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Ep. 2, Barkada: L.A.’s Exploding Filipino Food Movement

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.

Another Filipino chef making waves is Eggslut owner Alvin Cailan, whose booming success in the L.A. food scene has led him to pay it forward with Unit 120, his culinary incubator kitchen located in a growing part of Chinatown. He provides a space for up-and-coming chefs and entrepreneurs to test out their concepts so they can one day own their own businesses.

Talented chefs are already making themselves a name through Unit 120, including brothers Chad & Chase Valencia, whose LASA pop-up, which offers an amalgam of Filipino and Californian fare, is serving to a full house every weekend. Another rising star, Filipino-American pastry chef Isa Fabro, is getting a chance to experiment at Unit 120 and explore her roots with desserts in a way that she never has before. These chefs each share a story about going against the grain, preserving their culture, and honoring the Filipino traditions of generosity, love and hospitality with their food.

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The Migrant Kitchen 1-Hour Special

Los Angeles’ booming food scene is being shaped by a new generation of chefs. Visit almost any kitchen in Los Angeles and it is likely you will find a migrant chef combining ethnic cuisines with new flavors and techniques. And often within the food, is a story of their migration.

“The politics of migration, the labor economy, all that drama plays out in the restaurants that we go to,” says journalist and author Rubén Martínez

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  • 2017-11-03T03:00:00-07:00
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Alta California

A collective of culturally connected, distinguished chefs (including Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish, Wes Avila of Guerilla Tacos, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, as well as Jorge Gaviria of corn purveyor, Masienda) work to preserve heritage and push forward the “Alta California” Mexican food movement. By celebrating those dishes and ingredients integral to Mexico's cuisine and its economy, a group of accomplished Mexican-American chefs are working to elevate not only the food, but what people of their heritage can achieve in the food business.

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'Vietnamese'

Banh Mi. Spring rolls. Pho. The war and its subsequent refugees. These are things most commonly associated with the Vietnamese culture and its people. But a group of chefs in Los Angeles (including Cassia's Bryant Ng, Diep Tran of Good Girl Dinette, and Minh Phan of Porridge & Puffs) are hoping to demonstrate that there's so much more than that. Featured in the episode: Cassia in Santa Monica, Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, Red Boat Fish Sauce.

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Omotenashi

Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan, the couple behind Echo Park's Tsubaki, have always loved the culture of izakaya but found Los Angeles lacking in these Japanese taverns. Sonoko Sakai is a teacher with a passion for buckwheat and the near-sacred art of soba noodles, and Seiichi Yokota knows how to prepare and preserve fresh fish with a traditional Japanese technique never seen before in Los Angeles. Each aims to introduce Angelenos to the unique spirit of Japanese hospitality and the culture's deep culinary customs.

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