Yes, Chef! Nikko Roa, Executive Chef of Apartment 1B Restaurant
April 13, 2023
Asia is one food-crazy continent! We take great care to pick restaurants based on culinary vibes, rankings on international gourmand guides, mentions in magazines, Instagrammability, and added hunger. Yes, Chef! features the region’s chefs' stories of love and labour in kitchens that has made some of our restaurants the next big thing in Asia.
Possessing a strong knowledge of gastronomy and exceptional cooking skills are among the characteristics that make a top-notch culinary professional. Such attributes are fully exemplified by chef Nikko Roa, whose more than 10 years of experience in five-star hotels shines through in every dish presented at Apartment 1B, a Manila-born restaurant that offers well-crafted and hearty cuisines from around the world.
From kickstarting his career as a kitchen helper at The Richmonde Hotel and teaching fundamental cooking courses for mariners, to becoming the sous chef of Hizon’s Catering and Restaurant Services for The Manila Polo Club and winning one of the most prominent culinary competitions in the country, Nikko successfully penetrated the burgeoning food industry of the Philippines. With his determination and perseverance, he now holds the position of executive chef at Apartment 1B.
The Beat Manila speaks with chef Nikko about his journey in the kitchen, the person he admires in the industry, and his favorite dish to prepare.
What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in the culinary field?
When I was about eight years old, I was exposed to working in a kitchen where my mom did her small catering business. I learned how to peel potatoes, cut vegetables, and even tried frying basic food. Growing up, I didn’t really have any plans to work as a professional chef, until I set foot in The Richmonde Hotel’s kitchen as part of my requirement to finish my OJT. Memories from my childhood came back, and from the very first day of my training, I knew that this was something I wanted to pursue.
Can you walk us through your early experiences as a chef?
I started my career in 2005 after I finished my HRM degree at the Hotel and Tourism Institute of the Philippines. I worked as a kitchen helper at The Richmonde Hotel for two years. In 2007, I took up a culinary course at the Academy for International Culinary Arts and had the opportunity to join the Mandarin Hotel until 2011, where I learned most of my skills as a chef. Between 2011 and 2013, I tried teaching basic culinary courses for seafarers and had several clients for consultation.
In 2014, I went back to working in the kitchen and joined as the opening sous chef of The Wholesome Table. In 2017, I became the sous chef of Hizon’s Catering and Restaurant Services for The Manila Polo Club. Within two years, I was promoted to executive chef and then corporate chef.
Is there a prominent figure in the food industry that you look up to?
Chef JP Anglo. I like the story of his success and the way he emphasizes things related to food.
Can you tell us about your participation in “Funlasang Pinoy Year 2?”
Initially, the thought of joining the competition did not really cross my mind. It was actually my former executive chef who encouraged me to send an entry. Little did we know that out of the 400+ entries, only nine would make it to the finals, and luckily, I was one of those. At that time, I felt like I was the underdog, that is why I made sure to give it my best. I thought it was my moment to prove myself as a competent chef and that it was my time to shine.
How has winning the competition impacted your career?
Giving it my best shot was one thing, but actually winning as the grand champion was another. I felt validated. I was so proud of myself and my achievement. It felt like my hard work really paid off, which of course boosted my confidence and self-esteem. A few months after the competition, my executive chef resigned. At that time, I knew I was ready to take on bigger responsibilities as a chef, and a big part of that came from winning the competition.
What made you decide to work as an executive chef at Apartment 1B?
In late 2021, I became the executive chef of Apartment 1B. During that time, we only operated three branches, but we have expanded since. Working at Apartment 1B is one of the best decisions I made in my career because I can work freely and express myself more in terms of creating dishes, with no hesitations and limitations.
As an executive chef, what do you find to be the most rewarding aspect about leading the kitchen at Apartment 1B?
It feels very rewarding to see my team succeed. Some even got promoted and took on higher positions in other companies.
What is your area of expertise or favorite dish to prepare? Also, do you have a go-to food that you can’t resist eating?
Pasta using any ingredient that I can play with. From exotic to sophisticated, I love experimenting with pasta dishes. In terms of my favorite food, it’s pizza, any time of the day.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, chef Nikko!
My pleasure, thank you.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Yes, Chef! articles here.
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