Yes, Chef! Yuichi Abellare Ito, Head Chef of Crosta Pizzeria
July 21, 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.
Filipino-Japanese chef Yuichi Abellare Ito’s love for pizza has taken him across the world, from working at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Pizza Bar on 38th in Japan, to now sharing that same passion at Crosta Pizzeria in the Philippines.
A proud alumnus of the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM) in Quezon City, chef Yuichi said his hankering for cooking was ignited by his family of accomplished restaurateurs and chefs: his grandfather was a former owner of a lechunan, his mother helmed bars in Tokyo, and his sister is also a chef.
Joining forces with Crosta Pizzeria owners Ingga Cabangon and Thomas Woudwyk, chef Yuichi aims to elevate the pizza scene in Manila with pies that are not just TikTok-worthy, but also bursting with flavors that will satisfy every foodie’s pizza cravings. Last May, his Cherry Culatello Pie won the Pizza of the Year - Latteria Sorrentina Award for Crosta, which also ranked 10th among the 50 Top Pizzas in the Asia-Pacific based on an Italy-based online guidebook.
In an exclusive interview with The Beat Asia, chef Yuichi shares his humble beginnings, how he became the head chef of Crosta Pizzeria, and his pizza recommendations.
What piqued your interest to pursue a career in the culinary field?
It was my family who cultivated my love for cooking. When I was young, my grandfather started a lechon business. My mom was influenced and founded her own restobars in Tokyo. My sister is also a chef. I got inspired to enter the world of F&B because of them. When I reached college, I took up French cooking at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM). That’s how my cooking journey began.
Can you tell us about your early experiences as a chef?
After I finished culinary school in the Philippines, I worked at EDSA Shangri-La in Mandaluyong. I had the privilege of being mentored by Robert Cimmino, who imparted his expertise in Italian cuisine. After my stint there, I moved to Tokyo and worked at The Pizza Bar on 38th – a Michelin-starred restaurant. I was mentored by chef Daniele Cason for 10 years, where I learned about the different styles of making pizzas and the ins and outs of the F&B industry.
What made you decide to work as head chef at Crosta Pizzeria?
Actually, I was supposed to open a restaurant in Italy, Singapore, or Dubai. But a lot of things happened and that didn’t push through. One day, Ingga Cabangon and Thomas Woudwyk visited me at The Pizza Bar on 38th to talk about the possibility of me moving to Manila to lead the kitchen at Crosta Pizzeria. We discussed how we want to elevate the pizza scene in the country. The rest is history.
What’s the best part about being the head chef of Crosta Pizzeria?
It’s the staff. It’s rewarding for me to see them develop and improve over time. We have such a friendly environment here at Crosta Pizzeria. I’m happy that my people are not just good at cooking but also at communication and developing their leadership skills.
What was your reaction when you found out that Crosta Pizzeria ranked 10th at the 50 Top Pizza awards?
I was really, really surprised because in just a short time, we were able to jump from the 32nd spot to the 10th. We didn’t expect it at all. When we got the award, it was very fulfilling for me, because for chefs, seeing how far your restaurant or product has reached is the best feeling in the world. I still get goosebumps about it. It keeps me going.
Any pizza recommendations for those who haven’t tried Crosta Pizzeria?
It’s not on the menu right now, but we are planning to bring it back very soon. It’s Marinara. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a very simple pizza with tomatoes, garlic, and cheese. It’s very underrated. Another one is Morty & Ella 2.0, which has mozzarella, roasted pistachios, parsley, and slices of mortadella ham.
Thank you, chef Yuichi!
My pleasure, thank you.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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