When asked about his journey into the culinary world, Chef Nino Laus reveals that it wasn’t in his initial plans to become one. His earliest memory that was relevant to cooking was spending time in the kitchen with his mother, while exposed to different aromas and flavors at a young age.
He then took Hotel and Restaurant Management major in college not because he wanted to, but because he didn’t want to have to deal with math classes. But it was during this time that he discovered his skills and, eventually, his passion. He excelled in cooking classes and treated the kitchen as his playground, a place where he could be creative.
Years later, with three food establishments credited to his name, it’s safe to say that Chef Laus has been making a career out of something that he loves doing.
Since there are so many cuisines in the world, Chef Nino suggests trying them all to find the one to focus on and eventually master. For him, it’s all about Filipino cuisine that reflects the concepts of his restaurants: Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge, Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen, and Alamat Filipino Pub & Deli. He opened the first one when he was 26 years old through the support of family and friends. Despite many challenges, Ninyo still stands strong until today, serving its customers for more than a decade.
He’s now looking for more expansion and becoming more creative in using local or native ingredients in his upcoming dishes. Using tourist destinations as the focal point is something he’s looking to do as he is expanding the concepts that he currently has. Introducing Filipino cultures, history, talents, and hospitality through food is his goal, and he aims to change any misconceptions people have about the country.
Besides gaining experience and learning your strengths and weaknesses as a cook, he encourages young chefs to go out to travel. Heading to new places, particularly in the Philippines, lets one discovers new regional flavors that can serve as inspiration for new recipes. The country has a lot of traditional, ancestral, and native food that remain hidden, and he believes that it’s time for more Filipinos to get to know them too.
Since the culinary industry is very competitive, Chef Laus suggests aiming two steps ahead of the others, to get noticed. Let those creative juices flowing and try to come up with something original, a dish or recipe that is entirely new.
If anyone wants to follow his footsteps and open up a food establishment, be mindful when choosing a partner to manage the business. Vet them as much as possible to identify a potentially toxic person quickly. Additionally, make sure everything stated in writing. Your contract is your best friend, should things go sideways.
Chef Laus believes that those who are starting in the industry should know their purpose. Figure out the Ws – why are you cooking? What are you passionate about. If one has this sorted out, then that’s going to set the course of one’s career as a chef – just like it did with Chef Nino Laus.