Having spent his early years in Ilocos, Chef Jose loves sharing Ilocano culture through the food served at his restaurant, Cucina Ilocana. In the third part of our series on Davao’s up-and-coming young chefs, the restaurateur talks about his favorite childhood food and his favorite restaurant in Davao.
Jose Diokno Tabbada, 27, Operations Manager, Cucina Ilocana
Cucina Ilocana is located at Unit A3, Mabini Commercial Complex, Mabini cor. V. Mapa, Brgy. 9A, Poblacion District, Davao City
How long have you been in Davao?
21 years (Jose spent his early childhood in Ilocos).
What’s your favorite food from your childhood? (I’m assuming this was the question?)
I would say that my favorite food from my childhood is the Ilocos Empanada. It’s more of a cultural thing, but it’s fascinating to see Ilocanos flock the plazas just to buy a piece of empanada. It’s built in our culture and we don’t really get tired of eating it regardless of the frequency!
Why did you decide to open a restaurant in Davao City?
We wanted to share the Ilocano culture through the cuisine we offer. It’s also our way of making a mark here in Davao. We’ll all be gone someday, and we’d be happily dead if for a time we helped the Ilocano culture shine in Davao, which is a city of diversity.
What is the concept of your restaurant? What’s your favorite dish to serve visitors?
Authentic Ilocano cuisine. My favorite dish to serve is the bagnet! I love how our visitors marvel at the combination of the deep fried tender meat and the crackling pork skin.
Aside from your own, what is your other favorite Davao restaurant? What do you usually order?
Lito’s Grill! Try their grilled liempo. (It’s) the best one I’ve had in the city.
What can we look forward to from the Davao food landscape?
Recently, restaurants with different concepts have been popping up. Davaoeños used to be reluctant to try new fare and had the tendency to stick to the cuisines that they know. But the tides seem to be changing in this generation of foodies. I see a more vibrant food scene in Davao, as long as the curiosity and the adventurous spirit of the people continue to thrive. Business wise, it’s a good time to put up a small unique shop since the President is from the city! Tourists are excited to see what Davao has to offer.