Margarita Fores from Manila, Philippines has been conferred the title of Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016, as part of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards held annually. Fores is the first Filipino chef to win this prestigious title, since its inception in 2013.

The former certified public accountant fell in love with Italian cuisine during a tour of Florence and Milan in 1986, where she took a crash course in cooking and language. This marked the change of her career path, and Fores went on to start Cibo Di M, a catering business, a year later. Her first restaurant, Italian café chain Cibo, was started a decade later. The café focuses on serving traditional Italian cuisine, made with fresh local produce and organic ingredients. There are currently 10 outlets in Manila.

Grace Park is an Italian restaurant where Fores dishes out meals to celebrate her childhood.

Fores also owns Lusso, a champagne and gastrobar, and Grace Park, an ingredient-driven Italian restaurant which specialises in farm-to-table cuisine. The latter is where Fores dishes out innovative creations that celebrate her childhood memories. A typical Eton Mess, for instance, is turned into a savoury dessert, with pancetta and bacon replacing strawberries and meringue laced with truffle oil.

The braised pork adobo with crispy pork skin and Kesong Puti Gel from Alta is one of Chef Fores’ creative innovations.

The 56-year-old worked with Casa Artusi, a historic culinary institution in Forlimpopoli, Northern Italy, to establish Casa Artusi Philippines in Manila back in 2013, making it the first and only Asian offshore campus of the institute. Through this, Fores hopes to provide a space to train the next generation of chefs.

The fourth annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony will be held on Feb 29 at the W Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.