Michelle Adrillana: From Zero to Hero

Michelle Adrillana was surrounded by food all her life, but didn’t know how to cook until much later. Now, it’s her full-time passion — one she’s brought to the world stage, with the support of her family.

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

While some chefs swear they were born for the kitchen, there was a time when Chef Michelle Adrillana did not know how to cook. As a matter of fact, a culinary career seemed far removed from her previous life — prior to becoming a chef, she had worked as a singer, which ended because of health complications. “Because of the lifestyle in entertainment, I was a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker,” Chef Michelle recounts. “So, I ended up with nodules in my throat. That ended my music career.”

“My dog wouldn’t even eat what I cooked. The dog would whimper, literally!” she adds, laughing afterwards at the memory of her pet. “So imagine being from zero to hero, right?”

Making a career pivot

It was only after the birth of her son that she took a formal entry into the culinary world, finally stepping into her potential. “My ex-boyfriend, who’s now my husband, he’s a very hungry man,” Michelle shares. “He sent me to culinary school after I gave birth… I thought culinary [arts] was just all about cooking, I didn’t realize that you need to do a lot of theory, you need to be a better manager, a better businessman, a better people person—you have to be very well-rounded to be a chef.”

She says part of it stemmed from a desire to overcompensate: Michelle had initially wanted to be a lawyer when she was younger, but circumstances dashed that dream. “We went bankrupt, so I wasn’t able to go to college,” she shares. Yet the chef notes that this detour might have been to her advantage. “But that wasn’t a bad thing. I think I was destined really to become a chef,” she says.

Reaping the rewards

And indeed, she’s come far from the dog-whimpering days. When asked what keeps her busy nowadays, she notes her catering business, Salud by Adrillana, their bread and butter; UnFrench, her French bistro; and most notably, her stint at the Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF), where she represented Filipino cuisine through cooking demonstrations. 

“I feel privileged to represent the Philippines in these kinds of events, most especially because Filipino food is already being left out by our neighboring countries,” Chef Michelle says. “That’s why, with the help of the government and certain embassies and consulates with their thrust, they send me to different countries, and I promote Filipino cuisine in four to five-star hotels or exhibits.”

Filing her cup

How, then, is she able to balance her home life with her busy schedule? Michelle Adrillana likens it to a pizza, with the size of each portion depending on the priority—or, as she puts it, the hierarchy of things. “In the hierarchy of things, it’s God, it’s me, and then family,” she says. “Why me? You can’t work from an empty cup. So if I have nothing to give for myself, I can’t give anything to others. There’s no giving. There’s no love. You can’t pour over if you don’t have anything for yourself.”

And similar to when Michelle was still in culinary school, she has the support of her husband in her endeavors, which makes juggling her professional and personal life easier. 

So how does the chef fill her cup nowadays? Aside from enjoying the quiet life, she’s also very fond of experiencing other countries when she has the chance to go abroad. For her, after all, one needs to experience everything about the country to understand the flavor profiles and culture. “The sights, the sounds, the aroma, and everything—so you can understand it better,” Michelle says.

To read the full article, grab a copy of Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue —available on Download the e-Magazine from Readly or Press Reader for more exclusive features and stories.





Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA



More about parents who thrive in the kitchen?

Tricia Locsin-Cheung: Adapting to Changes as a Food Entrepreneur

Elevating a Classic: Nina Daza-Puyat Transforms a Fast Food Staple into a Gourmet Meal

Marvin Agustin Opens Up About Cooking Up a Legacy

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]