The Duo at Work: Jeremy & Jen Slagle of Mister Delicious and Launch Lab Talk About Kitchen and Relationship ChemistryJune 8, 2015
They say the best things come in pairs: spoon and fork, peanut butter and jelly, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Some partnerships, however, don’t always mesh well—like oil and water, red wine and seafood, Game of Thrones’ King Joffrey and Sansa (or literally anyone, for that matter). It’s a fine balancing act and as any matchmaker with good intentions will attest, the outcomes can be unpredictable. What happens in the curious case of Jeremy and Jen Slagle? Both are chefs, both are trained in Le Cordon Bleu, both are successful entrepreneurs, and both are married… to each other.
Jeremy Slagle: Mister Delicious, Smokehouse Overlord
Jeremy Slagle, also known as “Mister Delicious,” is most famous in Manila for his cured and smoked meats. Most notable are his Wagyu corned beef, spice-crusted pastrami, and smoked bacon. His meaty adventure started out as a home-based enterprise that moved along so well, he now runs his own space at Hole in the Wall, the avant-garde food court in Century City Mall. “We wanted to keep the personality of the brand to be very friendly, approachable, kind of self-deprecating, but never pretentious. The last thing we want is for people to feel that they have to dress up or put on a face. It’s just high-quality, casual dining.” Jeremy explains the story behind the brand, how he became a French-trained chef, and how he found himself in the subculture of charcuterie. Long before Mister Delicious came into existence, Jeremy began his culinary journey in the back kitchen alleys of the United States. Starting out as a busser, he eventually made his way to numerous Michelin-starred restaurants nationwide, such as Spruce in San Francisco and Bouchon of Thomas Keller in Las Vegas. “Bouchon was very militaristic; a boot camp kind of environment. You keep your eyes down, you work as fast as you can the entire time. Meanwhile you’re getting screamed at by the chef,” he told us. In 2001, Jeremy traveled around Europe and found himself in Corsica. There he met an older gentleman who owned a charcuterie business. “Hanging from the ceiling, he has these different sausages, cured meats, and whatnot,” Jeremy explains, “He starts grabbing meats, slicing off samples for me to try. I would taste it and each one was remarkably different from the other. The flavors were amazing. I remember there was one in particular he had me try; the flavor was so complex and interesting. I asked him what was in it and where he got those flavors. His answer was ‘salt and pepper.’” After cooking and managing an impressive list of establishments and traveling around Europe to learn more about food and wine, Jeremy enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to study French cuisine. It is there where he would meet his would-be wife, Jen Gerodias.
Jen Gerodias Slagle: Fried Chicken Superstar
Jen Gerodias Slagle is most currently known for her work with Bad Bird, another foodie-favorite establishment in Hole in the Wall. Bad Bird is famous for its umami fried chicken, which is cooked with different spices. You can customize your chicken according to your preferred spice level: safe, spicy, or chemical. It is then served with Asian-inspired side dishes such as kimchi coleslaw, sweet potato waffles with miso butter, and dirty rice mixed with bacon and chicken liver. It’s the perfect combination of East meets West. Chuck Norris and the late Bruce Lee could actually enjoy a meal together and then do practice roundhouse kicks in celebration. Jen’s role in Bad Bird was mainly concept and recipe development through Launch Lab, a restaurant consultancy group with a team consisting of herself, Jeremy, and her sister Jill Gerodias-Borja. She did similar work for Posporo, The Beef, and Phobobo, which are all located in Hole in the Wall as well. Jen is also in charge of a large commissary operation, wherein she supplies almost 20 different restaurants, including Manang’s Chicken, Chairman Kuapao, and even Mister Delicious! “It gives us a really strong support system that we can rely on for heavy production,” Jeremy explained. Where did Jen’s culinary journey begin? Unlike Jeremy who had experience in numerous kitchens before going to culinary school, Jen’s first professional experience in cooking was in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where they met. After graduating from the program, she sharpened her kitchen skills at the Michelin-starred restaurants of Guy Savoy at Le Chiberta in Paris and Roland Passot at La Folie in San Francisco. “I was working in French kitchens with all French chefs,” Jen paused before bursting out laughing, “and then I got pregnant!” This prompted Jen to adjust her career, so she went into teaching cooking classes in San Francisco. From there, she did corporate catering for companies like Adobe, Google, and even Lucas Arts. “The rule in Lucas Arts was that you cannot look George Lucas in the eye. He’ll freak out! You even have to sign a waiver saying that you’re not allowed to talk to him or look at him—even if you’re serving him!”
The Duo at Work: Kitchen and Relationship Chemistry
One might wonder how two married powerhouse chefs react to working in such close proximity to one another at Hole in the Wall. “We try not to work together, actually,” Jen says with a hearty chuckle, “We learned this early on when we were still dating. In culinary school, we didn’t let people know we were together. It was a professional environment and we treated it that way. But then we got grouped together for a practical. Basically, it was bread making. You were really frustrated with me! [To Jeremy, who laughs] And I was frustrated, too! We basically screwed it up. That was the first time we ever screwed something up and it was when we were together pa! At the end of the day, there can only be one chef in the kitchen. We both know what we want, and we’re very opinionated at how we do things.” As our interview came to a close, I asked the couple to describe each other’s styles as chefs in one word. They were instructed to write their answers on a sheet of paper before explaining. They immediately laughed upon seeing each other’s chosen words: Jen wrote “pig” while Jeremy wrote “intense.” Jen: [explaining “pig”] You know, the Philippines is pig-centric. Most of our food is pork. Before he even moved here, he was already talking about bacon. [To Jeremy] And you’re Mister Delicious! That’s your logo! Jeremy: [explaining “intense”] I was gonna put “angry,” but I thought that might upset you [to Jen]. “Angry” might make her angry! [laughs]. I mean, there’s certainly an intensity that she brings to work. It’s very evident when you see how she’s working. It keeps people motivated. It comes to no surprise that two highly trained chefs found plenty of success after moving to the Philippines. Despite both coming from the same culinary school and choosing similar careers, they both achieved individual success in the industry. I think it is safe to say that we can all look forward to any food ventures that Jeremy and Jen come up with in the near or distant future. The fact that Jeremy and Jen both have powerful personalities actually makes a more compatible partnership. Neither of them is ever cast into the role of a permanent sidekick. With the different skillsets they possess, they are able to step aside and let each the other take charge when there is a chance to shine. Because of this, along with the strong sense of mutual respect they have for one another, it is safe to conclude that this culinary couple makes the list of great duos in the Philippine food scene.