Chef Justyn Mallo Reyes Makes Filipino Cuisine Shine in Los Angeles

Chef Justyn Mallo Reyes

Growing up in Angeles City, Pampanga, the young Justyn Mallo Reyes spent significant time in his grandmother’s kitchen to assist in the preparation of meals for the family. Within these hallowed halls, he discovered his love for food at such a young age and never gave up on it. Today, his clientele consists of Hollywood A-Listers, such as Nicole Kidman, The Weeknd, H.E.R, James Hong and Lizzo.

Primarily raised by his caring and loving lola who was an expert in local dishes, Reyes has focused on Filipino fusion cuisine, especially desserts, such as Ube, Artisan Ensaymada, Polvoron, Crème Brûlée Cake, Cake Cannery, Belgian Chocolate Cheese Cake and several Filipino kakanins.

After graduating with a business degree from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Reyes pursued his aspired culinary path, taking with him essential life lessons in independence and resilience he internalized along the way.

And thus, in 2019, he finally opened his eponymous brand in Manila and Singapore, to the delight of patrons like Senator Manny Pacquiao, Solenn Heussaff and Gretchen Barretto. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. I’ve learned that early on from my grandmother. Once I have a vision and a mission, there’s nothing that can stop me,” he admitted in an interview with the DAILY TRIBUNE.

In 2020, he then established his brand overseas when he settled in California with his life partner, JP Reyes Mallo.

“Moving to Los Angeles, I was exposed to the entertainment industry through my husband who works in the field. Events here and there allowed me to network with folks from all walks of life in Los Angeles — with one gig opportunity opening the door for another,” he recalled.

And so, through utmost focus, hard work, grit and dedication, he pounced on the openings which came his way. His list of esteemed clients grew over the years, enamored with his twist on Filipino cuisine.

A slice of home even came his way when he whipped up Pinoy delicacies for the Vogue Philippines cover launch, which featured Filipino-American Oscar and Grammy-winning musician Gabriella Wilson, known to the world as H.E.R.

“Gabi is an amazing human. She and her team are incredible to work with and I love how in-tune she is not only with her artistry, but her culture. She has a great head on her shoulders. I admire her vision for authenticity,” Reyes shared.

Today, Reyes’ bestsellers include the oozing ube pandesal with melted cheese, the creamy 24 Karat Crème Brûlée Cake and the delightful 24 Karat Artisan Ensaymada.

His favorite ingredient remains to be the readily-available purple root crop that is ube. “It’s a cultural staple and I love to infuse it in many of my signature dishes and desserts.”

Meanwhile, he admits he cannot live without his KitchenAid Mixer. “It’s a game changer, especially when preparing large orders. Gotta be efficient. It produces such beautiful designs as well!”

When asked for a chef to share a show with, he recounts growing up watching Iron Chef. “I’d love to work with chef Masaharu Morimoto. Japanese is one of my favorite cuisines — hands down. Talk about story! There’s so much intricacy, dedication and precision with everything he does. And brings so much soul. I’d love to learn from that ethos and apply to my work as well.”

On the other hand, if he could cook for one person in the world, he confesses he would love to go back in time to prepare dishes for his lola again. “As a grown man, I’d love to make her proud and show her the results of her teaching and guidance. We’d share stories over my favorite childhood dishes and recall the vivid memories these created,” he expressed.

“My lola inspires me the most when I cook. This passion started with her and I believe it is my mission to carry it on,” he added.

To further spotlight on the cultural heritage brought by Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Asians and Filipinos in specific, Reyes and his partner recently launched the newest website of their very own independent entertainment company, JCreative. The latest platform may be accessed through

Originally a multimedia agency for marketing campaigns, they have now tapped into content creation to amplify the stories of the underrepresented for a global audience.

When pressured, Reyes surrounds himself with positive, grounded individuals with good energy. “That allows the love and light to flow into my space and calms, inspires and motivates me to cross the finish line.”

As an avid traveler, he collects kitchen magnets from all his dream destinations. During his free time, he likewise enjoys contrast therapy, consistent workouts and staycations.

Looking forward to the future, Reyes has several exciting projects lined up. “It’s all top secret for now, but watch this space soon!,” he beamed.

Let us listen more on his personal anecdotes, influences and culinary approach.

On role models

There are several chefs in the world whose work I admire, I couldn’t name them all here. But I will call out Jordan Andino — I love what he’s doing out there in New York City, representing our community and really building that amazing culinary empire. I also love Cedric Grolet who runs La Pâtisserie du Meurice in Paris. He’s the best!

Incorporation of Filipino culture

Fusion is a word thrown around in the culinary world that is often associated with mixing flavors from various cuisines. But I think it goes beyond that — it’s about balance and the story you want to tell with your dish. I like to choose ingredients which incorporate elements from all aspects of the narrative I want to tell — from the country of origin, with additional flavors that will bring a sense of familiarity to local and international audiences. It should never feel forced, but rather a complex puzzle where all the pieces fit to tell a beautifully woven tale.

Most treasured recipe

It has to be my 24 Karat Artisan Ensaymada. It took a lot of inspiration and guidance, trial and error to get it where it is today — I’ve been working at it for the past 10 years or so. It is one of my signature recipes.

Difficult recipe to master

Ube Pan de Sal with Cheese. Lots of hits and misses before we launched it — but ultimately paid off in dividends when we finally debuted it during the pandemic. A crazy hit and became a sensation.

Food as a storytelling vehicle

I am a storyteller at heart — I use food and culinary arts as my tool to tell those stories. With each dish, my hope is to be able to find ways to link with people, for them to connect with each other — evoke an emotion, a memory, a feeling of contentment and happiness. We’re on this journey not for a long time, so might as well make every second count. So, why not start with one bite.

Advice to aspiring chefs

Stick to your passion, don’t forget why you started and just keep going. Surround yourself with people who will uplift, motivate and support you to accomplish your goals.