The Man Behind the White Apron: Chef Billy King
When it comes to Manila’s thriving food scene, Chef Billy King is considered one of its rock star veterans. From heading a fine dining establishment in a top hotel, to opening his own hugely successful restaurants, to event catering, this Irishman has ticked off all the boxes. But these days, Chef Billy finds himself most at peace away from Manila life as he shuttles between Baguio and Mount Malarayat Golf and Country Club in Lipa. “What more can you ask for?” he says. “Here at Mount Malarayat we have clean, fresh air, it’s beautiful, we have birds, and a golf course. It’s not just about golf—you can come here with family. Best of all, no city buses, though we are close enough.”
Chef Billy left the hustle and bustle of running restaurants in the city to work as the executive chef of The Manor at Camp John Hay. Through his company Le Chef, for the last five years he also has been Mount Malarayat’s concessionaire for their restaurant, the Sand Trap Lounge as well as the menu creator for the property’s special events. He feels as far as altitude and climate are concerned, Lipa comes only second to Baguio but at a far more convenient drive time. “It’s only 45 minutes to get to the city and back—the way I drive—and not four and a half hours,” he says. But more than the easier travel time, Chef Billy is enjoying being a part of Mount Malarayat’s transformation. “That’s the beauty of it: we are growing with the evolution of the property and building a strong team—not just the kitchen and service, but the whole team.” He believes success is measured in the how much customers want to come back for more. “We have a lot of repeat business and that means we’re doing something right,” he says.
Members and guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating at Sand Trap Lounge or hold a special event at the property because Chef Billy and his team can prepare a wide variety of cuisines and customize menus for certain occasions upon the request of the client, such as the mouth-watering dishes in this story.
Asked if he has a favorite dish he likes to cook for customers he says, “Personally, no. Whether I boil an egg or make a Goose Liver Salad, it needs the same amount of passion.” He believes you don’t need to be Japanese to make very good Japanese food. “If you have the opportunity to learn from somebody who is extremely good at that particular cuisine, you can develop your skills in any cuisine,” he reveals. “I mean, I’m Irish and I think I make the best sinigang in the world because I love to eat it at least three or four times a week!”
In his long culinary journey, Chef Billy has enjoyed both the sweet taste of success and the bitter fall from grace but believes without both he wouldn’t be where he is today. “It’s all been very memorable,” he shares. “I think in life you have ups and downs, sure, but you learn from the not-so-successful things that people call failures. I call them stepping-stones that sometimes we fall off of. ” When he was younger he believed that he was indestructible as well as self-destructive, so the first time he stumbled, he was shocked. “So I suppose when you fall, you also grow. Today I have more passion now than when I was 20, which was just 10 years ago,” he laughs.
They say that wisdom can only be gained through experience and today Chef Billy knows that the only way to be the best at something you love is to at least try. “I think life is about having a good attitude and realizing you’re far from perfection. Perfection is a resignation that I can’t do any better so everything I do is not perfect. If it’s perfect, then I can’t do any better tomorrow,” he says.
What advice can Chef Billy give to the younger ones who want to become a chef like him? “Run as far away from the kitchen as possible!” he says with a laugh. “You’ve got to be passionate about it. Managing a company is not my forte and a lot of people who know me know that fact very well. So if you ask me about my achievements, I think the greatest satisfaction comes from growing people and not running restaurants. That’s what I live to do.” At Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club, Chef Billy is doing exactly what he loves–cooking with his team, teaching them to believe in themselves, and watching them grow. “I have a very good eye for talent, and I can tell in a matter of a week if someone is going to be good, even if they have never set foot in the kitchen. Once they get the self-confidence to say ‘I can do this,’ it’s like letting a bird out of its nest.”
With such an expansive history behind him, will Chef Billy King one day yearn for something more than his work at Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club? “It’s like art: I started one painting 20 years ago, an abstract called “LIFE” that’s not finished, and it’s well. I’m still looking at it and I don’t know what’ s missing,” he says.
Members and guests may experience destination dining at its best at Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club. To sample Chef Billy King’s latest culinary creations visit the Sand Trap Restaurant or book an event through our Batangas lines (043) 756 7000 and (043) 757 0044 or our Manila line (02) 994 8541 and +63 936 210 5866 or e-mail us at email@example.com.