Happy Ongpauco-Tiu: The chef with a serious Birkin collection
On the Instagram account of Happy Ongpauco-Tiu, restaurateur, caterer and budding horticulturist, you’ll find that Tiu finds pleasure in the creative process, whether it’s putting together an elaborate centerpiece with hundreds of flowers or putting together an ensemble for a Paris jaunt with her cousin Heart Ongpauco-Escudero, or finalizing the details for her velada with batchmates Chat Fores, an interior designer, and Tara Santos, a restaurateur.
Though her closet is filled with classics (Hermès is a staple), her approach to table setting takes on a more playful approach, with Seletti and Hermès mingling with SM and Dapitan finds.
When you host private dinners, you seem to pay as much attention to the setting as you do to the food.
How do you choose the perfect setting for a meal?
The table setting depends on the kind of cuisine. I want to be able to bring not only authentic dishes to the table, but also the country’s culture by serving it the traditional way.
What stores or labels do you turn to when shopping for the perfect table setting?
I believe that high-end brands like Fornasetti, Hermès or local brands, from Dapitan to SM, can all make for the perfect table, as it all depends on the creativity of the floralscapes and accessories.
If we can’t afford Hermès or Seletti, what high-impact setting do you recommend instead?
Not everyone can afford Hermès or Seletti, but the most important thing in a table setting is the beautiful centerpiece. Even just regular plates with beautiful candles, flowers or even wine bottles plus leaves! Make it personalized so your guests appreciate your thoughtfulness.
What are the elements of a perfect dinner?
Good company is the only element of a perfect dinner, because nothing can top good conversation and laughter over dinner.
For nonprofessionals, what’s the perfect no-fuss dish they can trot out for dinner parties?
You don’t have to be a professional to have dinner parties; you can simply put out baked chicken with vegetable sidings. This is an easy dish yet looks very elegant.
You clearly enjoy fashion. How would you define your style?
Timeless, classic couture is what I like best.
You have a serious collection of Hermès purses, Birkins in particular. What draws you to the brand? And is there an elusive style or Birkin that you’re still hoping to get?
Birkins are, as simple and clichéd as it may sound, timeless. The Birkins that I currently own are more than enough. I am happy with what I have.
Do you follow any hard and fast rules when it comes to dressing?
There are no rules to dressing up. As long as I am comfortable, I’m good.
On your Instagram, we often see you traveling with your Assumption high-school buddies or your cousin Heart Evangelista. Are you a low-key, go-where-the-mood-takes-you traveler, or highly methodical, with every step-planned?
It’s good to plan so you can maximize your time abroad, but when the plan is not followed, then we allow ourselves to be spontaneous. I completely prioritize food over shopping!
Top five favorite cities?
Paris, (anywhere in) Italy, New York, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
Favorite designer boutiques?
My favorite international designer boutique is DVF. For local, I like Azucar in Greenbelt 5 because their designs are easy to wear, very comfortable yet elegant.
Secret spots to shop for good bargains?
The best place for me is Bangkok at the moment.
Take us through your skincare regimen.
My skincare regimen would be cleaning my face and putting sunblock to avoid sunspots, then proceed with vitamin C serum.
What’s more important to you—skincare or makeup?
Skincare is more important than makeup because your skin needs proper care so that your pores won’t be clogged by the makeup.
What are the key products in your makeup kit?
Powder and lipstick keep me looking fresh, while eyeliner makes my eyes bigger. In my kit: my Chanel CC cream, Happy Skin lipstick and Revlon Color Stay eyeliner are the most important to me.
Best-kept beauty secret?
Have a happy outlook in life and everything will follow.
When you grow older, how would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as the happy person who makes other people happy.
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