Food & Drink

Jason Atherton's Restaurant in Cebu Will Make You Travel for Food

The international celebrity chef's spot in Cebu is a love letter to his wife, Irha.
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Jason Atherton never set out to become a celebrity chef, but by all accounts he’s doing an excellent job in the role he fell into. Since the opening of his first restaurant, Pollen Street Social in Mayfair, London, back in 2011, which received its first Michelin star barely six months later, he hasn’t looked back. To be honest, he just hasn’t had the time. Five years later, with restaurants and counting around the world—in London, New York, Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, and Cebu—it would be easy for an outsider looking in to think that celebrity status came swiftly for Atherton, but the rise to the top of his game was, in reality, decades in the making.


Chargrilled miso carrots served with baba ganoush and walnut pesto and a signature cocktail at the Pig & Palm

Working in kitchens since his teens, Atherton cut his teeth with some remarkable culinary legends, among them Marco Pierre White, Ferran Adria, and Gordon Ramsay. After opening Maze in London for Ramsay, and taking that same concept to five more locations around the globe, he decided it was time to venture out on his own and founded his own restaurant group, The Social Company. With the restaurants’ immediate success, his star shot up fast, and subsequent restaurant and commercial deals presented themselves.

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“I cut back on the TV because really, I didn’t see the value. I just want to be a cook,” he shares with us at his newly opened restaurant, The Pig & Palm, in Cebu. “Running restaurants, cooking food, and watching people enjoying themselves is what I’m really interested in. I’m not one of those named chefs who doesn't look after their restaurants. I do. When I’m here, I’m in the kitchen and behind the stove.”


Coff’ Medicine cocktail and local mullet with baby clams

While his media profile has largely been defined by his good looks and sharp fashion sense, his meteoric rise is credited solely to his fine work in the kitchen—every last one of them. And although he never intended to be a brand name with a number of dining concepts, his restaurants have appealed to a broad-ranging clientele, from men in suits to the sneaker-wearing creative class. For better or for worse, there has come to be a certain level of expectation when it comes to an Atherton-led dining establishment, and The Pig & Palm is no exception. With his wife Irha, and business partners, Cebu property developers Chris and Carla McKowen, and architect Lyndon Neri, who is also responsible for the design of the interior space, Atherton has opened his first Philippine restaurant to much fanfare. “It has always been Irha’s dream, to bring some of the success of our restaurant group back to her hometown in Cebu. As my wife and co-director of the company, it gives me no greater joy than to open a Social destination here as my love letter to her,” he says.

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Coconut rice pudding and Dill or No Dill cocktail

Together with his Manila-born head chef, Tim de la Cruz, whom he met in London after de la Cruz was a contestant on MasterChef UK, the pair has created a menu that offers thoughtful yet approachable dishes using mostly locally sourced ingredients. The result is an offering that is personal and distinct to Cebu yet part of the larger Social Company with casual and understated but strategically refined dishes Atherton is known for.

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Alicia Colby Sy
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