On the Table: Chef RJ Ungco

By franco on 6 April, 2009

On the Table: Chef RJ Ungco

Chef RJ Ungco with his daughter, Raya

Trained at the Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland and with varied practical experiences from the basements of Italian eateries to the kitchens of Malacanang, Chef RJ Ungco has built a resume that would the envy of any chef. Driven by a passion for the gastronomic, he continues to innovate food with a touch of Pinoy thrown into the mix–first at his small Italian-inspired restaurant Ponzo’s and now in his newest venture (with partners, Tanke Tengkeko and Nica Miranda), 1521 Restaurant. At 1521, Chef Ungco and his partners have taken Filipino comfort food and turned it on its head–creating dishes that are not only delicious and but just plain fun.

Who in your life has influenced your cooking the most? My Lola Gloria. Lola Alud. And my Lola Mel.

Which book has had the biggest impact?

So far, ang fave ko is Les Halles by Anthony Bourdain. But there are many other culinary-based books that give me inspiration.

What was your first job in the food business?

I was a lowly commissary cook stuck in the basement of an Italian restaurant in Italy, peeling garlic, potatoes and onions.

How did you get involved with 1521?

I was first a chef consultant for 1521. I came up with dishes and a menu for them. Suddenly we really hit it off (Tanke, Nica, and I) so from then on we became partners na.

What is your favorite item on the menu of 1521?

The Bonggang Bonggang Binagoongan and the Ang Tapa This.

Which restaurant meal (foreign or local) do you remember the most?

San Nick’s Lasagna (from an Italian restaurant beside my school in Switzerland) and my lola‘s Menudo.

Besides your own place, what’s your favorite restaurant in Manila?

Behrouz and Hossein’s. I’m a Middle Eastern food junkie! Before, [I used to like] Ima Filipino restaurant.

What junk food do you love?

Clover Chips and cold pizza.

Is there a food you just can’t seem to enjoy?

Prawns and crabs. I like eating them pero I don’t like peeling them.

Just between us, what are your future plans?

A couple more Ponzos and 1521s won’t hurt. To create, taste, produce, and conceptualize more mouth-watering dishes 🙂

1521 Restaurant

547 Shaw Boulevard

Brgy. Wack-Wack

Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila

Telephone: (02) 794 0433



*Ed’s note:

1521 has since relocated to:
1521 Restaurant
Forbes Town Center
Forbes Town Rd
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
(02) 552-1909




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  • APRIL 7, 2009 12:26 AM

    solraya said...

    Cute Raya!

    I have been wanting to try this restaurant. Coincidence I get a call this morning to make a delivery to Mandaluyong. Hope to be able do visit.

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