In the world of gastronomy, where the fusion of culinary cultures and the exploration of flavours take centre stage, two exceptional chefs, Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery, Philippines, and Varun Totlani of Masque Restaurant, Mumbai, have joined hands to create a dining experience that promises to be truly remarkable.
Philippine’s Chef Jordy Navarra has gained international acclaim for his innovative approach to Filipino cuisine at Toyo Eatery. It was awarded the Miele One To Watch Award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 – the same was awarded to Masque in 2020.
Through reinventing traditional dishes while preserving cultural heritage, Chef Navarra has elevated Filipino cuisine to new heights. While at the helm of Masque Restaurant, Chef Varun Totlani has captivated diners with his unwavering dedication to Indian flavours –pushing boundaries while staying true to seasonal and local produce.
This partnership, which originated from their previous collaboration in 2019, was reignited after an inspiring reunion at the 50 Best Awards earlier this year. “We had such a great time cooking with each other last time, and now, with a lot of changes at Masque and Toyo, we wanted to do it again—to have more fun, learn from each other, and see how we have changed and evolved,” explains Totlani.
Both countries borrow flavour profiles and ingredients from each other, and countries they’ve shared mutual borders or histories with. Chef Jordy Navarra notes the exhilaration of experiencing familiar ingredients through the lens of a different country. “We’ve seen these ingredients for years and used them a certain way, going to a different country and seeing the same things look and taste completely different— it’s very refreshing.”
Both Toyo Eatery and Masque Restaurant share the goal of elevating their cultures’ cuisines onto the global stage. As Chef Varun Totlani points out, “Our cuisines are not considered world-class fine-dine cuisines, the goal is to do just that —to highlight our culture and cuisine on the world stage.” This alignment in purpose and approach, despite their distinct culinary backgrounds, sets the stage for a harmonious collaboration.
Through their collaboration, the maestros invite diners to a remarkable feast that promises to ignite the senses and create lasting memories on the ninth and the tenth of June at Masque, Mumbai.
To understand the chefs and what they bring to this fun collaboration better, we fired a series of questions. Here’s what they had to say:
How would you describe Toyo and Masque in one line, respectively?
VT: Masque is all about celebrating India. From the diverse landscapes and ingredients to the cultural richness found in every region, we aim to showcase the best of what India has to offer.
JN: We take a raw and natural approach to Filipino food, inspired by Filipino culture and the ingredients we have around us. Our goal is to share our perspective and represent the food we love to eat.
What are your go-to comfort meals?
VT: Pav bhaji is my ultimate comfort meal.
JN: Grilled pork with rice is my go-to comfort dish.
What are your kitchen pet peeves?
VT: I can’t stand when someone doesn’t respect the ingredients and wastes them unnecessarily.
JN: Sloppy work and lack of respect for the ingredients bother me as well.
Do you have a kitchen hack or secret trick you swear by?
VT: Being organized and trusting your instincts are crucial. Listen to yourself and have confidence in your decision-making.
JN: Planning and organisation are key. The more specific you are in your planning, the smoother everything runs in the kitchen.
What’s the one thing we’d never find in your fridge?
VT: Balut, a fertilized duck egg, is something I’ve never tried and I’m too scared to eat it.
Name one person that you’d love to cook for.
JN: I’d love to cook for my wife since she keeps complaining that I don’t cook for her enough.
VT: I’d be honoured to cook for all the chefs and industry professionals I’ve met. Honestly! All of them. Let’s make it a big dinner party!
JN: One big thali for all!