Madison’s Bistro is creating its own buzz for several reasons an affordable menu, classic interiors, an enviable bar featuring a fine selection of single-malt whiskey, and an opulent function room that serves as the chef’s table. Except in this case, there are two chefs — Giovanni Sias and Hylton Le Roux — and both are passionate about the possibilities of food.
The morning the Taste crew dropped by for a photoshoot, their PR agency was also on the premises with a photographer to capture promotional images. It was almost comical to see the two men mug for both sets of cameras, hustling from one end of the bistro to the next.
Having hopped from one country to another as a chef — Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland and the U.S. — the gypsy-like Sias has interacted with many cultures in and out of the kitchen. The Philippines has been the easiest move for him so far, considering the investments his family has made here as well as the moral support from their extended family.
Better known for his cable TV stint hopping from one picturesque locale after another and sampling local flavors, chef de cuisine Hylton Le Roux brings to the table his understanding of Pinoy culture, an established network of suppliers and colleagues, and an enthusiasm for the flavors of other cultures. “I think that two heads are always better than one,” he declares. “The beauty about this job is that not everyone knows everything, so I think what I lack Giovanni helps. And what he lacks, I help. So I think it’s how you approach the job that’s very, very important. I think we complement each other. The menu has a lot of Italian and European influences, the French influence is mine—even though I’m not French — the menu definitely reflects a lot of versatility. And the person’s that’s gonna win there is the customer, right”
Having two chefs also means that there are standards that must be met, and more than a fair share of kitchen-tested dishes had been sent back until they met the high levels set by Sias and Le Roux. How do they collaborate on menu items Despite his jokey demeanor during the shoot, Le Roux soberly shares “We give each other a lot of respect. That’s important. He basically lets me run the kitchen, which is my job. He’s very good at that, letting me manage the team. And he basically does the work I hate doing, like menu costings and so on. I’m really happy I don’t have to do that anymore.” Le Roux admits that despite making a pretty good fresh pasta himself, Sias showed him a different technique. “After all, he’s Italian, they do this in their sleep!”
Executive chef Sias goes on to explain the divide-and-conquer strategy employed by the culinary duo “If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense having two chefs in one restaurant. But this is a growing company. So moving forward, we will have more projects. We will succeed if we have a strong team. And we have two other sous chefs, one of them is from the U.S., a Filipino who had been living there his whole life, the other is a local who has been working with me for some time. We are building something for the future.”
“They’re really aggressive and the company really wants to grow,” says Sias, who muses that in due time either or both chefs may move on to other projects within the group. “Moving forward, we want our own chefs to put out their own ideas, because for us, being a chef is about expressing yourself. So once the place is established, we’ll give some space to the guys, they present something to us for tasting, if the dish is good it’s gonna be on the menu.”
With an abundance of great ideas, hard workers, and kitchen smarts, it looks like there’s more than enough room in the kitchen for creative collaboration between these two colleagues who have developed mutual respect for one another.