Chef Anthony Bourdain called Joel Binamira’s lechon as “the best pig ever.” But from his background, you wouldn’t think winding up to be a lechon connoisseur was Binamira’s destiny.
Born in Cebu, Joel grew up in Manila before completing his finance degree in Boston and acquiring an MBA from Colombia University. Eventually, he would have a successful career as a strategy consultant.
Back then, his only relationship with food was consuming a lot of it. He would eventually take early retirement, come home to the Philippines and go into real estate development. With time to spare, he launched a food blog, Market Manila. His in-depth probe into food led it to being one of the biggest international food blogs that time. It was in this blog where he did a 10-part in-depth series on the authentic, traditional native lechon.
Thanks to his inquisitive nature, he learned the simple, untarnished art of making lechon as it was during the olden days. His resource in facts included an 80-year old lechonero who shared with him the simple process of lechon-making, minus the technology and anything artificial.
Apparently, Bourdain was one of his readers. The iconic chef didn’t waste any time in reaching out to him and inquiring about the best lechon in the Philippines. Binamira’s response was, “Sure, I’ll take you to the best places for lechon.” Bourdain however, had something else in mind, “Why don’t you make it yourself.”
Binamira took the challenge and the rest, as they say, is history. Chef Anthony Bourdain raved and considered his masterpiece the best. With such praise coming from Bourdain, the lechon was thereafter made available in bazaars and an airport kiosk. Naturally, with the increasing demand, Zubuchon restaurants just had to be put up. To date, there are 11 restaurants and a few more coming.
Binamira suggests serving the lechon while steam is still coming out of its rear end. Before going for the meat, enjoy the skin as it’s done with the Peking duck.