Meet the Chef: Carlo Noel Buenaventura, Bar Magda

Born and raised in Davao, the main city of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, Carlo Noel Buenaventura grew up in a diverse food culture. Locals know the area for taking influence from the people of the Northern Philippines who migrated there, creating local cuisine that shares similarities to its Indo-Malay neighbours. Food is hugely integrated in family building as a means of gathering and sharing and at a young age, Carlo was exposed to cooking.

“It became inevitable that I would fall in love with cooking, and more importantly cooking for others.”

Still young, and always eager to learn, Carlo identifies his relationship with food through his memories and experiences as a child in the Southern Philippines, through places he has travelled and his migration to New Zealand. 

“I love that I’m able to share something personal because food is personal, it’s intimate. I’m proud that at Bar Magda we are able to share Filipino food that is beyond Adobo or Lechon (both of which I love), a style of Filipino food that is more personal.”

Dishes from non-Western countries are often limited to what has been popularised by the globalisation of a nation’s cuisine. Carlo believes that food needs to change and develop to prevent stagnancy. When creating dishes,Carlo reminds himself that instead of asking: ‘Is this Filipino?’, he should ask: ‘What makes this Filipino?’.

“Anything I create will be Filipino because that is who I am.”

As chef and co-owner at Bar Magda on Cross Street, Newton, Carlo simply enjoys cooking and looking after others. He believes that working in the hospitality industry, workers should set realistic goals whether passing through or trying to make a career. 

“Always do your best because your present will prepare you for your future.”

His short term goals as a chef and for his business are focussed on keeping the doors open to make a decent living. In the long term, a stable business and good work/life balance will help Carlo to continue making a positive impact on those he serves.

“I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given here in Aotearoa. I’m hoping that Filipino cuisine can be included more in the food conversation - beyond what is ethnic.”

Bar Magda is located Cross Street, Newton, Auckland. Learn more at barmagda.co.nz