A Philippine champion of Italian cuisine, Margarita Forés, has been named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016 in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants food awards. Forés, who owns several top wine and dine spots in the Philippines, will be honoured for her achievements at the fourth annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony at the W Hotel in Bangkok on February 29. “Margarita Forés is a worthy recipient of the Asia’s Best Female Chef award. A true leader in her country’s restaurant sector, her dedication, culinary skills and pioneering efforts have elevated the dining scene in the Philippines and set a new benchmark for other chefs and restaurateurs to follow,” said William Drew, group editor of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Originally trained as an accountant, Forés fell in love with Italian cuisine following a trip to Italy in 1986. She travelled to Florence, Milan and Rome where she learned everything she could about home-style cooking techniques and ingredients from local markets. A year later she founded Cibo Di M, a catering business that became a favourite of high-profile clients, and in 1997 she opened Cibo, her first Italian restaurant. The café presented traditional Italian cuisine, while at the same time sourcing organic ingredients locally. There are now 18 Cibo outlets in Manila. Forés has developed other restaurants concepts too – Lusso, a luxe champagne and gastro bar, Grace Park, an Italian restaurant that specialises in farm-to-table cuisine, and Alta, a modern fusion cuisine restaurant in Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila. She has also focused her efforts on nurturing the next generation of chefs. In 2013, Forés partnered with Casa Artusi, a historic culinary institution in Forlimpopoli, northern Italy, to open Casa Artusi Philippines. The school, the institution’s first and only offshore campus, teaches students traditional home-style Italian cooking techniques. While Forés might be best known for championing Italian cuisine, she is also a strong advocate for Filipino cuisine too. She co-authored Kulinarya , a compendium of popular regional dishes first published in 2009.