Yuan’s Paella Plus
Paella + Personality
By Luisa Ongpin , 12 years old.
Under Somerset Olympia hotel is a small kitchen. Paprika and Spanish spices overwhelm this kitchen. On a busy day, this room is filled with trays of food and all the stoves and appliances are being used. An Iberian chicken with sliced salty potatoes is in the oven, which is beside a tender roast beef. A huge paellera sits in the middle of the room, orange rice with bright red bell peppers, curling shrimp and blanched green beans fill the pan. A pot of flavorful Vongole Spaghetti is cooking on the stove, the clams in it are opening slowly. The chef behind this all is Juan “Yuan” Ongpin.
Juan Ongpin is not an ordinary Filipino chef, he has a diverse menu with dishes from around the world. He is also the owner and chef of Yuan’s Paella Plus.
Yuan started cooking around 16 years ago (2000). He lived in the US and he was missing Filipino-Spanish dishes. He started cooking Paella and eventually, he also started making Vongole, Iberian chicken, Caesar salad dressing, and roast beef. Five years ago, 2011, he moved back to the Philippines along with his family. He continued cooking and he started making dishes for small reunions and parties. His friends encouraged him to cook professionally so two years ago, 2014, he owned and cooked in a kitchen where customers pick-up their orders.
Yuan said “I want to give the best product to my customers to make them happy, and when they are [happy] it shows [that] all my work has paid off.” Yuan frequently asks for comments from his customers to continue improving. Yuan really cares for his customers, he always wants to give his best and he puts that into his dishes. He finds the best ingredients and cooks meals to perfection for his customers. Getting great feedback is what makes him happy and led him to open this business.
Lessons that he has learned from cooking for 16 years are to be patient and that good preparation is necessary. “Take your time,” he said “good cooking is not rushed so be patient.” He has also used his patience when dealing with employees and customers. Everything
Even though Yuan improves and has learned many things, he still struggles. He wants to keep his customers happy and attract new ones so his biggest struggle is trying to be consistent. To avoid being inconsistent, he undergoes lots of practice and training.
Yuan is a very inspirational chef. He said that “Cooking is an expression of one’s love, and I enjoy when people appreciate my cooking.”
Yuan’s journey proves that you can pursue any hobby into something even bigger. As long as you are passionate and determined, you can achieve any goal that you have. Just because you start off small, does not mean that you will never pass that. Yuan used to only cook for his family, but now he cooks for families all over.