Filipino Chef Michelin Dapo brings 'dirty' ice cream to Australia

Get to know her sorbetes creations with her ice cream brand Manila St. 

Once you hear that particular bell ring, you know you're in for a good treat. Sorbetes is among the many street side desserts we grew up loving. It offers a delicious solution to summertime dilemmas, and the best part of it all, it's cheap.

While it is commonly known as "dirty" ice cream, these home-style, localized sherbets still gain affection from many Filipinos, with little children following mamang sorbeteros' colorful wooden carts even until today.

Bringing the joy of the sorbetes to the Land Down Under is Filipina chef Michelin Dapo with Manila St., her ice cream brand that features classic Filipino flavors. Much like every Filipino, Chef Michelin is a sorbetes fanatic.

Chef Michelin Dapo

"I have three memories with ice cream," Chef Michelin says. "First, when I was young, I would hear the bell of manong Rey's 'dirty' ice cream cart and started to count P5 for a cone. Second was me getting a job and learning how to make gelato in an Italian Restaurant in Rockwell, Makati. Third was me serving 'dirty' ice cream to chef Ming Tsai at an event in Makati."

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Chef Michelin proves that contrary to what it is called, the Philippines' dirty ice cream is a dessert that could bring out the kid in you, whether you're a Filipino or not.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary field?

I was brought up in my grandma's kitchen. I like the idea of creating dishes and baking pastries from scratch and seeing my relatives appreciate her cooking. She gave me small tedious jobs such as picking malunggay leaves for tinola and discarding rice husks using the bilao. She helped me discover those little things make up a dish on our dinner table.

From there I decided to pursue culinary arts as my elective class and started baking and selling brownies to my classmates in high school. Choosing a course for college was easy as I have already decided that I wanted to pursue cooking as a profession. I graduated with a Bachelors Degree at De La Salle College of Saint Benilde specializing in Culinary Management and continued studying at Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, where I was recognized for my academic excellence and was given the Dux award. 

Chef Michelin serving dirty ice cream for an event with chef Ming Tsai

Along with my studies, I worked as a chef in five-star hotels and restaurants in the Philippines and overseas. During those times I mostly worked in the pastry kitchen where I was exposed to making artisanal gelato, sorbet, and ice cream. To see people enjoy the food I cook gives me a sense of fulfillment, and motivates me to keep on going.

How long has Manila St. been operating? Who are the people behind it? 

Manila St. is the brainchild of Chester Dapo (my husband) and myself. It is inspired by the street food scene in the Philippines and Asia. Our goal is to elevate dirty ice cream to a world-class standard by using the best ingredients and producing the best quality ice cream which is the super premium range.

Chester at production (Photo by Louie Pelaez)

I started making ice cream at home for friends and family only to know having a manufacturing factory that can produce 500 tubs an hour. 

Where do you source your ingredients, especially for the Filipino flavors? 

Our goal is to elevate Filipino and Asian cuisine in terms of quality and flavor. This is why we source our ube from the Philippines and the rest of our raw ingredients such as milk in Australia and cheese in New Zealand which are known for having the best dairy in the world.

How did people react to the ice cream? What is their go-to flavor? 

For Asians, ube and cheese ice cream are already popular flavors. Non-Asians were skeptical at first but eventually became fans. By word of mouth the brand became more popular and noticed that 70 percent of our consumers are non-Filipinos. 

Manila St. ice cream in a bun served in General Charlie Cafe

How was it operating during a pandemic? 

During the pandemic we shifted our focus in helping the community by giving free ice cream to the frontliners and having our products easily accessible by doing B2C or direct-to-consumer deliveries.

Ice cream donation for frontliners

What can people expect next from Manila St.? 

We plan on expanding in other Asian flavors and distribute our products Australia-wide and hopefully New Zealand.