Filipino chef Erwan Heussaff wins 'culinary Oscar' for his Instagram account

The chef received the James Beard award for efforts to promote his country's food and culture

Erwan Heussaff produces docu-style videos covering Filipino food and culture. Photo: Featr / YouTube
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Celebrity chef Erwan Heussaff has won a James Beard Media award for his Instagram account, which highlights Filipino culture and food.

The Filipino-French content creator was named the winner in the Social Media Account category of the US award-giving body, which is widely considered the Oscars of the culinary world.

Heussaff shared the news with his 4.4 million followers on Instagram on Sunday.

At his acceptance speech at the event, he spoke of how important the award was for Filipinos and their food.

“I've been obsessed trying to figure out how to make it just the 'big thing',” he said, dressed in traditional attire at the glittering ceremony in Chicago.

“Anywhere you go in the world, you meet Filipinos in the food and beverage industry. In fact, one of our largest revenue streams as a country is from Filipinos working overseas, yet not a lot is known about our culture or our food.”

The award, he added, will motivate him to “continue shining a light on our beautiful country, our beautiful people and the food that is made in our kitchen”.

Heussaff beat two other nominees – Nom Life and Kalamata's Kitchen – in the category, which “recognises excellence in a single food-related post, or compilation of up to three posts”, according to the James Beard website.

The media awards cover books, journalism and broadcast excellence in the food world. A separate ceremony is taking place on Monday to give out awards to restaurants, restaurateurs and chefs.

Aside from his own Instagram account, Heussaff, who is married to Filipina actress and model Anne Curtis, runs media companies Featr and The Fat Kid Inside Studios in the Philippines. Both companies produce content highlighting Filipino culture, from food to travel.

Heussaff is known for his easy-to-follow and innovative cooking videos, but the celebrity chef's content has evolved over the years to include more documentary-style videos – exploring different places in the Philippines and highlighting their distinct food cultures.

One of his most recent videos is on Basilan, an island province located in a Muslim-majority area in southern Philippines.

In the video, he free-dives with fishermen and cooks with locals while weaving in educational information about the area and its people.

Another viral video from Heussaff explores ube or purple yam, a tuber that is believed to have originated in the Philippines.

In the video, he visits plantations and talks to farmers and their families who have long relied on the tuber for their livelihood. He also discusses conservation practices, as well as what the government must do to ensure the Philippines is utilising its resources.

Heussaff's journalistic videos – which not only explain Filipino food2, but also direct viewers to the challenges and struggles of local communities in the country – have earned him a loyal following.

For the coming James Beard Foundation culinary award, three Filipinos are also up for medals. One is Filipino-American chef Aaron Verzosa who is nominated as Best Chef in the Northwest and Pacific for his work at Archipelago, a Filipino-inspired restaurant in Seattle.

Two others are nominees in the Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker category: chefs Vince Bugtong of Abaca and Margarita Manzke from Republique, both in California.

Updated: June 05, 2023, 10:04 AM