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Nikko Cagalanan wasn’t much of a chef while growing up in the Philippines. His grandmother, Mansueta, was the only cook in the kitchen. But after moving to the United States to continue his nursing career, Nikko was disappointed to see the lack of authentic Filipino cuisine and was missing the flavors of home. So, he began watching YouTube videos and reading cookbooks devoted to Filipino cuisine. Seven years and numerous kitchen jobs later, Cagalanan settled in South Carolina and entered Charleston’s culinary scene. It was this same year that he launched a pop-up series named Mansueta’s Filipino Food where he serves new takes on his grandma’s old recipes. Very quickly Mansueta’s grew a massive following in the Charleston scene and Nikko began traveling to cities all over the country to share the love that was his grandmother’s cooking. This past year, Nikko’s pop ups took him all the way to Chopped’s Bizzare Foods Competition, and now, he can be known as Chef Nikko Cagalanan, Chopped Champion. What is coming next for the Chopped Champion? A new restaurant at 73 Spring Street in Charleston, and maybe participation in a few more food competition shows!
Raised in Simpsonville, SC, Tony Keely began his culinary career at the age of 17 as a dishwasher and dancing server at the old Country Earl’s Chompin’ and Stompin’. After serving his country as a US Marine, he found himself back in the restaurant business. It was at Keowee Key Country Club, however, when a line cook didn’t show up, and Tony filled in for the night, that he discovered his passion. Finding a love for and fulfilment from being in the kitchen, he spent July 1999 at the Culinary Institute of America taking classes. Chef Keely’s experience includes Cliffs Country Club, Fluor, Culinary Capers and 33 Liberty with Chef John Malik, Restaurant O with Table 301, as well as a year at New Orleans’ famed Commander’s Palace under Chef Tory McPhail. He spent a total of ten years at Greenville’s Northampton Wines + Dine, serving as Executive Chef and General Manager. Today Tony runs his own Private Chef Business. He is inspired by his travels, relationships with local farmers, and evenings spent around the table with family and friends.