Filipino American Chefs Andre Guerrero, Crisi Echiverri, and Gary Menes
[photo via L.A. Times]
In today's Los Angeles Times Food Section, Amy Scattergood has an excellent article about Filipino food and its absence from the mainstream dining culture as a whole. To uncover some of the reasons as to why Filipino food has not assimilated into the mainstream, Scattergood interviewed a number of Filipino American chefs working in prominent Los Angeles restaurants (she also happened to interview some random Filipino food blogger, ahem).
"Some cuisines, such as the deeply flavorful mélange of foods from the Philippines, seem to resist assimilation into mainstream culture, thriving in home kitchens but stubbornly remaining there.
And for the many chefs of Filipino heritage who cook in some of the finest restaurants in Los Angeles, there is a very distinct line drawn between their private and professional kitchens — the food of their home culture may be cooked for staff meals, but it rarely crosses the pass into the dining room itself."
So who are these mysterious Filipino American chefs? And in which restaurants can they be found? Here is a list of those featured in Scattergood's story:
- Rodelio Aglibot: Formerly of Yi Cuisine in Los Angeles, now Chef/partner at Sunda in Chicago
- Allen Buhay: Sous chef, Church & State
- Crisi Echiverri: Chef/partner, Providence
- Mary Jo Gore: Chef instructor at the Cordon Bleu school in Pasadena
- Andre Guerrero: Chef/owner, The Oinkster, Marche L.A.
- Marge Manzke: Chef, Church & State
- Joe Marcus: Chef de cuisine, Pizzeria Mozza
- Gary Menes: Executive chef, Marche L.A.
That there, is a whole lot of culinary talent. Of course, all across the Southland there are hundreds of turo-turo joints and mom-and-pop restaurants that do a great job of representing some aspects of Filipino food. But considering the talent and resumes of the Fil-Am chefs that Scattergood interviewed, it is still quite surprising that Filipino food isn't featured on a grander scale. Or perhaps it isn't so surprising, given the different chefs' own reasons for not serving Pinoy food to their clientele.
As some of the chefs inferred in the article, perhaps Pinoy cuisine doesn't fit into the mold of fine dining, or maybe our food is often too misunderstood? Or as I was quoted as saying in the article, maybe Filipino food is too regional with too many variances between recipes for it to become widely accepted.
Granted, I did have a lot more to say on the subject than my one quote in the story. So to expand on that point, I think that non-Filipinos can't really pinpoint a singular characteristic of Filipino food--and that is perhaps because there is no singular characteristic. See, I told you this was hard.
So why exactly hasn't Filipino food become as popular as say, Thai or Vietnamese food? It may seem like a simple enough question, but the answers are far more complicated and multifaceted than can be covered in a single newspaper article or blog post.
What do you think? What's holding Filipino food back? Will our cuisine ever be accepted by the "mainstream"? Does that even matter? How would you describe Filipino food to a non-Filipino?
To read Amy Scattergood's article in the L.A. Times, click here.
In addition to the interesting points made in Scattergood's article, the Times also features three Filipino recipes:
And finally, the Times also has a review of one of the best Filipino restaurants in Southern California, Magic Wok in Artesia.