For Monday Motivation this week, we had the pleasure of chatting to Jerome Calayag, a chef and winner of S.Pellegrino Young Chef Regional Semi-Final 2019 (the Final will be held in Milan in 2020).  We asked him what it was like to win such a prestigious award and how he wanted to see the gastronomic scene develope in the future:

What inspired you to become a chef? 

Growing up in the Philippines, I got to experience being so grateful when there’s food on the table. At an early age, I experienced harvesting and even catching food for the family. Both my father and my grandmother were very good home cooks and it always got my attention when they were in the kitchen cooking.

I loved cooking and I started to cook for the family every time we could afford to buy fresh produce from the wet market or when there were vegetables that we could harvest from the backyard.

At the age of 14 I decided that I wanted to be a chef one day. Just before I turned 17, I moved to Sweden so I could go to culinary school and become a chef.

Congratulations on receiving the award! What are you most pleased about winning it? 

Jerome Calayag

Thank you! I am very pleased that the hard work that I put in has paid off and that it has given me the opportunity to take a step closer to my dreams and aspirations. I am very excited to be able to continue my journey through competing in the Grand Finale of S. Pellegrino Young Chef competition which will take place in Milan 2020.

How do you measure success? 

I don’t really measure success, but what I do value is hard work and seeing it pay off. The best thing I can do is put in the hard work to progress as a chef and as a human being, and then see the positive results from this come to fruition. For me, that’s what really matters and that’s how I measure success.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Sustainable dish

Ideally, I  would like to have my own restaurant in Sweden, where I can create and cook dishes sustainably. I want to turn the humble vegetable into a hero and give it the respect it deserves on the plate. My mission is to open a place where I can promote sustainable produce and develop close relationships with local farmers so that we can work with nature and not against it.

I want to do big things. Big things that will make this world a better place.

Who inspires you?

People who do things – I call them “doers”. They are the people who are willing to put the time and effort into actually doing things that will help them reach their goals in life. People who have a passion for what they do and use this passion in their craft.

I also admire people who don’t just think about themselves. The future needs more passionate and compassionate doers in the world.

What motivates you to follow your dreams?

Jerome Calayag

I want to be able to push the world of gastronomy and people’s idea/choices of food in a more sustainable direction. I want to alter perspective and show that you can cook very delicious food from sustainable and locally sourced produce. People sometimes forget that Sweden has an abundance of great local produce.

Having the honour of participating in the S. Pellegrino Young Chef  competition also motivates me. I think the competition is a great stepping stone that can help give young aspiring chefs like myself a platform to pursue their dreams.

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone wanting to become a chef and follow in your footsteps?

Always be open to learning new things, and be a good listener. You never know when someone might teach you something. I also think that having respect is paramount and that you should always be humble and grateful for every opportunity presented to you.

Go for it! Work hard and have patience. Be a “doer” and keep on cooking!