Filipina Battles Top Chefs

By Momar G. Visaya – For the past four seasons, Bravo’s Top Chef has created a cult and steady following among foodies, gourmands and fans of both food and television.

This is why when the top-rating show premieres this week with its fifth season, people will once again be glued on their screens watching 17 brand new chef’testants outdice and outcook one another, and this time, the chefs take on The Big Apple.

For the Fil-Am fans, there’s another reason to get hooked, yet again.

Her name is Leah Cohen, a 27-year old sous chef from Centro Vinoteca, a famous New York City dining destination.

“My friend knew someone in casting and recommended me. I sent a video in and they called me,” Leah told the Asian Journal in an exclusive interview.

Apart from the year and a half that she worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy, she has spent her entire life in New York and comes from a Filipino, Russian-Romanian Jewish background.

Leah’s mother was raised in the Philippines and moved to the US when she was 26. She met her future husband in the Philippines, where he went for dental school. They got married in the Philippines and moved back here immediately.

Leah currently resides in New York City but calls Scarsdale, a New York suburb, her hometown.

“I’ve been visiting [the Philippines] since I was five years old. I usually go once every two years so I’ve been there a lot. We have a house on an island and an apartment in Manila. I’ll probably go there again next August,” Leah shared.

The island where their family’s house is on Carabao Island in Romblon, where only the treacherous Tablas Straits separate it from the world-famous Boracay beach. Leah’s mom is from the town of Alcantara.

Leah’s favorite chef is Marco Pierre White and she counts salt, olive oil, butter, garlic and any pork product as her must-have ingredients. She loves Italian, Filipino and Thai cuisine, but homemade pasta is what she enjoys making the most.


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