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Erica Paredes opens restaurant in Paris (think fried chicken with Asian sauces, sinigang, etc)

Vanity Fair described her food as 'addictive.' She says, ‘It’s an exciting time to be a Filipino cook here now, and a woman no less!’

Erica Paredes: Six years ago, she moved to Paris. The gamble paid off. (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

Pollock fish in tamarind sambal sauce, served with artichoke chips, basil and mint. (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

If you haven’t tried Erica Paredes’ food yet—well, you must, once borders open and restrictions ease. She is a Filipino chef making a name for herself in the City of Lights. She cultivated her passion for food in her early 20s, but acted on it professionally only now in her late 30s.

Six years ago, she packed her bags and moved to Paris, one of the great culinary capitals of the world. And the gamble paid off.

She got her cooking cred at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Paris, with stints at Les Cocottes and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Étoile. Then she bravely started a small culinary operation in 2019, in her Rue de Nil apartment. Aside from hosting private suppers, she also popularized “boodle fight” dinners; discerning diners were encouraged to eat with their fingers.

Her menu reflected her love of Filipino cuisine, adding her refreshing riffs to it.  She served her childhood favorite, shrimp cooked in garlic, crab fat and Sprite. There was sinigang roast spring chicken with tamarind coconut gravy and crispy pork belly (liempo) with kecap manis and kare-kare sauce, to mention a few of her delicious offerings.

Her pop-ups were always well received, charming Parisians’ hearts and palates with the exciting flavors of Filipino dishes. A piece in Vanity Fair France describes Chef Paredes’ food: “One of the rare joys of last winter: in a Paris weighed down by confinements, rain and curfews, you could find pieces of fried chicken golden like ingots,” written by Constance Dovergne in September 2021.

VF described the Filipino dishes as “addictive” and “flirting with local produce.” It also raved about Chef Paredes’ crispy chicken wings, kare-kare oxtail in a vegetarian eggplant version, and calamansi cheesecake that “worked like the emblematic tarta de queso that we eat in the streets of San Sebastian, in the Spanish Basque Country.”

Erica Paredes introduced Filipino-style ‘boodle fight’ at Paris dinners. (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

These are definitely positive signs of where Chef Paredes’ cooking will head in years to come. This spring, she will be at the helm of her first restaurant, aptly called Reyna, a 70-sqm space where she wants you to feel “at home.”

She talks to TheDiarist.ph about this milestone, what diners can look forward to at Reyna, her role as a Filipino chef in Paris, and her top restaurant recommendations in the city.

The lessons Erica Paredes learned through the years in Paris: ‘Stay focused, work hard, stay away from toxic people, be yourself, and most importantly, have fun!” (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

What’s the greatest thing about being a chef?  What made you want to be one?

Making people happy while doing what makes me happy! I’ve always liked cooking, and it was a choice to turn it into a career as early as my early 20s, but I chose instead another career path, which I don’t at all regret.

I think I became a cook professionally at the right time in my life, when I knew that I really wanted it and had other life and career experiences to back it up. What you learn is that it’s not just about cooking; it’s about being organized, managing people, accounting, and all that as well. Cooking is only part of it!

Crispy Duck Poppers with fish sauce caramel, mint, fried shallots and chillis. This dish was served in her pop-up at Le Grand Bain Restaurant. (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

Opening a restaurant in Paris is a career milestone. Have you always dreamt of this? 

When I decided to bite the bullet and go to culinary school, I knew I wanted it to be Paris. After school and internship, I was open to anything. As luck would have it, I got a job and was also dating a French guy, so I ended up staying. March marks my sixth anniversary, and since I’m opening a restaurant, I guess I’m staying longer! When I decided I was going to stay, a restaurant was always the goal.

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have at Reyna? 

Reyna is a love letter to my grandmother Alice Mabanta, who I was very close to. I miss her a lot! But also, it’s an homage to all the women in our lives as Filipinos who raised and nurtured us, from our moms to lolas and nannies. They are all queens!

I want customers to feel at home, but also be surprised and delighted every time they come. I plan to keep my menu tight and change it often, with a few things that stay, but I want you to be able to try something new every time you come and eat.

How big is the space and seating capacity?

It can fit up to 30 covers at a time. The whole space, including the kitchen, is about 70 sqm, and we found it in the middle of the pandemic. It was being sold for a great price and the rent is low, so even if it was old and rundown, it was a good deal, and we were breathing new life into it with the help of our architect and friend Geoffrey Perillat. It will be a simple space, but mine. That’s what’s important!

