Canadian born and California raised, Jordan Andino began his career at the age of 9 working at the knee of his chef dad in Toronto. He very quickly traded in his surfboard to hone his cooking style and work at legendary restaurants including The French Laundry and Spago.
At his NYC West Village and Upper East Side Flip Sigi restaurants, Jordan Andino pulls inspiration from his grandmother’s traditional recipes to introduce New Yorkers to his contemporary take on Filipino cuisine.
His dynamic demeanor put him on the radar of numerous TV networks. Appearances on the Today Show, Beat Bobby Flay and Chopped have led to his own show Late Nite Eats on the Cooking Channel. Jordan was included in Zagat’s “30 Hottest Chefs Under 30” in 2016 and People Magazine recently named him as their hottest chef.
Total Food Service visited with Jordan Andino to find out what makes him tick and where he is headed next.
Was there a Mom or Grandma that got you interested in cooking?
My cooking is really inspired by my grandmother and father. My grandmother’s Filipino cuisine and her balance of salt, sweet & spice helped mold my palate. Growing up, my dad was a chef, so I learned how to balance my grandmother’s sense of flavor with my father’s technique, which gave me an ability to create flavor profiles that have become my
Interesting that you’ve become one of the nation’s leading Filipino chefs without ever living there.
Yes correct, my parents emigrated from the Philippines with my mom and her family arriving in Canada when she was 14, and my dad and his family arriving when he was 16. They somehow ended up in the same area in Toronto, met and had me! Eventually my mom moved me to Los Angeles in 1997 and later left for New York in 2006. My time in Toronto, LA, and NY helped shape my culinary career.
How would you describe what makes Filipino cuisine unique? Tastes? Textures?
You need to look closely at the history of the Philippines to understand the cuisine. The US military occupation brought ketchup and SPAM while the proximity of China brought us rice! Most importantly, you need to understand the climate of the Philippines. We needed shelf stable items that didn’t require refrigeration. The hot, unstable environment led to the use of a lot of pork in our dishes. All animals needed to be used and processed immediately because the high temperatures would spoil the food. Overall, Filipino cuisine is the amalgamation of three different types of major cuisines: American, Chinese and Spanish.
Are there National dishes that are staples of Filipino cuisine?
A few staple dishes come to mind when I think about Filipino food. Bangus is a classic Filipino dish; it is basically fried fish soaked in milk. Another classic Filipino dish is chicken or pork adobo, which is soy and vinegar braised meat. Much of the adobo dish’s popularity comes from how easy it is to prepare. Finally, dishes that mix both sweet and savory elements are popular in Filipino cuisine. Kare Kare is one of my favorites; it’s basically a sweet peanut butter based stew. You will also see a lot of longanisa, a sort of barbecue pork sausage mixed with paprika and sugar.
Walk us through your career path. Talk about the impact that made you who you have become.
I really started to immerse myself in cooking when we moved to LA, while most kids were going to camp in the summer I was in my dad’s restaurant kitchen learning the business. I started with cleaning the basement, washing dishes and then peeling shrimp. From the age of 9 to 17 I didn’t do anything other than cook during the summers and winters. So if you break that down, I technically had four to five years of actual commercial experience before I even went to college; I was way ahead of the game.
Talk about the opportunity to learn from some of our top chefs.
One of the chefs my dad trained ended up working at Jean Georges, which enabled me to land a great stage there. Because of my connections at Jean Georges, that led to a summer internship with Wolfgang Puck at Spago in LA and then with Thomas Keller at French Laundry in Napa.
I then had the opportunity to work as part of a culinary swat team, with HEI Hospitality where I travelled the eastern half of the country fixing “broken” culinary operations. Eventually that landed me in New York where I took over a popular gastro-pub.
What led to the opportunity on TV?
I was actually working as a private chef and a friend of mine had submitted my photo and bio to Chopped. That led to an opportunity to compete against Bobby Flay on one of his shows. That appearance really snowballed and next thing I knew I was getting calls to be on The Kardashians, Bravo, and The Today Show. That turned into 70 plus TV appearances over the past five years.
Where did the name Flip Sigi come from?
Very simple, Flip is short for ‘Filipino’ and Sigi means ‘go’ thus, Go Filipino. We got it right with a fresh and unique menu combined with a cohesive operational plan.
Once potential investors tasted the food and saw the operation, we had a number of suitors. It actually turned out that one of my friends had a space that was perfect for the 2nd restaurant.
Is the goal to turn this into a national chain?
That’s the goal. My two partners and I have designed it with a vision of a national rollout. We are fully electronic and don’t take cash. Therefore, we’re not tied down to a single store and we’re able to manage and operate multiple stores remotely.
We’ve seen the Philippines’ based Jollibee chain grow in Metro NYC. What makes your concept different?
They are the McDonald’s of the Philippines. We are never going to compete with them but we have very different goals than they do. Their goal is to offer authentic Filipino fare with regional dishes from throughout the country. It’s a blanketed version of food that all Filipinos can accept and like. Flip Sigi is a Filipino Taqueria that acts as the perfect introduction to Filipino cuisine.
Your front of the house design is pretty funky. How did it evolve?
My partners wanted my passion for our cuisine to drive the customer experience. They wanted my positive energy to represent the vibe of our locations and brand. Our good vibes are supported with the right music and a spectacular graffiti mural design.
What’s your approach to building a team?
I am very concerned with an increase in minimum wage that we get this right. It’s a very delicate balance; we are committed to helping our people grow. At the same time, we are looking to see how technology like ordering kiosks can make our restaurants more efficient.
People Magazine named you the sexiest chef in America. What are your thoughts on the prevention of sexual harassment in restaurants?
Here is a very simple answer with no politics: We need the return of logic and human respect. I know there are close quarters, late hours and alcohol in our workplace. But there’s simply no excuse. Frankly, I think we are going to see less of it as the older generations of chefs retire.
To learn more about Jordan Andino, please visit his website.