BIGOROTS: Bicol + Igorot Heritage Cuisine by Pinoy Master Chef JR Royol!

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos by JR Velasquez

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Triumph and having a keen eye for detail are the keys to success for Benguet band vocalist, JR Royol. After all, stringing together words for songs and meticulously minding the taste of cooked dishes are never easy tasks. Royol, however, isn’t one to back down from a challenge, and that challenge required him to trade the microphone for cooking equipment for a while and come up with an array of cuisines based on his roots in Benguet and his sheer love for food. 

Prior to joining and winning “Master Chef Pinoy Edition,” Royol has got the Sous-vide method of cooking down pat, and wound up developing yummy dishes, such as the YOLO Humba and his own version of Chicken Pinikpikan (which he proudly calls “Perfect Cooked Chicken”). He has been eying Mercato for a long time, since he views it as a makeshift R&D department for his cooking.

Upon knowing about The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, joining the competition is a rather easy decision.  “Paying customers have no bias; in fact, unbiased feedback is sometimes better than sales,” explains Royol. This line of thinking combined with his succulent creations made him an early favorite to win the competition. 


The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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Like when he was singing in front of a group of people, he was more than ready to dish out a noteworthy performance, and true enough, his booth – called Bigorots – earned him the Best in Savory prize in The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, meriting him a free six-month stay at Mercato.  

What Royol considers as his inspirations for joining TNBFE are having his own restaurant where he can showcase all of his dishes as well as building credibility as a chef. “I wanted to impress Anton Diaz, co-owner of Mercato, since he has tried a lot of cuisines from different countries,” Royol states. Based on the results of TNBFE, he certainly did. 

Bigorots’ YOLO Humba earned nods of satisfaction from judges, food bloggers and Mercato-goers. Staying true to the traditional humba served in local dinner tables, a burst of flavor seeps out of every bite, having a “melts-in-your-mouth” quality to it. The exterior is bequeathed with a crispy texture, and thanks to Royol’s cooking techniques, it can stay crispy for three days. 

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“There are no pretensions with my cooking,” says Royol. He clearly added his own touch to each traditional cuisine he played with without tampering the qualities that made them close to the hearts of Filipino families. 

Such is true with his rendition of the Chicken Pinikpikan, which happens to be his winning dish on “Master Chef.” The chicken flavor is pleasantly subtle; a slight hint of traditional Pinikpikan broth can be tasted through the meat. Juicy and tender, the chicken goes really well with rice, whether it’s brown rice or the usual “dinorado” or “sinandomeng” variant. 

Fact of the matter is, Royol took into account the Filipino’s love for rice, so his savory dishes can make one empty out the rice cooker in a matter of moments. Bigorots makes eating fun and as addictive as a favorite hobby. 


One of the common complaints about Filipino food is its lack of presentation. Royol addressed this by creating carefully plated dishes and presenting his samples in soup spoons. Now with Bigorots ready to formally launch soon, he gives a reason for Pinoys to be proud of traditional local cuisines. 

Who knows, Royol could launch the next big food revolution worldwide. It could be his next performance, and Mercato will be his new stage.


The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:


Live an Awesome Life,


Disclosures: OAP is a co-founder of Mercato Centrale and The Next Big Food Entrepreneur. 

P.S. Thank you to our sponsors for The Next Big Food Entrepreneur 2014 competition!

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