Around Los Angeles, you can find home-made longganisa sausages sitting on a bed of garlicky heirloom rice, or special Filipino-Hawaiian hybrid donuts lacquered in coconut-milk caramel. These kinds of dishes are part of a larger Filipino food movement that has exploded in popularity over the last year due to the entrance of a new generation of young and talented chefs who are telling unique stories of their heritage through their food.
They’re the first- and second-generation immigrants who have one foot in their Filipino culture and the other on American soil. These chefs are also armed with culinary degrees, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and experience working in the most lauded restaurants around the world. And they’re coming up during a time when L.A.’s culinary landscape is changing, and diners are now more open to discovering different foods from other cultures.
In this episode, Chef Charles Olalia’s story is one of the pursuit of the American dream. Emigrating from the Philippines, Olalia climbed his way up the ladder, cooking for gastronomic destinations from the likes of French Laundry to Patina. But then he left the fine-dining world and moved on to pay homage to Filipino comfort food by opening RiceBar, a tiny 275-square-foot restaurant in Downtown L.A. that Bon Appetit recently named as one of best new restaurants in the country.