off ‘BARRIO’ dinner as part of the Global Dining Series of MFWF.

Navarra runs Toyo Eatery in Manila, crowned with the Miele One to Watch Award 2018 amongst Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Ponseca is behind New York City’s Maharlika and Jeepney, while local food and travel writer Newman is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook, 7000 Islands: Cherished Recipes and Stories from the Philippines.

Under their ‘BARRIO’ menu, these Filipino culinary superstars are set to tell  through their culinary creations the story of their shared heritage, culinary journeys and advocacy for the cuisine they love most – Filipino.

They will co-create an exclusive and refined entrée for MFWF visitors that highlights the Philippines’ rich culinary techniques and their deep Filipino heritage as part of the Global Dining Series presented by Lavazza and event partner San Pellegrino.

Elevating Filipino flavors

According to Chef Ross, his Filipino food inspiration is drawn from his beautiful and communal feasting experiences with his family throughout his childhood in Davao, Philippines.

“In every birthday or celebration, I was blessed to be able to enjoy really great food and this enabled me to appreciate and be knowledgeable about food at a really young age. My passion also comes from family and how they have shown love for me through cooking and sharing food,” he said.

He moved to Australia at the age of 15 and had his first culinary stint at an Italian fine diner in Melbourne CBD under Joe Uva. With his great passion for confections, he worked at Burch and Purchese sweet studio under Darren Purchese and went also to Brazil to gain more experience at D.O.M in Sao Paulo then went to Phuket to work at Aziamendi at Iniala beach club.

Currently, Magnaye has been in the Australian food scene for more than a decade, helping in the opening of restaurants and eventually launching his own: Rice Paper Scissors and Sister.

“When I returned to Melbourne, I had a call from an old friend for a job opening at Rice Paper Scissors. I was head chef there for around 2 years and opened Sister about 2 years ago,” he said.

“I also have cooked and travelled as a guest chef in many places – Hongkong, Singapore, Paris, Tokyo, Manila, Malaysia,” he added.

Throughout his experiences, Ross has championed the Filipino way of dining, describing it as “family-style sharing.” “The best qualities of Filipino food that people love is that besides the beautiful flavors of saltiness, sour, funky and sweet is that the way Filipinos eat. Families eating together is what I think is special about the Filipino way of eating,” he said.

“My top 3 favorite Filipino ingredients to use would be coconut vinegar, crab fat or crab roe and ‘bagoong’ for funk,” he said.

Australia is home to over 250,000 people of Filipino heritage, with over 10,000 Filipino students enrolled in Australian universities and vocational institutions. Like Chef Ross, Australians of Filipino heritage make the fifth largest group of Australians born overseas, third only to Chinese and Indians in number, followed by Vietnamese.

Yet, unlike many other Asian cuisines that have been part of the Australian landscape for decades, it is only recently that Filipino dishes have started gaining recognition outside immigrant communities, at restaurants like Reys Place in Sydney and Lolo and Lola in Canberra.

With his participation in MFWF, Chef Ross will use these flavors to further mainstream Filipino food on diners and tables across Australia. “I just want to make sure that I continue to push Filipino cuisine through Sister. I also have a couple of dinner events planned in the next couple of months both local and international which I am looking forward to,” he noted.

Mainstreaming PH food in Australia

Part of the efforts to mainstream Philippine food in Australia is the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Sydney in collaboration with the Filipino Food Movement, San Francisco-based organization that aims to elevate the country’s food in the international scene, and THE ENTREE.PINAYS, a Melbourne-based group of food-loving and enterprising Filipino female entrepreneurs.

Fides Mae Santos-Arguelles, the co-founder and sales and marketing director of Entrée.Pinays, said they aim to combat the challenges and negative stigmas facing Filipino cuisine, shed light on the true value of Filipino cuisine, build a better platform upon which to celebrate and elevate the Filipino food experience and gather those that are working tirelessly to do the same.

Alma Argayoso, the PTIC Special Trade Representative in Sydney, also said they aim to promote Filipino food and culture via creative collaboration, community experiences and stories.

“Our trade office will collaborate with Entrée.Pinays and other relevant stakeholders to promote a better appreciation of Filipino cuisine and commercially ensure that more Filipino food and ingredients are available in the Australian market,” says Argayoso.

“We also have a Very Important Buyer Program and Fly-in-Journalist Program in the Philippines where we sponsor food importers and journalists to fly to the Philippines to see, taste, experience and source Filipino food at IFEX Philippines, an international food exhibition showcasing the freshest produce and finest food and ingredients that the Philippines can offer,” Argayoso added.

To know more about Filipino food and heritage, visit to sign up for the event or to check out more details. Follow IFEX Philippines on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get more updates on the event.

Date of release: 8 March 2019