By Monica Araneta Tiosejo
Lanai Tabura, who hails from the tiny island of Lanai, Hawaii, is a big deal. He is a DJ, comedian, actor, Emmy Award winner, winner of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, and TV host of Cooking Hawaiian Style. Most importantly, he is part Filipino, and together with fellow Fil-Ams, chefs Tom Cunanan (Bad Saint) and Charles Olalia (Ma’am Sir), headlines the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) Chefs’ Tour, happening this month.
The objective of the 14-day series of food trips and food talks around the Philippines (with major stopovers in Quezon City, Pampanga, Bacolod, and Davao) is for the chefs to learn more about Filipino cuisine so they can better represent and promote it abroad. Also, they will interact with culinary students via the World Food Expo’s Wofex University, and tell them more about the world through their experiences.
Tabura greets me with a “Mahalo” and asks me to call him Lanai, not chef. “I always tell people ‘Chefs went to culinary school, got the degree, and deserve the chef title! I’m a cook and TV host.’” He had previously met with the DOT about his project called #Pride4PH that brings people together to clean, beautify, and protect the earth.
“We live on a beautiful planet. Growing up in Hawaii has taught me to take pride in where I live, knowing that we are here as stewards of the land. The Philippines and Hawaii are so similar. I have always had so much Aloha and deep connection for the people of the Philippines where my grandparents were born,” he is quoted.
“We started talking more about how food should be a focus for The Philippines. We have amazing food and chefs! Why not? I don’t know what to expect [about Chefs’ Tour]. I have done so many different types of culinary tours, and each is different. I am excited about the different islands and learning the history of food. The public can look forward to meeting some amazing chefs, and hear their stories.”
This will be the first time Tabura will be meeting Cunanan and Olalia. He has only been to one of Olalia’s pop up dinners and loved it.
For the culinary students, would-be restauranteurs, and even hosts, his advice to them is, “Be original and creative. Don’t be afraid to share the culture, people are wanting to learn about it. This may sound cliche, but be yourself! We have a lot to offer as Filipinos, and the world is now looking at us.”