CELEBRITY Chef Sandy Daza admits hurdling a “no pain, no gain “life.

And despite his captivating wit and humor, his success really came with being honest to his c audience.

“So if it’s good, tell them that it’s good. if it’s not, who am I criticize? I don’t try to project something I’m not. I know my limitations and I still have a lot to learn. “he says.

According to Daza, being a veteran chef and TV personality at the same time was really an advantage, “A big factor here is my appearance on TV because people look at you as a celebrity” he says. But his fame need not stop there.

Chef Sandy still believes that the best way to show his recipe for success was right, he had to prove himself in the restaurant business A chief chef, he says is” one who manages the kitchen, created recipes, run a successful kitchen and all the stuff.”

Indeed, Chef Sandy may have been born with a silver spoon, yet he confided having initially preferred the ‘fast-food” business when he first ventured in the food business. He had always blamed his parents’ separation to their restaurant.

“When I got married, I told myself its quality time for my family. I started out with a fast-food joint before getting into the sit-down restaurant (business),” he explains.

For a while Chef Sandy also tried his luck in Canada, hosting a TV cooking show for eight years until he finally opened his own Filipino restaurant in Vancouver. It failed, not because people there don’t go for Filipino food. He says it was due to the restaurant’s bad location.

But more than anything, he says that cooking and the food business were something that the really loved doing. He returned home, packaged a new cooking show on local TV and eventually venture again in the Filipino restaurant.

Chef Sandy initially set up the “Wooden Spoon,” the name which his partner suggested. “Kasi naman the wooden spoon has been my security blanket. Every time I’m in the cooking show, I would be holding wooden spoon talking to the audience on camera,” he says

Lately, he opened his own “Casa Daza” which he conceptualized based on his TV cooking show “It’s mostly Filipino food and this was what I like to feed my family. Comfort food kaya if you surprise the diner with something unexpected that makes the difference,” he says


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Apart from Casa Daza, Sandy also hosts “Food Prints,” a TV travel show that lures the audience to learn and enjoy local – and indigenous –cuisine in the regions.

Like his TV show, he considers his restaurants a reflection of his character. “I love to discover new food. It’s like searching for a treasure,” he says.” And I really like eating. I eat a lot. And If I find something good, I’ll share it, and I’m already happy with it.”

For the past 26 years, Sandy also enjoys writing for national daily a good column, focused on reviewing local food and restaurants.

Daza recalls it was when he turned 13 that, his mother, the late gourmet chef and restaurateur Nora Daza exposed him to the food business. HBI mom had just opened an elegant French restaurant in Manila.

Surprisingly, however, his passion for Filipino food started when he and his elder brother Bong joined their mother in Paris where she opened a Filipino restaurant known as “Au Bon Vivant.”

“Every time the French enjoyed a Filipino food I felt so proud,” he says. “(And) She also exposed us to good Filipino food. To her, it ’s not okay to just be okay. It has to be the best.”

In Paris, Chef Sandy was an “all-around” worker, being a cashier, waiter, and cook. His elder brother Bong was assigned at the front desk.

One morning, their French cook suddenly left, Sandy had to work in the kitchen. “As the waiter, I would always wait for the dish to be cooked. I would observe how it is being prepared. Without realizing it, I learned how to make it just by watching so when the cook left I started doing what he was doing and applying what I saw. The customers couldn’t tell the difference.”

That gave him the confidence and satisfaction of being appreciated for his cooking, He then enrolled t Cordon Bleu before taking up hotel management at the prestigious Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Meanwhile, his mom had returned to Manila where she focused on her television show “Cooking it up with Nora,” while authoring cookbooks that became the guide to modern Philippine cuisine.

Sometime in 1987, his mom had left for a two-week business trip to Paris, leaving the TV hosting to Sandy and his younger sister Nina.

“I had no experience on TV and I was nervous. So when we came out on TV, Nina and I talked about our fears for coming out on TV for the first., But we knew how to cook and nag-click sa tao,” Sandy says.

When she came back, Nora Daza had started being funny. “Yes, she saw something that she didn’t have. Whenever I commit a mistake on TV I laugh at myself. My mom, she was always prime and proper.”

Sandy did appreciate his mom, being his admirer and not just a critic.

Joel C. Paredes

Joel briefly served government as director-general of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), although he has been a practicing journalist and writer for nearly 37 years. He led a team organized by the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB)  and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that worked on the book entitled “Protecting our Natural Wealth, Enhancing our Natural Pride.”