UNICEF Rounds Up Asia's Best Female Chefs to Cook for a Cause

Our very own Margarita Forés is among the renowned chefs.

Today we live in a world with technological advances that were once just dreams—high-efficiency solar panels, self-driving cars, and even robots that teach other robots. It’s an interesting time to be living in. However, as the world spins on, there are issues plaguing it whose solutions have been progressing at a snail’s pace.

Among them, healthcare—which includes the lack of assistive devices—for children, most especially in the Philippines. At present, an estimated five million Filipino children live with physical and mental impairment. Disabilities left untreated in early stages of development could lead to permanent and untreatable states. Existing amenities in the country, however, are few and far between, or beyond reach for average income earners. When autopilot automobiles and hyper-intelligent robots are in existence, why then can’t the dream of accessible healthcare for the little ones become a reality?

The United Nations Children’s Fund has taken it upon itself to become not just the dreamer of dreams, but the makers of them. Committed to the freedom and welfare of children, UNICEF, along with Lego-LAJ Marketing Philippines, will be establishing National Centers for Children with Disabilities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The center in the densely populated Metro Manila is already being built at the Philippine General Hospital.

Each center will focus on stabilizing and supporting children with disabilities through services that include diagnosing the state of their health, offering medical aid and assistive technology, as well as providing necessary therapy and other health services. Through these services, the centers hope to further the lives of these children, allowing them to have a rewarding life ahead. It’s a step towards creating a brighter and clearer future for these children.

In an effort to spread awareness on the state of children’s healthcare and raise more support for the health hubs, the inaugural UNICEF Philippines Children’s Ball takes place next month, on March 4. Its theme, quite fitting to the UNICEF purpose, is Dreams. Rooted in childhood desires and ambitions, the venue will be outfitted as if it were removed from reality. Clouds, mystical trees, colorful balloons, and a special Lego display will have it looking like an enchanted forest. Entertainment will be through musical performances throughout the night. The Camera Club of the Philippines will be having a photo exhibit displaying their interpretations of dreams shared by some handicapped children.

While dreams are the central theme of the evening, the sit-down dinner takes its inspiration from childhood memories. The highlight of the evening will be a four-course menu, created by all four past Asia’s Best Female Chef awardees. They will be collaborating for the first, and so far only, time, for a cause much bigger than themselves.


Local talent Margarita Forés

Since embarking on her culinary journey, Margarita has always possessed an affinity for Italian cuisine. It led to her opening Cibo, a Philippine-based restaurant that made Italian dining accessible to those unfamiliar with it. Her repertoire has come to include a successful catering business that has entertained high-profile personalities such as U.S. President Barack Obama, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Forés has made it a point to advocate the use and further discovery of locally grown produce in the Philippines. Her restaurant Grace Park manages to marry her expertise in Italian cooking techniques and knowledge of ingredients sourced across the Philippine islands.

Braised pork adobo, crispy pork skin, and kesong puti gel from Alta


Chefs Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones of Bo.Ian in Thailand.

Thai native Bo traveled long and far to find her identity in the world. A degree in English and French turned into restaurant gigs, which stretched out as far as Australia. As luck would have it, Songvisava found her place in London’s Nahm, where she worked with her now-husband Dylan Jones. The quest to find herself led her back to Thailand, only to be disappointed by the state of Thai cuisine. Songvisava and Jones opened Bo.lan, where they put traditional Thai fare under the spotlight to allow it to flourish. Songvisava has made it a point to work in close proximity with a number of her country’s farmers and has, in the process, become the steward of Thailand’s slow food movement.


Lanshu Chen of Le Moût in Taiwan

Lanshu only came to enter the food and beverage industry after completing a four-year course in Foreign Literature. Her curiosity, however, was deep-seated, having been familiar with the kitchen at a very young age. When the decision to pursue cooking as a career was set in stone, Chen made her way to Paris, where she took a course in pastry at Le Cordon Bleu, followed by a full culinary course at École Grégoire-Ferrandi. Upon finishing, she trained at top kitchens around the globe, before returning to Taiwan to put up Le Moût, a restaurant that would meld her Taiwanese roots and French culinary background. Chen’s dishes are inspired by the different seasons, making use of ingredients available only during particular times of the year.


Vicky Lau, who runs Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong

“Like a painting, food is a canvas for expression, triggering memories, emotions, and our limitless imagination,” Vicky has said of the capacity that a dish holds. Having graduated from New York University with a degree in Graphic Communications, Lau was initially a graphic designer before the kitchen took hold of her. Lau earned her stripes at Bangkok’s Le Cordon Bleu then became recognized for her work at Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Cépage. Establishing Tate Dining Room & Bar is what propelled her career. As an ode to her creative beginnings, Lau spins flavors, textures, and aromas into edible art.

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