Los Angeles — A Filipino-American actor is now a popular food personality in the United States after wowing viewers with his "dad" and "uncle" energy in his television appearances.
The breakout star and fan favorite of Epicurious series "4 Levels," Lorenzo Beronilla is now recognized as a Level 2 Home Chef on Bravo TV's "Top Chef: Amateurs."
He recently did a commercial for Jollibee and also launched his debut cookbook, "Let's Do This Folks! Home Cooking with Lorenzo – Delicious Meals Made E-Z."
We were able to catch Lorenzo in Los Angeles when TV host Jannelle So hosted a gathering in her house in Palos Verdes. Below are excerpts of our conversation:
You are a chef, author, and actor. And you also came out with your first cookbook. Can you please talk about your inspiration for the book?
I have a very interesting journey. I am a Chef, Level 2 for Epicurious. It was a pilot two years ago and they asked for home cooks. I am used to cooking. I am an actor too. So I thought it was an easy gig.
The pilot went to series and they just needed videos on the internet on YouTube. They liked what they saw and asked me to do chocolate cookies, spaghetti and meatballs. All of a sudden, the show went viral.
I didn't understand then the concept of personalities on YouTube. It spun off on a series and was viewed 45 million times. One of my shows averaged one million to two million views.
With that popularity, I was interviewed in 2019 by Business Insider for an article titled, "The Secret Sauce to YouTube's Viral Personalities." I became known as a new YouTube food personality.
At first, I didn't understand that. Now I have people recognizing me as the "guy who likes to cook." Then people asked me to write a book. I signed a contract with Page Street Publishing Company and said to myself, "Let’s give this a shot!" The 176-page full color paperback sells for $21.99.
So what kind of food do you cook?
Filipino food. I was born in America but I am a true Pinoy foodie. I love those flavors. I cook what I like and I remember all these food dishes growing up.
When somebody asked me to write recipes, I said, "What recipes? We just use our sense of taste." I love the creativity of cooking. I am artsy fartsy and it is very satisfying for me.
I loved filling my artsy fartsiness through acting and cooking. Especially when COVID-19 happened, there were no acting jobs. It was closed off so I was able to write my book. In fact, I wrote my cookbook on my phone.
Who was your inspiration to become a chef? Did your parents cook?
My mom thinks the oven is to dry socks. Just kidding. Everybody cooks in the family. I am the youngest of a big family and I remember there was a lot of food in the kitchen and most family gatherings were around the kitchen. When I think of family memories, I think of cooking memories growing up, the smells coming from the kitchen. My family loves to cook and ends their day cooking.
Have you ever been to the Philippines?
Unfortunately, I have never been to the Philippines. My parents are from Quezon. Every time I plan to go to the Philippines, something happens. Now I am planning to go there. I want to visit the Philippines and I want to eat everything on site. I want to taste the street food. I am jazzed up and giddy about it and I am looking forward to my visit.
Why do you want to go around the world to taste the tapas?
I want to recreate how they do it and watch them how they do it. I love trying food. Tapas are the most popular food and what is a good way of tasting the food in the area but through their tapas or appetizers. They usually put their best food forward with their appetizers. Trying appetizers reveal pieces of their heart.
Who are your cooking idols? Anthony Bourdain?
Yes, he was an influence to me. There are a lot of food shows playing around and I just love watching them while doing my household chores. It comforted me that food was on. I particularly loved and adored the cooking personalities. Quirky guys like Jamie Oliver, the top chef amateur, and mentor Richard Blais. I admire all of them.
I admire talent. You can be the best painter or the best singer and I would just like to know you because you are the best. I am artistic. I can paint anything. Artists are like comrades in arms. It is a blessing to be gifted and to be able to use your gift. It is amazing. I am so fortunate.
And you didn't study cooking?
My parents wanted me to be born in the United States so I can be the President of the United States. The farthest I reached was become the president of my class. No, I did not study or go to any culinary class. I studied microbiology, chemistry, and business at the University of Pittsburgh.
I just love watch people cook in an open kitchen. I say to myself, "Oh I just stole your recipe!" when I watch people cook in an open kitchen. Everybody can be a cook. But there are certain people who are artsy fartsy and put their flair to cooking and eating. I know the basic proper techniques of cooking.
What point in your life did you decide to become a cook or chef?
It was an accident. They were asking for a chef role at first for a commercial and they asked me to look at the camera, cook and talk and be comfortable. I did it and ever since that first gig, I always go towards the acting role that asked me to be a chef. That is just what happened. It was a fluke. But things happen for a reason. I found it so satisfying and being in the kitchen was very comfortable to me. I am also aware of the ridiculousness that happens in the kitchen.
What acting roles have you played?
I have done a lot of indie films, a lot of dramatic roles. I prefer to get the nitty gritty roles, getting ugly and dirty. I love doing that Jollibee commercial for five days and just let go and be free. It is like I am in a playground just doing my own thing.
Doing commercials is actually my bread and butter. I like doing indie films and I do not like doing roles that I have to smile. I am more of a character actor. I like not smiling. I love to dig deep into the psyche of my characters. I go in with a hat and do the commercial. It is great. It is fun. I am looking for that juicy dirty nitty gritty role to sink my teeth in and show the rollercoaster of emotions that I have.
Who are your idols in doing your dramatic roles?
I love Sean Penn. He is an amazing actor. I love his intensity in acting and I think he is so gifted. I also love Leonardo DiCaprio. I know he started very young in the acting business but he reached stardom because of his talent. I also loved the movie "The Impossible" that featured a then-little boy named Tom Holland. Now he is Spider-Man. That movie was my inspiration. Do you know I can cry in seconds?
So what is next after your book?
My episode is airing this Thursday with Epicurious. We are going to see where this takes me as a food personality. I can't neglect it. I will take it while it is hot. As for acting, I am looking for my next role that I can sink my teeth into and not smile. That is all I will do.
And the first thing you'll do when you go to the Philippines?
Eat everything in sight!
—MGP, GMA News