“I didn’t actively pursue a formal education in culinary arts because my parents could never afford it. At that time, culinary schools were uncommon in the Philippines and one had to go abroad to pursue it. It was just something that seemed out of reach for me,” shares Chef Bettina Arguelles, Executive Chef of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.
From Manila to Singapore
Graduating with a Communication Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila University, Chef Bettina worked in advertising before finally making the decision to officially return to her first love, culinary arts.
“When my kids were already in school and we relocated to Singapore, the moon and stars aligned. I found my opportunity to take up the culinary world with its very robust F&B landscape,” she excitedly recalls.
In 2006, Chef Bettina received formal training from the At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy in Singapore and jump-started her culinary career by working at the Fullerton Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa, Privé restaurant under Michelin-starred Chef Wayne Nish, and db Bistro Moderne by world-renowned Chef Daniel Boulud in New York and Marina Bay Sands. The only Filipino expat in the hotel, she was part of the team that opened Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila’s newly-renovated Spiral in 2013 as French Sous Chef and later managed all the other hotel restaurants including Le Bar, Sunset Bar, and Snaps Sports Bar as Restaurant Operations Chef. In 2016, she moved back to Singapore and worked as Chef de Cuisine at Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa.
In 2019, Chef Bettina was recognised by the internationally-acclaimed World Gourmet Awards as Chef of the Year —a remarkable milestone as a Filipina chef and a testament to the sheer talent of Filipinos on the international stage.
Rising above adversity
Her success story was not without tough challenges that she courageously faced head-on.
“I was a 31-year-old Asian mother-of-two, culinary student/trainee overseas. I was more than a decade older than my peers, came from a third world country, and had an unusual accent. My age and being a mother was a point against me (it was assumed I would be unable to focus or work long hours). I tried so hard, I broke my back trying to prove otherwise. But I have no regrets or grudges. Each of those experiences proved to be the fire that forged my will to succeed and rise above the challenges,” she passionately reflects.