Best Chef In California Is A Pinoy
Equal Space

Best Chef In California Is A Pinoy

Jul 9, 2024, 12:35 AM
Luchie Aclan Arguelles

Luchie Aclan Arguelles


Last of Three Parts

Shouldn't we be proud that a Filipino chef has made a mark on the International Culinary Arts map?

Congratulations to Chef Lord Maynard Llera for being named the "Best Chef in California 2024"! He has skillfully elevated Southern Tagalog recipes with his classical techniques, reinventing traditional favorites.

Last month, in Chicago, Illinois, the James Beard Foundation honored individuals who have demonstrated exemplary talent "in creating food, food media content, and better food systems" across cultures. Known as the "Oscars of the Food Industry," this prestigious award requires recipients to show a commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and fostering a thriving culture, according to the foundation's website. What a remarkable set of categories and prerequisites to meet!

The foundation, a non-profit organization, aims "to celebrate, support, and elevate people behind America's food culture and champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability." It's a significant challenge for chefs who often adapt to Western diners' tastes rather than preserving the food's original blend and flavor.

Chef 'Kuya Lord'

Lord Maynard Llera, known in the culinary arts scene as "Kuya Lord," hails from Lucena City in Quezon. The title "kuya" is a respectful term for an older brother. "Kuya Lord" is also the name of his restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, famous for its lechon kawali—a twice-cooked pork belly that is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. As Chef Maynard puts it, the restaurant serves "Filipino food done my way."

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, restaurant critic Bill Addison described Chef Maynard Llera as "a gripping new expressionist of Filipino cooking." The culinary world agrees with Addison's observation that "the finesse and power of Chef Maynard's cooking have transitioned seamlessly from pop-up to restaurant."

Garage-Backyard Setup

Chef Maynard started his culinary journey by serving and cooking in his garage in La Cañada Flintridge, with just a few seats available. Most of his dishes were for takeout and catering, garnering a substantial following in his backyard setup.

From his popular pop-up recipes, which gained traction before the pandemic, Kuya Lord, the restaurant, has successfully showcased fine dining, fast-casual, and street food all in one. With the backyard business growing, Kuya Lord was officially born.

Thanks to his great relationships with friends and a diverse clientele, it took no time for his following to grow. Chef Maynard realized early on the importance of "approachability." For him, the dining experience is paramount in creating memories. "You don't go to a restaurant just to eat good food," he says. Sharing meals with loved ones and friends, he believes, brings people closer together.

Lord Maynard, The Chef

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef Maynard pursued his passion for cooking dishes he grew up with in Lucena City, where he was born and raised. In 2004, he traveled to the US to further his craft in the Culinary Arts world, with the goal of opening a fine restaurant influenced by the traditions and flavors of home.

He began his professional career in fine restaurants and hotels on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles. There, he initially mastered French-American cuisines with a California flair, later expanding his skills to include Italian cookery.

In 2019, he established Kuya Lord under his own umbrella organization, The h.wood Group.

Chef Maynard is dedicated to offering a unique dining experience at his restaurant, incorporating his Filipino heritage and finding modern and creative ways to reinvent classic flavors. Soon, he will open restaurants in the posh Santa Monica and West Hollywood areas, showcasing a vast array of flavors and culinary traditions.

What makes Filipino food intriguing to various cultures is its unique blend of indigenous influences from Spanish, Chinese, and American cuisines. Europeans, in particular, explore the delicious offerings of Filipino dishes like hidden treasures.


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