It’s been roughly 11 years since Chef Herminder Khera set foot in a tropical country, and he has obviously missed it. “I was just looking forward to it, actually, to enjoy the heat,” he says candidly. Ironically, though, it was a strong typhoon that welcomed the The Peninsula Manila’s new Chef de Cuisine to the Philippines instead.

“I was shocked when I saw for a few days it didn’t stop. A lot of staff couldn’t come to work because of the flood,” he remarks. As a result, one of the first things he learned upon his arrival was the government's color-coded rainfall (that and a couple of local fruits and leaves that even we had never heard of). A sign that he intends stay with us for the long haul, maybe.

Before he came to the Philippines, the Malaysian native spent the last few years in New Zealand and Australia, working his way up the kitchen ladder. Despite having a wide range of experiences worldwide, the good chef says that the years he had spent training at his grandmother’s restaurant are still some of the most formative years of his life. “I started my career with my grandma,” recalls Chef Herminder fondly. “I learned a lot from my [her], actually. Not just about cooking, but about life.”

Now at 35 years old, Chef Herminder may find a use for those same lessons again as he oversees the operations at Escolta Manila, where there are typically 375 to 420 customers a day, some of whom often mistake him for a Filipino.

“A lot of people speak to me in Tagalog,” he says with amusement. While he always apologizes and says he can’t understand, the buffet’s head chef has clearly started picking up a few new words here and there—merienda being one of them.

Not that he gets a lot of opportunities to eat merienda. The life of a chef, as we found out firsthand, is always busy. For Chef Herminder, the schedule is even more jam-packed because he’s in the process of updating the menu and has to do experiments on the side. Want to know what a day in his life is like? Browse through the gallery below!

(All photos by Mike Dee)

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