Chef K Is A Celebrity In Her Own Right

Courtesy of Chef K

The Kardashians’ favorite chef talks jackfruit, Kravis, and TikTok.

Celebrity private chef and rising TikTok star Khristianne Uy, or as she prefers to be called, “Chef K,” has some of the most incredible stories you’ll ever hear. She has almost 170,000 followers on the video platform tuned in to catch her latest star-studded updates and delicious meals. 

However, despite being constantly surrounded by megastars, Chef K has never lost touch with her Filipino values. “I was always taught by my parents never to take anything for granted,” she tells me. “Humility is the number one virtue. That’s the one true thing you can always hold on to so you’re never lost.”

The 41-year-old Filipino got her big break in 2013 when she won ABC’s The Taste with inimitable food writer Anthony Bourdain as one of the judges. Upon taking a bite of her Filipino-inspired braised beef dish, Bourdain said that it made him “want to drink a very expensive bottle of wine and crash my Ferrari into a wall.”

Chef K even appeared on The Millionaire Matchmaker as Patti Stanger’s first lesbian Millionaire’s Club Member. In her two-decade-long culinary career, she’s cooked for Hollywood’s best and brightest from the Kardashian family, to Charlize Theron, and even the Jonas Brothers

After calming down her dogs at home, Chef K sits down for an interview with Vogue Philippines. These days, she tells us she’s been shifting more toward event catering rather than being a full-time private chef. However, she says when the Kardashians call to ask if she can cook for them, she never says no. 

“When Kourtney [Kardashian] and Travis [Barker] called me last week and were like, ‘Hey can you cook for our family dinner?’ That’s my exception,” she says, as if describing old friends and not members of one of the world’s most famous families. “They’re hands down just so wholesome, appreciative, just so grateful every single time. It’s hard to turn them down.”

Despite the company she keeps, it’s not an easy career. Like many people working in the service industry, she tells us about having to miss as many as eight consecutive Christmases for her job. And yet, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Filipinos are good at sacrifices. That’s all I’ve known.”

What made you shift from being a private chef to more events? 

At that point in my life, I had been a chef for—oh my god, let’s do the math here—22 years? So up until a year and a half or so ago, I just decided I wanted everyone to taste my food and not just a certain family. 

I think I can reach more audiences that want to sample the food instead of a dinner party of six to ten. Now I’m doing two to three hundred, sometimes seven hundred guests. I love all aspects of cooking, but however way I can reach more audiences I’m happy to. 

It’s also more challenging for me. I don’t know what’s gonna get thrown at me. Like, “Oh there’s like another hundred people. Get ready for it.” 

You like the extra challenge.

I love. I love. For most of my life, I feel most alive being challenged. Having my late father as a father, you know, being such a disciplinarian, you don’t know what he was going to ask of you, you were just always ready. So in life, I’m always just ready for it, and if not, I’m gonna figure it out. 

Even with Mrs. [Kris] Jenner, my answer is, “Yes ma’am of course.” It’s always, “Yes ma’am of course.” You would never hear me tell her no. And the latter end, I’m just going to figure it out. I don’t know what I just said but yep, I’m going to figure it out. 

I read that you moved to the US from the Philippines quite early on, when you were 12. What was that transition like?

It was so different. I went to an all-girls private catholic school called Woodrose. And see, I don’t fit the look of a Woodrose alumni. I started there in preschool. 

I guess it was a different structure. It’s hard to move when you have that same camaraderie you had growing up and that’s all you’ve known. 

I’m always down for the challenge because if I was able to endure that kind of challenge at such a young age, I was like “You know what? I can do anything.” You know? It’s that kind of mindset. Woodrose bumped me I think two grades up. So I was the youngest, and I gained respect through that I think? From my peers. 

I read in an article you said that being Pinoy helped you succeed in Hollywood. Is that something that you still believe to this day?

Yes. The Filipino culture is quite unique. We persevere through anything. Any job given. Like I get chills talking about this.

We’re grateful, we’re here in a country that’s not ours, but our main strife is that it’s not just for us, it’s for our family. Which is completely different. I’m exposed to a world where it’s every man for himself. 

Filipinos always have their family in mind. I remember moments in my life in the Philippines where it doesn’t matter how hard you work, you always enjoy that little, little moment [together]. I work for affluent families, and I feel as if that’s missing. 

You can have all the money in the world, but that sense of belonging and sharing is quite missed a lot. That’s why I loved being a personal chef because I can provide that. I’m able to turn on the room and have that conversation—ask about how everyone’s day is, you know? 

Food is your way of finding that sense of community.

Right! There’s a party. As long as there’s food, Filipinos will party. I love that vibe. 

Do you see with the clients that you’ve had that food really brings people together?

Absolutely. Even with the quarantine. I think that nostalgia is “it,” with food. You know like that one song that you listen to ten thousand times when you had your first heartbreak, right? It’s like, you know the smell of rice cooking when I go over to my family’s house that kind of makes a lot of day-to-day stresses go away. It feels like home. It’s nostalgic. 

Coming to America, I didn’t know what a turkey was! In the Philippines, it’s these little birds, then with a turkey, it’s this big thing, like yuck! With what? Yams? You must be kidding me!

I had to relearn things. The more families I worked for, I’m like, “[Oh], this is what’s nostalgic to them.” Because it’s what grandma made when the kids were over. It’s reminiscent. I feel like we’re always in survival mode that we forget. We skip through life and fast forward. 

And if I can provide just a glimpse of that smell, that taste, that crunch, of them being a child? I’ve done it. It brings me smiles. 

Do your parents still live in the Philippines?

