Filipina Margarita Forés named Asia's Best Female Chef of 2016

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Chef Margarita Forés

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — International chef and restaurateur Margarita "Gaita" Forés was named Asia's Best Female Chef of 2016 by internationally recognized Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

More than 300 restaurant industry experts in Asia voted for Forés to take this year's title as Asia's Best Female Chef. Voters were composed of chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, well-traveled gourmets, and restaurant experts.

William Drew, group editor of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, described Forés as a worthy recipient of the award.

"A true leader in her country’s restaurant sector, her dedication, culinary skills and pioneering efforts have elevated the dining scene in the Philippines and set a new benchmark for other chefs and restaurateurs to follow,” he said.

The World's 50 Best described Forés' new title as "a fitting and well-earned recognition of her vast array of achievements in the Philippines and beyond."

Immersion in Italian cuisine

Despite not having any formal training, her culinary career spanned for more than 18 years, and still continues to grow.

A public accountant, she gained appreciation for authentic Italian cuisine during a tour of Italy in 1986. It was there that her culinary style evolved, cooking in home kitchens and exploring markets in Florence, Milan, and Rome.

After her immersion in Italy's local culture, she went back to the Philippines in 1987 and launched high-end catering business Cibo Di M. She put into practice the methods she learned during her time in Italy using local ingredients.

Forés is the woman behind casual dining chain Cibo, which she opened in 1997, contemporary restaurant Lusso, Filipino comfort food spot Café Bola, farm-to-table restaurant Grace Park, and hotel restaurant Alta in Ascott BGC.

Forés, along with Via Mare founder Glenda Barretto, crafted the meals for world economic leaders during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) welcome dinner last November 18.

Related: Chefs prepare Filipino food with a twist for APEC's economic leaders

Advocate of Filipino cuisine

In a bid to share her knowledge on traditional techniques of home-style Italian cooking with next generation chefs, Forés opened Casa Artusi Philippines. This was in partnership with Casa Artusi, a historic culinary institution in Forlimpopoli, Northern Italy.

Although she has a reputation in the mastery of Italian cuisine, Forés also advocates Filipino culinary heritage.

She has co-authored Kulinarya, a collection of popular regional dishes, to promote Filipino cuisine to an international audience.

Hong Kong's Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room, Taiwan's Lanshu Chen of Le Moût Restaurant, and Bangkok's Bo Songvisava of Bo.Lan were named Asia's best female chefs in the previous years.

The fourth annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony will be hosted at the W Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand on February 29.

Sharing the credit

In a video by the The World's 50 Best Restaurants, an emotional Forés responded to her award, saying that she feels like she was crowned Miss Universe. "Don't take it away later," she quipped.

 

Forés, on her Instagram page, shared how overwhelmed and humbled she is for the prestigious title. But instead of taking all the credit, she acknowledged that the award also belongs to her team.

"The congratulations should go to you! Thank you to this team that holds the fort behind the scenes," she said.

CNN Philippines' Mikas Matsuzawa contributed to this report.