So let us get started. My name is Jonathan Beam, and I’ve been a lot of different things in my exciting life. Salesman, Electrician, Cook etc. I love to read and play the guitar, and I need music, art, and creativity in my life. Food is my passion. I didn’t realize it was so crucial to my happiness until I tried to do things that were strictly money-motivated. Food is what I look forward to the most, I don’t have to try, I don’t have to force it. It is my unfaltering fascination with it that turned my “hobby” into my forte.
I am from the South. Born in Baton Rouge in the heart of Louisiana Creole-Cajun country, and raised watching my single Mom cook. I moved around a lot, but in the small towns of Arkansas, I learned everything there is to know about real country cooking aka comfort food. It is there that I also discovered the kind of pride working with my hands can instill in a person.
Another move and I found myself in Houston, where I was schooled in Texas pit BBQ. A few years later, I found myself in the trendiest L.A. kitchens where I was educated on all things farm fresh, only the way California can. I’m a strange fusion of some of the best food cultures in the States. My palate longs for spice and flavor, and creative yet simple meals. Real food. I’m not a picky eater but when you grow up on the other side of the globe things taste different. Ever since I came to the Philippines late last year, I’ve really missed these familiar flavors. Even if some of my favorite restaurants are here, I’ve taken matters into my own hands and have been cooking my own translation of American classics, fusing together the diverse food cultures I’ve been exposed to.
Don’t get me wrong. Filipino cuisine is tasty. Some of my favorite dishes to eat are cultural classics like tinolang manok, pork adobo, sinigang, and of course, rice. The ingredients here in Manila are beautiful as the city itself. The hot, humid weather and the fact that the ocean is my backyard reminds me so much of being back in Louisiana. The ingredient selections I had there are super similar to what I have here in Southeast Asia. The majority of the dishes in Filipino cuisine are either composed of pork, chicken, or fresh seafood. The classic dishes here are influenced heavily by Spanish and French heritage just like in they are in New Orleans.
Speaking of New Orleans, I’ve missed Creole country. I get misty with the nostalgia of a roux-based dish, or gravy made in an iron skillet. Or a crawfish boil with spices so hot, it makes you sweat. From the years I spent in Houston, I often crave sticky slabs of ribs, a dry rubbed brisket, and a mountain of potato salad, Texas BBQ style. Have you ever had Boudin links wrapped in aluminum foil hot out of the steamer? Or soft shell crab tacos loaded with avocado and green garlic? I want those flavors in my life. I want cayenne and jalapeno, and the sacred Cajun trinity (celery, onion, bell pepper), the key to almost every Cajun dish done right. I want to see those colors on my plate.
I would have never expected moving to many different cities would have affected my life so positively. It has exposed me to so many wonderful food traditions and has made me the cook I am today. I have watched all my different experiences working in countless jobs, not just restaurants, become tributaries toward growing my food hobby into a promising profession. It drives me to keep moving and keep evolving. Coming to Manila has exposed me to a whole other set of rules, recipes, and culture to add to my personal food journey.
In many ways, I am starting over in Manila, and it’s both scary and exciting. With all my experiences, however, starting from scratch has never felt so right. My blog, Clean Slate, will be a documentation of this new chapter and I am excited to take you with me as I experience it.