GOURMET’S CHOICE: Art on a Plate from Trentino, Italy to Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines

Gourmet's ChoiceTime Out


When I was offered my current professional opportunity at the J. Park Resort
& Waterpark in the Lapu-Lapu City of Cebu Province, Philippines,
I accepted on the spot. I needed the challenge

By Margaux Cintrano
Photos supplied



Firstly, Chef Mattia Stroppa was born and raised in the town of Orzinuovi, the Brescia province of the rich region of Lombardy, Italy.

He was the executive chef of Restaurant Della Villa in the autonomous Itlaian region of Trentino Alto Adige which borders Austria in the south and Switzerland in the east.

Chef Mattia, who founded CookArt, has travelled far and wide, globe trotting to uncountable countries. However, every time he visited the Philippines, he felt at home. He also told me that though the Philippines is an Asian country, due to its background, it is steeped profoundly in a wide variety of cultures, including a predominance of the Iberian, Japanese and the Chinese.

Chef Mattia's wife, sous chef Rowena Pongoy

Chef Mattia and his wife, Sous Chef Rowena Pongoy

When I asked Chef Mattia who or which stimuli inspired and motivated his relocation, he stated: “When I was offered my current professional opportunity at the J. Park Resort & Waterpark in the Lapu-Lapu City of Cebu Province, Philippines, I accepted on the spot enthustiacally without a second thought. I needed the challenge, and though at moments I do get homesick for the Dolomites, my wife, Chef Rowena, is Filipina.”





Margaux: How would you describe your culinary philosophy, now that you have relocated to the Philippines ?

Chef Mattia: It is a fantastic challenge and an enormous inspiration for renewing my culinary philosophy. Before changing positions, I used to import Asian ingredients to incorporate into my dishes. Here I can find these same fresh ingredients in the markets. I have always had a strong penchant and extraordinary passion for seaweeds and marine lettuces, prawns, shellfish and fresh fish and here I can find them just across from my kitchen.

Margaux: Let us discuss, a few of the Philippine products that you utilize, and how you employ these products.

Chef Mattia's Tataki seaweed bonito tobikko

Chef Mattia’s Tataki seaweed bonito tobikko

Chef Mattia: The Philippines has a huge variety of fresh ingredients totally different from the Dolomites Mountains in Trentino. I am simply always amazed by the shellfish and the fresh tropical fruits, for example, mangos, durian, coconuts, jack fruit, mangosteen, rambutan, lanzones, pineapples, gujabano, papaya, native bananas and dragon fruit or pitahaya. I can find fresh herbs, and field greens, such as horse radish leaves and edible flowers, which are abundant.

The tuber family, such as tapioca, yuca, sweet potato, yams of all types including ube and taro are sure to surprise.

Sweet black rice with strawberry

Sweet black rice with strawberry

One can also find traditional products such as the stunning strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes produced in the north, in Baguio.

Everyday has been a new discovery for me and my culinary creations.

Margaux: Sounds fascinating, Chef Mattia. Now to turn to research projects, for example, are you doing any gastronomic investigation in reference to the merging of Trentino Italian products and the fusión of Mediterranean products with the Philippine products ?

Chef Mattia: Actually, I am researching the real seasonal and territorial products that have been forgotten or considered obsolete, for example, cat fish, carp, roots, aromatic woods and herbs.

My project is going to be a real Zero KM Philosophy, parallel to the Master Chef

Thai culinary jewel: Tanique Tom Yum Kung as prepared by chef Mattia

Thai culinary jewel: Tanique Tom Yum Kung as prepared by the Chef

Wuttiamporn’s from Phuket Island, Thailand who is presently doing the same type of research in Thailand. The land is quite similar to The Philippines.

Margaux: Chef Mattia, from which Philippine products are you now able to paint your amazingly flawless porcelains ?

Chef Mattia: With these entirely new products, and with such an infinite range of new bright bold colors, and flavors, I would be spoilt for choice !

Margaux: Let me just digress for one moment. Chef Wutti Wuttiamporn is one of the most extraordinarily talented chefs I have ever interviewed on the subject of plate dressage.
Now, to turn to 2015, tell us some of your plans. It is only 10 Fridays away.

Chef Mattia: I am already in one the most prestigious hotels in the Philippines. I have always worked hard and now I am putting my signature in the Philippines, also bringing innovation and creativity to Cebu, to their postiiveness and yet their amazement.


Another pof Chef Mattia's culinary masterpieces: Cream cheese with black sesame seed andarugola

Another of Chef Mattia’s culinary masterpieces: Cream cheese with black sesame seed and arugola