My dad passed a few years ago, mom is still in America. It’s been a hard three years through the quarantine because they’ve been married for so long. But, you know, we’ve been dealing. It’s been a lot better. 

I just feel like he’s all around. You never think about the strongest man in your life who’s been your mentor to just be the weakest man and now you have to step up to the plate. And he was a big foodie. Dad always ate everything. 

He was never picky and he would always lean with curiosity. Like, “Oh well okay I’ll try that” or “Oh wow I never had that” even though what he really wanted to say was “That’s fuckin weird.” He’d be like “Don’t throw it away! I’ll try it!”

My mom is an amazing cook. Amazing. She could try anything. Even back home in the Philippines, she would try everything. That’s how my [palate] was trained to try new things. Because whatever she saw she would bring it home. 

I remember when she first brought home a taco. I was seven. Like, “What’s a taco?” And in the Philippines, it was like a taco bell. Then when I came to America I was like, this is not the same taco. I was like “Avocado? Guacamole?” Back then I was growing up in 1986, 1987 so I was like avocado? In a taco? No, that’s for dessert.

Now, it’s actually amazing how Filipino food is making its mark. Ube is everywhere! All the supermarkets; ube. It’s great. Filipino food needs to be out there more.

I’ve heard even in other cuisines, chefs are now using Filipino ingredients like calamansi and patis.

Oh yeah! And coconut milk. Coconut milk with anything savory, or cooked in vinegar. Even adobo, adobo-braised everything. Adobo tacos you see everywhere!

I did a show on ABC’s The Taste, and one of the challenges was to make something nostalgic. So what I did was to pick all the squid heads, the small ones. I took uni because I needed to throw in a bit of flair. I took all the off-cuts of seafood, stewed the fish bones in coconut milk, and then I squeezed a bit of calamansi.

Then when [the judges] tasted it, Anthony Bourdain goes like, “This is amazing, but how is this nostalgic?” And I said, “Well sir, we all grew up in different parts of the world, with different backgrounds, different cultures. This is reminiscent of the island I grew up in.” 

At that time, there wasn’t even a wet market. Everything you bought was fresh. All the fish were jumping around. That was the most reminiscent to me because my grandma would take these fresh coconuts, husk it, and literally make the coconut milk. And whatever she found fresh that morning went in that pot.

I said, “This is my nostalgia.”

So you still cook a lot of Filipino food? Which of your clients have taken to Filipino food?

I’ve introduced it to clients, especially now. I think Charlie Sheen, I’ve made him Filipino food. A lot of clients don’t really know that it’s Filipino food. So I introduce them slowly. I do this thing, it’s my rendition of pinakbet. It’s stewed Kabocha squash with Chinese long beans. I have to literally describe it [to them].

I’ve been making Kourtney and Travis some Filipino dishes, too. I use a lot of pandan, the screwpine thing? I made a little [pandan] mousse one time for their father’s day meal, infused with some matcha. I’ve made a pandan semifreddo. They love it. 

If you break down the flavors, it’s like a vanilla bean. It’s like if a vanilla bean and a coconut had a baby. Usually, everyone’s like, “Vanilla Extract!” and I’m like, “Yo, I have this leaf and you can puree it and that’s your extract.”

I made Mrs. [Kris] Jenner this dessert a few years ago. She asked me what it was and I said, “It’s a screwpine dessert,” and that’s all I said. And she loves that. Oh and jackfruit, I introduced her to jackfruit. She loves it! As a matter of fact, there’s an episode [of Keeping Up With The Kardashians] where she’s like, “Khloe, try this! Chef brought it. It’s called Jackfruit and it tastes like Juicyfruit.” And Khloe tastes and she goes, “Not Really.”

That’s hilarious. I saw that you’ve gotten huge on TikTok!

You know, I’m super old school. But one of my clients is James Charles. I do his annual birthday, “Camp James Charles” which is in his compound, and all his closest friends and team show up and they’re there for a whole week, and so am I.

And James goes up to me and is like, “Chef, let’s do a TikTok!” And I’m like, “What’s a TikTok?” My social media manager was there and was like “Let me help you, let’s make one and see if you like it.” And said I have a where I drop Khloe’s cake. And he asks when and I go, “On her birthday.” They were like, “Okay, you gotta do a TikTok.” So we did.

I went to Travis and Kourtney’s house to cook dinner a few days after that [Travis’] daughters Atiana and Alabama were like “Oh my god Chef K, you are so funny. We don’t even know what you’re doing but everything’s going viral! Every time we open our TikTok it’s all you.”

There’s a relevance to it, and I guess it’s just relatable to the audience. You know the Kardashians have this grandiose lifestyle. There’s an entity there that helps facilitate things. I guess for people it’s like “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” Because you wouldn’t think it would be a person like me. You know? But they love it, they actually love it.

They even question me about my name which is Khristianne. It starts with a K, so Chef K. Even my license plate is K. So they’re like oh, Kardashian chef. But no, it’s my real name. Khristianne with a K.

It fits together! So do you think you’ll be continuing your journey into digital content creation?

I’m trying, you know, it’s been hard! I’m so old school, my phone is like an iPhone I don’t even know. It’s not a new one. I don’t remember half my passwords!

But I would love to keep creating content. There’s so much out there that I would love to see. I’m 40 years old. I’m gonna be 41 in two weeks and I don’t have children. So, I want to build something. I want to be able to share that with the world, even for smiles, for cheers. 

It’s not been easy, this whole row. There’s a lot of sacrifice. But through all that, there’s really humor and just being grateful every single day for where I am. I still get to eat whatever I want, I get to provide for my mother whatever she wants.

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