Filipino romantic-drama series Replacing Chef Chico makes headlines with a unique culinary-centered story and a display of Filipino values and culture. What makes this series worth the hype?
SEA Wave lists down the High Five reasons why you should watch “Replacing Chef Chico”.
Released almost a month ago with a lone season comprising eight 30-minute episodes, Replacing Chef Chico stands out as the first Filipino-produced Netflix original. Since its release, those who have seen the series have nothing but good words about it.
Chef Chico (played by Sam Milby) is the head chef of Hain – a fine dining restaurant that serves authentic Filipino cuisine. He is a stubborn, authoritative leader with a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove to his family. After Chico is involved in an accident, Hain’s sous-chef Ella (played by Alessandra de Rossi), who has conflicted romantic feelings for Chico, steps up to the plate as she proves to her coworkers that she deserves her place in the kitchen. More complications arise as Raymond (played by Piolo Pascual), a concerned consultant hired by Chico’s family, enters the scene to ensure the success of the restaurant.
The series takes place mostly inside the restaurant, but though the sets and characters are limited, there are many tales to be told, from the stories of the customers as well as the overarching plot following sous-chef Ella’s journey to become a real head chef. The plot is straightforward and lends itself well to a story that foregrounds personal experiences.
Something worth lauding is the great screenplay that drives the plot forward and the natural delivery of the actors. Raw emotions were expressed convincingly and the stories unveiled full narratives even without directly showing the events unfold on screen. The natural interactions between restaurant workers and customers, although done in a restrictive setting, made for a more believable and personal approach that rings true to the heart.
Relatable Life Stories
One of the fascinating aspects about the series is the way it showcases various stories about people at different points in life. These stories come from restaurant customers, whose different personal experiences inform their dining experience at Hain. Personal stories about their struggles are shared with the audience through their conversations among each other and the staff at Hain, and these stories almost always hit home.
Emotional stories like people coming to terms with a friend’s terminal illness, unearthing forgotten memories, rekindling old love, or even stories of infidelity were presented in each episode. The menu then for each episode is tailored to the customer’s request or story which makes the dining experience much more intimate and offers clever thematic parallels between the food served and the stories being told.
The Cast and Characters
Replacing Chef Chico presents a wide range of characters. Apart from the main characters portrayed by Alessandra de Rossi, Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby, other notable cast members from the series also shined in their roles.
Carlon (Joel Saracho) is the seasoned chef of Hain and the wall to overcome for Ella. His character was respected by the other chefs but his ego and big personality presented a challenge for Ella as she vied to legitimize her new role as head chef.
Other characters also played a vital role in the series: Ditas (Angie Castrence) as the caring mother figure, Wena (Yesh Burce) as Ella’s best friend and support system at work, and Juancho (Paulo Angeles) as the privileged newbie chef. The clashing personalities and values played dynamically with each other to establish minor conflicts among characters. All of them had their roles to play, but at the end of the day, the series treated all of their characters with care and respect, showing that everyone has their own personal stories and hangups that inform how they interact with the world.
One of the main highlights of the series was how the dishes were presented in the show. Replacing Chef Chico showcased food dishes with love, sharing the origins of the ingredients and their significance to local cuisine. There are dishes from various regions in the Philippines like the sweet milk rice pudding “Kapampangang Tibok-tibok” from Pampanga, the Ifugao native porridge “Tinawon Arroz-Caldo”, and so much more.
Aside from realistic food preparation, mouthwatering food shots, and a display of traditional and modern Filipino food, another aspect that makes Replacing Chef Chico stand out is how it highlights the power of food to bring people together. Eating meals together is shown as a transcendent way of breaking down communication barriers and resolving conflict. As normal as it sounds, this tradition of gathering together at the dining table to eat and share stories is a staple of Filipino households.
Last but not least is the icing on the cake. While all aspects of the production worked together to set the scenes, Replacing Chef Chico’s musical score and soundtrack is what really set the tone for the series. Classical music during food preparation brings excitement to the viewers as they anticipate the finished dish, while downbeat electronic pop plays during downtime when characters are taking a break or preparing to close up shop.
It is also worth knowing that Filipino pop-duo Leanne and Naara were the center of Replacing Chef Chico’s Original Soundtrack, with songs like “Di Na Babalik,” “Evergreen,” “Till The Morning Comes”, and others heightening the emotion of each scene.
Replacing Chef Chico is a delightful series to watch. The characters were empathic, the stories were relatable, and the framing of food and dining as the way to people’s hearts gave the series the thematic grounding it needed to stand out. The series highlighted the diversity of Filipino cuisine and the importance of Filipino values while delivering a romantic drama about following your heart.
SEA Wave rates this series a 3 ½ out of 5, definitely worth the watch!
Replacing Chef Chico is currently streaming on Netflix. Have you seen it? Share your thoughts about the series in the comment section below!
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