AS THE conversation drifted off to food, he excused himself to show something he retrieved from the kitchen: a dessert that he’s been busy making for a much-awaited food promotion. To the untrained eye, it’s absolute perfection. For chef Tristan Encarnacion, it needed more work. He shared that it wasn’t his forte—which proved even more impressive.

But beyond the thoroughness and eagerness to learn, is his passion for the craft. Guests can look forward to an experiential culinary journey with him as Waterfront Airport Hotel & Casino Mactan’s executive chef, a role he has assumed since January this year. Encarnacion expresses himself through his creations, letting his dishes speak for themselves, served at a place where he considers his second life, surrounded by people whom he calls his family.

After a series of product endorsements, consultancy projects and TV stints in Manila, the notable chef found his way to Cebu City, taking on the challenge as executive sous chef in Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino, then eventually his current position—all in less than three years since being part of Waterfront Philippines Inc.

This is an accomplishment that, he considers, would not have been possible without the faith and trust the company has placed on him.

“Not just that. It’s more than that. Even now, I get shy when people say executive chef. This will never happen without my team. I learn a lot from my staff and from the different departments,” said Chef Encarnacion. “It’s more of the joy they give me, the positive feeling that fuels me and the challenge that I look forward to.”

He shared that he’s always excited when there’s an upcoming food promotion or event happening, as there’s room for creativity and added knowledge.

He always makes it a point to be as present: overseeing the shifts, paying close attention to the details and being every bit the gracious host. Much like a balancing act, he’s a meticulous chef but approaches everything with a childlike sense of wonder; always upbeat when he’s whipping up something.

When asked about his personal projects or goals, he shared that he wishes to continuously promote Filipino food. As an executive chef in a hotel adjacent to the airport, that goal gets easier to achieve.

“What we want is for someone who is traveling or going back to his family, to bring something that he can share and cherish with his family. You have to be proud of your heritage,” he said.

He shared that he often gets inspired from his peers and staff when creating a dish. More than that, his dishes are made with tales of his life story in art form—the edible form.

“There’s a story behind every dish I make. It’s something everyone can relate to. It becomes unique because of where it came from. I pattern it to what I went through,” shared the chef, recalling some hardships he experienced from his career setback that went on for a year; moments when he would question his current state to the point where almost every opportunity seemed to fade until Waterfront came into the picture—a second chance at redemption.

“I went through a lot and now, I found what is really meant for me,” he said, explaining that through all that, he’s not shy on telling his story emphasizing that being a chef isn’t an overnight success. His experiences aided him in getting to where he is now, taking the good with the bad.

“I don’t just consider this a full-time job, I consider this a family because of what the company—owners, peers, staff—did for me. Waterfront gave me a second chance.”