CHEF Myke ‘Tatung’ Sarthou holds two of his new books, Baking Simpol and Simpol Kitchen Secrets

EVERYTHING’s coming full circle from the boy from Cebu who wanted to write but ended up cooking.

Myke “Tatung” Sarthou, celebrity chef, started out with a career in writing in his Cebu hometown, but became a chef and restaurateur upon moving to Manila. Apparently though, one of his dreams in high school was to write a book — he not only did that, but got an award for it, when his Philippine Cookery: From Heart to Platter won at the World Gourmand Awards in 2017.

The cookbooks and honors have not stopped.

During a press conference last week, he announced that Simpol the Cookbook, which he brewed during the pandemic along with his Simpol cooking chanel on YouTube (more than 600,000 subscribers, with views never dipping below 10,000) has been nominated in two categories for the World Gourmand Awards: for Easy Recipes at Home, and the Celebrity Chef category (his mother, who is based in Europe, will go to the awards in his stead).

He also has two new books, Simpol Kitchen Secrets and Baking Simpol — Kitchen Secrets was released earlier this week, while Baking Simpol will come out by the second week of December, just in time for the holidays. Both books will be available locally and abroad through Lazada, Shopee, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon SG, and eBay. The two titles are published under Vertikal Books, a boutique press specializing in the creative nonfiction genre, specifically culinary content. Vertikal Books is a segment under Vertikal Media, which Mr. Sarthou also co-founded. Vertikal Media will also create documentaries and mini-series about food.

Baking Simpol will contain innovative recipes like bibingka cheesecake, Tsok-Nut cake, and pichi-pichi with torched queso de bola topping (a cheesecake blended with one of the Philippines many kinds of rice cakes, a cake based on a popular local chocolate/peanut candy bar, and steamed cassava flour balls topped with Edam cheese).

He reminisced that before learning how to cook, he was first taught how to bake, talking about his mother’s one-egg cakes. That led to one of his first business ventures, taking orders for cakes from relatives and friends back in high school.

Meanwhile, Simpol Kitchen Secrets is a guidebook on cooking skills and techniques. “As long as you know the fundamentals, you understand how ingredients work, you can just cook anything without having to stick to a recipe,” he said during the press conference. “That’s what we tried to do with Kitchen Secrets: try to unlock how recipes are created from a perspective of a chef.”

Technique is sacred to Mr. Sarthou: flipping through his Philippine Cookery reveals a similar approach to cooking by concentrating on method. “The logic of doing that in that way is for us to understand how to cook more easily. Instead of starting with a recipe that’s very complicated, I start to talk about what you can do with the simplest.”

He also clocks this up to linguistic differences around the country, as well as the international standards for teaching cooking. “For Filipino food to flourish is for us to create a parallel language for us to be able to align our understanding — lahat tayo gagaling kung magkakaintindihan tayo (we will all improve if we all understand each other).” — Joseph L. Garcia