The Philippines’ Tastemakers: Bettina Arguelles

We managed to get 15 minutes with busy restaurant operations chef, Bettina Arguelles, who works at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila and is incredibly passionate about her work and her home…



Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am Filipino born and was raised in Manila. After doing a BA degree in Communication Arts I relocated to Tokyo, and then to Singapore where I took up culinary studies. I’ve worked for a number of great establishments, such as The Fullerton Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa, and Marina Bay Sands as the pre-opening team for Daniel Boulud. It’s great to be back in Manila after 16 years overseas.

How long have you been the Operations Chef at Sofitel?

I started out as the French Sous Chef in Spiral, and was promoted to Restaurant Operations Chef after half a year. I’ve been holding my current position for a year and a half now and oversee Spiral (our flagship outlet), Le Bar (our lobby café), Snaps Sports Bar, Sunset Bar and poolside, Ala Carte Room Service and Club Millésime.

Describe a typical day at work for you?

My typical day runs at a minimum of 12-14 hours, but it can go up to 16. Mornings are spent going through emails and paper work, and doing the department briefing. Afternoons are for appointments, drafting menus, photo shoots and meeting suppliers. Lunch and dinner times are when I walk around the hotel and outlets, talking to guests and ensuring all operations are going smoothly.

What keeps you motivated at work?

Though I have a typical routine, no day is ever the same! While for other occupations it may take months to reap the rewards of your labor, my job offers instant gratification. When I cook a nice dish or give great service to a guest, I get a sincere smile, or a word of thanks or appreciation.

Tell us a bit about the ethos at Spiral restaurant?

Spiral has 21 Ateliers, behind which stand the most highly trained ladies and gentlemen of the industry, serving authentic cuisine from all over the world. Food is always prepared fresh, with the most widespread buffet selection in town.

What is your favourite dish on the menu?

My favorite dish on the menu will be the seabass with a brandade and herb crust on a light and fresh provencale sauce. It is a perfect balance of delicate and rich, fresh and light flavors.

What can people expect from food in the Philippines when they visit?

We have a tremendously diverse food culture and heritage to offer in the Philippines. One must remember, the archipelago is comprised of 7,107 islands with countless shorelines, geographic features and topography. The indigenous ingredients combined with the various cultural heritage from the Spanish, Chinese, and Malay forefathers offer a wealth of gastronomic offerings.

Aside from Spiral, are there any foodie experiences that you would recommend?

There are the well-known establishments that will give you a true experience of Old Manila cuisine, such as Aristocrat in Malate and President in Binondo. For seafood, don’t miss out on Dampa seaside where you could buy your ingredients and have them cooked to your liking. There is also the emergence of young, hip places bringing life to regional Filipino cuisine such as Sarsa, Crisostomo, Abe’s, and Wooden Spoon.

What makes Manila such an interesting city?

Manila has become a melting pot and its food and drink scene is bustling. The food, the people, the night life, it’s all bursting at the seams, and the culture and warmth of the people is beyond compare. In Manila, you are never too far from a beach, a mountain, an adventure.

If you had to sum up the Philippines in just 3 words, what would they be?

Heart. Soul. Paradise.