Scallops with sinigang broth base, made of kaffir lime and burnt tomatoes (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

What are the signature dishes you will offer?  Will your adobo reduction be included, or veggie lumpia in sinigang broth? 

The adobo reduction is something I usually serve with lechon de leche, so it will probably be on my menu. The sinigang broth I make has kaffir lime and burnt tomatoes and I use that as a sinigang broth base that I use for different things. I’ve done it with scallops and also with sea bream. I really like sinigang with seafood a lot! I also do a vegan kare-kare, which will probably stay on the menu. Surprisingly, the French really like arroz caldo!

‘I rely very much on seasonal produce, emotions, and memories’

How do you describe your style of cooking? 

I rely very much on seasonal produce, emotions, and memories. Those are probably the top three things that inspire me when I create dishes. Because I grew up in Asia and I’m cooking in Europe, seasonal here is very different from what I grew up with, so it really gives me a chance to get creative and go wild.

I know that local produce is important to you. Is this part of your cooking philosophy? 

Yes, definitely. It’s really one thing I am thankful for about starting and going through my culinary journey in France. There is so much attention given to seasonal and local produce.

Do you have a dish that defined your career? Or are you still in the process of creating one?

One thing I make that absolutely blew up and is a certified bestseller or crowd pleaser is my fried chicken with different Asian-inspired sauces. I have an adobo one with soy balsamic glaze and garlic yogurt, one with patis (fish sauce) caramel, mint and chili, a honey sriracha and ranch, plus others.

Entrecôte with rendang sauce. Her take on Maranao-style rending, served with kuning (golden turmeric rice). It’s finished off with toasted coconut, chopped spring onions and bird’s eye chili. This dish will be a staple in the much-awaited Reyna restaurant. (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

‘One thing I make that absolutely blew up and is a certified bestseller or crowd pleaser is my fried chicken with different Asian-inspired sauces’

The one dish I think will become a staple or signature is the entrecôte with rendang sauce. It’s a play on Maranao-style rendang, but instead of braised into an almost dry curry, I cook the sauce separately and then serve it on top of a 300-g rib-eye steak cooked medium rare with kuning (Maranao turmeric rice or yellow rice) on the side.

How do you create memorable dishes that are uniquely yours?

Sometimes it is an ingredient I want to use, and I think of something that isn’t necessarily traditional or usual but makes sense. Or sometimes I think of a flavor or dish I love, and try to find a new way to present it, using different ingredients and mixing flavors I grew up with and stuff I discovered from living here. It’s so exciting!

How do you see your role as a Filipino chef in Paris, showcasing Filipino cuisine?

I think French people are unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine but curious, especially now that traveling to far-off places is a little more difficult. Their palates are definitely more open now than like 10 years ago, and to be honest, it’s an exciting time to be a Filipino cook here now, and a woman no less!

Are foreigners receptive to our cuisine? Do you think ours is underrated? 

Yes. Most of the time, they don’t know what to expect, but they end up really liking it. I guess I plate or serve in a very French way visually, which is really my choice and the way I like it, not just to please the French, but I guess it helps.

What are your top three restaurants in Paris, and what to order?

Most of the good places here work seasonally, so I can’t tell you exactly what to order as it depends on their menu, but a few of my favorite restaurants are La Vierge, Le Rigmarole, and Bistrot Paul Bert (definitely get the steak au poivre). There are others, but these three come to mind! The rest are literally little hole-in-the-wall Asian joints that I love.

Can you share some memorable dining experiences hosting private dinners? 

Fun fact: I once asked Megan Young at a dinner why she looked familiar and if she was a model in Manila, and then later found out she was Miss World pala. And I have proof of Heart Evangelista eating with her hands when she booked me for a boodle fight. Haha!

Sisig, one of the dishes she served in Mokoloco at Rue de Charonne as a resident chef. Her version is delightfully garnished with burgundy truffle shavings. (All photos courtesy of Erica Paredes)

Reyna will open in Spring 2022 at 41 rue de Montrueil, Paris, France. Follow Reyna on Instagram at reyna.paris for restaurant updates.

About author


Stefanie C. Rostoll is a former magazine editor, lifestyle newspaper writer, and co-author of a series of style books; turned entrepreneur. She lives with her husband and daughter, savoring life in the sunny side of Spain.

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