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“Il est entré dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause"

In the words of the legendary Édith Piaf, “He enters into my heart; a part of happiness from which I know the cause.”

Have you ever had a gastronomical experience so intense that not only does it satisfy your taste buds, but hits you right at home? We call that the Ratatouille effect. This phrase was coined after the Disney movie that, I'd like to bet, you have probably seen. I recently had this experience at one of my favourite bistros in the city. The mixed berries Charlotte cake caught my attention. Maybe it was my affinity for berries that drew me to it, I'm not so sure, but it looked very good and it was definitely something I have never tried before. As soon as I took my first bite, I fell silent. It somehow triggered a few childhood memories to resurface, and it became a sentimental moment for me. Only then did I genuinely understand the meaning of falling in love with food.

Chef and restaurant owner Philippe Estienne, who is from Provence, said that ‘tymad’ is actually a Celtic word which means ‘good house’. He remembers how everybody at home cooked with ease. Eating out was not a common occurrence for him growing up as he recalls his mother waking up early in the morning to visit the market. The produce they used was fresh and their meals always turned out to be better than the ready-made dishes that were being served at restaurants. This was usually the case in France. Almost everybody in the family had the ability to cook.

"You're always inside this culinary environment," he recollects.

Growing up, he continued to cook in Brittany, which explains the wide array of crêpes and galettes in the menu – a specialty in this region. To my surprise, he revealed that cooking was not his first profession. He worked for a telecommunications company prior to his culinary ventures. As soon as he stepped foot in Cebu – realizing that there were hardly any French restaurants on the island – he decided to put up his own spot.

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For a man who values quality and authenticity, Philippe does not compromise his ingredients to settle for a dish that only conceptualizes as French, and ends up tasting nothing like how it would back in his homeland. His ingredients are mostly imported from France, and the dishes are carefully constructed under his watchful eye. This is one of the main reasons why he finds it difficult to open another restaurant. Like any other individual who values his craft, Philippe would want to control every single aspect of the business, especially when it comes down to the work in the kitchen. For a man who has the patience to come up with homemade produce like his own smoked salmon, it's already a given that this man does not settle for less when it comes to serving people amazing food.

"You have to open yourself to different kinds of flavours to broaden your palate," said Philippe. "For example, with wine, at first you may not like it and won't be able to tell the difference between good quality vin and the cheap ones, but the more you get yourself used to it, you will eventually get there. It's culture. You don't just acquire these things right away. You have to train yourself – with proper guidance, of course."

With his easy-going vibe and kind heart, it's no surprise that Tymad will continue to flourish and educate Filipinos on incredible French food. I'd like to think that Chef Philippe's approach to food is a mix of Classical French Cuisine and Cuisine Du Terroir. Nonetheless, the elegance and substantiality of this cuisine is beyond compare. French gastronomy is now part of UNESCO's list of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ after all.

Here’s a sneak peek to what Tymad Bistro has to offer: