Wednesday, 31 July 2013

An Interview with Chuck Ortiz of ACQTASTE

Photo property of Kapisanan Philippine Centre
When we were first asked to help promote the 8th Annual Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, we must say that we were very naive about Filipino culture and food. Our Filipino experiences were very limited but during these posts we have learned a lot. Part of our pre-event promotion work was an interview with a Filipino chef and we were very lucky to have been given Chuck Ortiz. Chuck Ortiz is the founder of ACQTASTE, a food magazine that "focuses on the people in and around the world of food".

Photo property of the Image Interview

Basically, Chuck Ortiz is our type of guy...well, anyone in and around the world of food is our type of guy! We did a "he asked/she asked" approach to the interview! Enjoy and read on...

Her questions:

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I've always been in and around the world of food. From dishwasher, to line cook, and even caterer, there isn’t a job in this industry I haven't had. My love for the food industry led me to want to document it for people on the outside looking in, so I started Acquired Taste Magazine in hopes to change food journalism and to bring more attention to the individuals that make the industry what it is. A  year after launching their print version, ACQTASTE, the magazine can now be found world wide and has a strong readership that keeps on growing.

Are you classically trained as a chef?

Nope! I am a self-taught cook. These days, you don't have to have classical training to become a chef. In most cases, experience will get you further than your schooling / training, but it is still good to have.

Why did you start ACQTASTE?

I started ACQTASTE because I saw a void in the realm of food publications. No one was putting out content that focused on the people in and around the world of food. Furthermore, no one was doing that from a Canadian perspective. 

What's your favourite type of cuisine?

This may sound bias but it has to be Filipino food!

I know that sisig is your favourite Filipino food, what's your next favourite?

I'd have to say my next favorite food is sinigang. Anytime I step into a new filipino restaurant or takeout joint, I HAVE to try their version of sinigang.

What do you think of the fact that Kultura Filipino Arts Festival's culinary competition is focusing on Filipino street food?

I think it's amazing because there are so many things you can do in this area of filipino food; even fish balls, bbq & soups. The possibilities are endless.

What's your favourite Filipino street food?

Probably fish balls. And it has to be with some sort of spicy vinegar.

What's the weirdest Filipino street food that you've ever eaten?

What are you hoping to see as far as street food goes at this year's festival?

I hope someone is doing some sort of grilled squid. In case you didn't already know, we are doing a food booth at Kultura this year and I can guarantee you that you will see some amazing new takes on filipino street food. Look out for "Horse & Carriage" which is the name of our new food concept.

Photo property of the Image Interview

His questions:

In a digital world where social media and web content are huge, why did you decide to put ACQTASTE into print?

I decided to put ACQTASTE into print AFTER we blew up on the web. We basically leveraged our online presence and global fan base to direct eyeballs towards the printed magazine. It definitely would have been difficult for us to launch a printed mag with absolutely no following. But when we launched print 2 years ago, online and mobile content was still in its infancy stage. No one can honestly say that they are making a killing off of mobile unless you are big wigs like Conde Nast (Vogue, GQ etc). Til this day, I still probably only read 1 magazine on an app, and that's not on a regular basis. Web is also a tough model as advertising budgets are no longer massive and they tend to stay away from independents. When it comes down to it, we are a collectable. People love the fact that they have a tangible item that will eventually get sold out. Til this day we still have people searching for Issue 1 & 2.

What's your opinion about the new idea that chefs are the new rock stars of today?

I definitely think it has its pros and cons. It's amazing to see how far food culture has come and the opportunities that are out there. It definitely makes our job a lot easier, the fact that your average person knows the difference between Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali. People know a lot more about the industry and its definitely more transparent. The downside is that there are many chefs that get way too much publicity and buzz, which overshadows chefs that work their butts off and may not get the same attention.  

Do you think Filipino food can be made well by non-Filipino people? And have you ever experienced this?

Absolutely! Maharlika in New York city is the perfect example of a non-Filipino chef, Chef Miguel Trinidad, cooking amazing Filipino food.  Trinidad happens to be Dominican and attributes his knowledge of the cuisine to other people's mothers. Good food can be cooked by any race, sex or ethnicity. Some of the best Japanese food I've had has been cooked by Koreans and Americans.

Since Filipino food is becoming more mainstream, do you fear that it will lose its authenticity? 

I don't think it will lose authenticity nor do I think anyone can truly say what is authentic. Authenticity will vary from person to person mainly because they are coming from different perspectives and reference points. For example, I am a Canadian-born Filipino and authentic Filipino to ME is the food my grandmother used to cook me from her apartment in North York. While someone that was born in the Philippines may view authentic Filipino food as the street food he used to have as a child on the streets of Manila. Who is to say which one is more authentic? Either way, like all different types of cuisines before it, Filipino food will become more mainstream and will continue to evolve for centuries.  

What's you least favourite Filipino food?

Buro, it simply reminds be of vomit :-P

What's your favourite Filipino restaurant in Toronto?

I have go-to restaurants for many different situations, occasions and cravings. For example, I love the Sisig at Manila Bistro in Scarborough, the Crispy Pata at Lamesa and the Sinigang at Bulakena. For a night on the town, I'd go to Lamesa. For a family party we tend to go to Casa Manila. If I'm on the run and need takeout, I'll usually grab Jesse Jr.

Photo property of the Image Interview

We would like to thank Chuck Ortiz for taking the time to answer our questions. We can't wait to attend the Kultura Filipino Arts Festival now just to try some of the amazing Filipino food that we've learned about recently.

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