Josh Boutwood: Putting His Best Food Forward

Renowned restaurateur Josh Boutwood weaves a diverse repertoire of restaurants that put a creative spin on how food is enjoyed.

This story appeared in the Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue.

There’s no telling what culinary innovations Josh Boutwood has up his sleeve. As the Executive Chef of Bistro Group, he oversees a vast network of restaurant franchises, while managing his own homegrown dining concepts and playing the role of devoted husband to Nilla and dedicated father to kids Malaya and Phoenix.

With a passion that stemmed from his family’s roots, the British-Filipino restaurateur has been exposed to the food scene for as long as he can remember.

“Both my parents have hotels and restaurants growing up. So it was a family trade that I grew up in,” he begins. “Out of all of my siblings, I was the only one who really fell in love with it, and sought to see a career out of it.”

His culinary roots

Since the age of 15, Josh has found himself cooking professionally — straight out of high school. Non-stop too, he adds with a laugh. “Never once have I hated it. We always have bad days and good days, but even in those bad days, I’ve always loved the industry.”

After moving back to the Philippines in 2010, Josh opened his first restaurant, Alchemy, in sunny Boracay — the place his dad was from. “I made the immediate decision with my one-year-old daughter [Malaya] at the time to go back to the place that we knew was home,” he details.

In 2012, he joined The Bistro Group, where he oversees the company’s many franchises as their Executive Chef. With big names like TGIFridays, Italianni’s, Denny’s, Hard Rock Cafe, and more, the company is determined to bring the big guns to the Philippines.

“We brought in Randy’s recently,” Josh reveals. “Olive Garden was another big one that we acquired. We’ve got quite a few acquisitions that we have yet to publicly announce. But it’s an exciting two years ahead of us with expansions.”

Of varied dining concepts

His stint at Bistro Group comprises what he calls his day job. His “night job,” however, encompasses his personal ventures: Test Kitchen, Savage, Helm, and Ember.

Test Kitchen was the first concept that was opened in 2017, which has proudly stood in Rockwell as a “fermentation-forward and curing concept with very market-driven, small tasting ala carte menus.”

“It’s sophisticated casual,” he explains. “You don’t have to dress up. You can just go there and have some small dates, lunch and dinner. It’s a very casual concept.”

The year 2018 saw the rise of Savage, his pre-industrial restaurant, and what Josh calls the “black sheep of my group because it’s one that doesn’t bend to any particular rules in a sense.”

“It was developed with food that I love eating when I’m not cooking,” he adds.

Next came Helm — started that same year. Since its humble beginnings of doing business underneath Savage, however, it has moved to its own place at Ayala Triangle Gardens. “That is my fine dining restaurant with a thematic menu,” he says proudly, adding that the theme changes every four months. “It’s the fine dining [concept] of the four and a very experience-based restaurant.”

Ember is his next concept. Opened in Greenbelt last 2021, the chef calls this “a sophisticated version of Savage.”

“We use really good ingredients and a very delicate cooking process, but still with open fire. Ultimately delicious and humble, how I’d like to call it,” he details.

And next on the plate is Dandy Lion — his newest restaurant located in BGC — set to open sometime this year. “With four restaurants in place, I’m in no rush to open the fifth. But [Dandy Lion’s] going to be an English-style Steakhouse,” Josh explains. “Opening restaurants is a very taxing project and I want to do this one right because the design aesthetics of it are crucial. So we’re going to take it quite slow.”

The trifecta of success

Managing 192 branches under The Bistro Group alongside soon-to-be five personal dining concepts, and his family comes with its fair share of challenges, but Josh considers “a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline” as his pillars for success.

And a lot of goal-setting to get to where they are, of course. “It’s very time-consuming and very much a business on its own — running a family and running a restaurant,” he says simply.

But beyond exercising his domain in the kitchen, Josh sees the people in it as his family.

Josh Boutwood

“A good family can only be happy if the energy is right and the same applies at home,” he explains. “My wife thinks that I’m the strict one of the family, which is probably because of my upbringing. But I just have a very strong ethos of respect — not just to elders, but even to those who are younger than you. Very old school [things like] holding doors open. Those are things that I want my kids to grow up with because it will make them into much more respected adults when they get older.”

