Model-turned-celebrity stylist Ton Lao has always been a foodie. Aside from taking care of his nine bichon frise dogs, he loves to cook. When we used to work together in magazine publishing, he would invite us over the lunch break to eat in his house, which was near our office, and he would cook.
When the pandemic and the shutdown of ABS-CBN happened almost simultaneously, Lao was one of many people who were affected. Most, if not all his projects, got canceled, since most of his celebrity clientele are ABS-CBN stars like Piolo Pascual, Daniel Padilla and Enrique Gil.
“After two weeks of staying home and doing nothing, I started to feel anxious and depressed,” Lao recalled.
“Friends always send me food, and in return I also want to send them food,” Lao adds. He decided to cook and send them one of his specialties, which is Chinese paella or kiampong. When friends started posting his food gifts on Instagram, inquiries started trickling in. “I was asked for my menu, but I didn’t have one.”
Lao suddenly recalled the favorite dishes he loves to cook for friends every time they visit him at home. Being enterprising and given his background in old Binondo-style Chinese cooking, Lao saw an opportunity and started Ton Lao’s Kitchen.
Aside from the kiampong, his other best-selling dishes are lasagna, baked salmon and sushi bake, a dish where one has to wrap the nori or seaweed around the rice, fish roe and Japanese mayo filling. He also experimented and created a fusion dish called baked sushi longganisa.
“It’s fulfilling to see people enjoying your food,” Lao said. His menu consists of around 15 dishes, including Korean beef stew, cheesy kaldereta and pork adobo. Even his celebrity friends became regular customers like Kim Chiu, Xian Lim, Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo. “I am much busier now than before,” he adds, and reiterated he plans to continue with this food venture. Why would anyone stop a good thing? —CONTRIBUTED