EJ Lagman blends tradition with experimentation at his restaurant MAKAN
EJ Lagman is a culinary master whose style is both honest and innovative. His ability to blend tradition with experimentation is reflected in exceptional dishes that set him apart from his peers. With an ever-evolving nature, Lagman creates an unparalleled gastronomic experience that leaves diners yearning for more.
Though Lagman may wear the latest attire from Rustan’s Man 2.0, it is his unwavering values that define his dynamic way of living. At MAKAN in San Fernando, La Union, Lagman showcases his culinary expertise with unique twists on classic Filipino dishes such as Poqui Poqui with cured and charred trout and Tokwa’t baboy Ala Makan with humba-glazed pork ribs and charred pineapple salsa. Other standout dishes include the Imbaliktad with charred grass-fed beef, chicken liver pate, and seasoned egg, and the Binagoongan with shellfish medley, caper brown butter sauce, green pea wasabi mash, and red cabbage sauerkraut.
Lagman’s goal of putting Filipino cuisine on the global map is evident in every dish he creates. With his effortless cool and creativity, there’s no doubt that he’s well on his way to achieving just that. Discover the secrets of Lagman’s life in Surftown in our conversation below.
How does food inspire your creativity?
Food inspires my creativity the same way skateboarding does: when I skate, I try to do a sequence of tricks in a line, using different obstacles (if possible), while keeping the flow going. With food, a complete dish is the line, the cooking methods are the different obstacles, and the different ingredients are the tricks. The challenge here is the creativity in dealing with all those different tricks so they all line up properly. I try to maintain a flow when I cook. That’s basically when the entire process is harmonious—from getting your mise en place together up until the finished dish.
How would you want diners to experience Filipino food at your restaurant, MAKAN?
We call it experimental Filipino food because we’re trying to push the boundaries of what Filipino food could really be, but we still want our diners to experience a bit of nostalgia and just have fun while eating. Sharing is caring! And eating with your hands is encouraged.
I chose Filipino food for its simplicity and ‘cause we didn’t learn anything about it in culinary school, so I thought I could reimagine the dishes I had growing up with flavors and techniques.
How do you start your day? What’s the best part of your morning routine?
I start my day by walking on the beach with my wife Alex, and our two dogs, Buckwheat and Soba. Buckwheat’s a Great Dane and Soba’s a Boxer, and they have two very different personalities. My wife isn’t really a morning person and I am, so our morning walks are really special ‘cause I feel like the four of us really get to spend that time together as a family.
How does an off-duty day look like for you? How do you wind down after a busy week?
What is an off-duty day? (Laughs) Our week really starts on Wednesdays with the weekends being the busiest. I guess ideally we’d be winding down on Mondays and Tuesdays but usually, that’s when we go to Manila for a supply run. If we do get to stay at home on those days, I’m usually on a board (surf or skate) and/or just lounging around really.
For me, it means productivity. Whether it’s for the mind, body, or soul, being on the move means doing good in any of those three respects. I believe life’s all about balance and anything you do to complement that is a win.
What does your everyday wardrobe look like? And what was your favorite look from the “Rustan’s Man On the Move” shoot?
I throw on anything light and airy. I live in a beach town so it’s always warm and humid.
I’d live in that Faherty Kona Camp Shirt if I could! I sweat a lot but that button-up kept me nice and cool all day!
EJ Lagman wearing Faherty Graphic Sun and Sea Tee in White and Satorisan shoes in the header photo.