“I expect my restaurant staff to do exactly the same,” he adds. “I’m just as strict on them as I am with my kids, [having them] maintain that level of respect with everyone — not just guests, but also their peers. Because I believe that we’re all equal. We’re all chasing one goal. Same with the family. We’re all chasing one goal and that’s the way it goes.”

A balancing act

Outside his colorful life as a chef and restaurateur, he is also a father to two children, aged seven and fifteen. “Little side note: I do not recommend any young parents to have kids with a seven-year age difference,” he laughs. 

“My son and our daughter can be the best of friends and they love each other unconditionally and support each other,” he continues. “But there are times where, just like a flip of a coin, they’re bickering and arguing. I put it down to the age discrepancies and different interests as girls and boys.”

In a high-stakes, highly competitive industry, setting a clear boundary between work life and family life is what keeps Josh grounded. “I have this very strict rule that I don’t bring my work home because it’d be a very miserable household if I did,” he admits. “A chef’s temperament is inherent to our industry. High pressure, high heat, very demanding, very time-consuming…it’s a long day and you can explode quite easily.”

Thankfully, he lets his wife deal with it when things get tough. “If I get to that point, I literally shut off. I walk away for fear of losing control. That’s where my lovely wife can step in and be like ‘Josh, I’ll take it from here.’”

Staying true to their roots

In a mixed family where kids Malaya and Phoenix are half Swedish, a quarter Filipina, and a quarter English, Josh admits that they’ve had a strong identity crisis of who they really are. “Malaya never knew where she belonged in terms of nationalities, but since we’ve been in the Philippines for so long now, she thoroughly considers herself a Filipina — even in terms of how much rice she eats,” the dad of two reveals.

“She’s just bright, energetic and she’s the liveliest in our household,” he elaborates. “My youngest, [Phoenix], also eats rice like no tomorrow. And he has got the best sense of humor. He can make the house laugh. And he is very athletic on the basketball team and the football team.”

“They’ve been able to adapt very, very well. I couldn’t be prouder,” Josh says fondly. “The dynamic at home…obviously, it’s not me who holds the household up. It’s my wife who does because I’m hardly ever home. I leave the house at 9 AM and get home around 11 PM. But when I am home, it’s yeah, it’s a lovely household to be in. Everyone complements each other.”

Long-term sustainability

Having been in the F&B industry for as long as he could remember, what are his secrets for staying strong the whole time?

“Before, we were just creating food that we enjoyed cooking. Nowadays, we need to think about sustainability,” Josh explains. “We have a responsibility to our team. We want to make sure that they stay employed, stay happy, and stay with us.”

“Respect, integrity, and honesty. Those are the hallmarks of creating a very sustainable business portfolio,” he continues. “But while we strive to succeed, the recipe for success is to stay humble.”

Humility, for the highly successful chef, is something he wants for his family and peers in the restaurant industry — given that, in his words, “We can be overcome with the number of accolades that we earn and achieve and it can be contradictory to what we should be doing for the future.”

Mirroring this mindset as a parent, he details the importance of “outlining definitively what they want to do before even taking action,” whether in managing one’s household or starting a business of their own.

“There are so many different avenues in our industry that you could pursue, but you can get lost in that,” he details. “You can work backward and identify what you need to do to get to where you need to be. And you have to really forecast where you want to go, and then plan the route to get there.”

While doing what you love and loving what you do has been the driving force of many, Josh thinks that it can only take you far. “That’s a passionate person talking, but that’s also a passionate person that does no risk or knows no risk,” he says frankly.

“When you’ve been in a position close to losing everything, you think differently — especially now, with kids, or a family to support, I limit the amount of mistakes that can happen,” he adds.

More than that, his unwavering passion for food has constantly allowed him to put out his best. Not one to rest on his laurels, however, he keeps the ball rolling surprisingly by keeping his goals to himself.
“I don’t share [my goals] with my peers. If I say it publicly, they would seem unattainable,” he explains.

“But they understand that we’re working for a goal and it works very well [for them] in terms of keeping them on their toes because they never know where the next stop is going to be. What’s the next milestone going to be? And it fills them with a lot of excitement and trepidation.”

To read the full story, grab a copy of Modern Parenting’s special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2024 Print Edition—available on Download the e-magazine from Readly or Press Reader for more exclusive features and stories.




Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA



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