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‘Le Chon’: Happy Ongpauco-Tiu marries Filipino lechon with French cooking

MANILA, Philippines — SM Aura recently reopened its food court Food on Four, with celebrity chef and restaurateur Happy Ongpauco-Tiu launching her new restaurant venture, Le Chon Prime, as one of the new dining options in the newly revamped food court.

“With Le Chon Prime, we ‘lechon’ everything,” Happy told of her new dining concept. “There are different kinds of meats that we roast slowly, marinate with all lechon flavors, and it’s sort of an elevated version of all lechon stores out there.”

Le Chon, she said, is like the French version of the Filipino lechon because they used all-Filipino ingredients but using French cooking techniques.

“I married the French techniques and the Filipino flavors into one, but with the concept of the Filipino lechon in an upscale version,” she expounded.

The SM Aura Food on Four branch is the third of its kind, having followed the ones in The Grid and in Robinson’s Magnolia. “But those (first two branches) are Le Chon only. The one here in SM Aura is Prime because here, my menu is more prime and more extensive.”

“I love Aura. Aura is one of my favorite malls in the city. I think the vibe is very happy, so I’m well-fit for it,” she explained why she opened the first Le Chon Prime in SM Aura.

“So it’s really an experience that I’m sure a lot would like, because the Filipinos are used to the lechon flavors, but here, I improved it and made it more gourmet.”

All of Happy’s favorite lechons are in Le Chon Prime, including Lechon Angus Baka, Lechon Belly, Lechon Manok (“but gourmet style”), Lechon Bulalo, Lechon Tuna and Lechon Porchetta.

“OMG, the Lechon Angus Baka with the roasted bone marrow!” she shared her most favorite dish from the menu with two thumbs up.

There is even a lechon for the health-conscious, which is Lechon Tuna.

“It has the Filipino chimichurri on top, but then, I used the lechon spices to roast it using French techniques in cooking,” Happy explained.

The keys to French cooking, she shared, are the spices and slow-roasting the meat.

“The secret to good lechon is really low fire, long hours of roasting.”

So far, Happy is grateful to have churned out positive feedback for her new venture.

“People are