Filipino Kitchen Named To Big Heat 2018: Chicago’s Food and Drink Fifty For the Second Year In A Row

Filipino Kitchen Named To Big Heat 2018: Chicago’s Food and Drink Fifty For the Second Year In A Row

Pablo_Roxas New City March 2018 Big Heat Monica Kass Rogers.jpg

Sarahlynn Pablo and Natalia Roxas
Filipino Kitchen is a joint effort of Sarahlynn Pablo, a writer, and Natalia Roxas, a photographer, both of whom put time into the kitchen to bring the food of the Philippines to Chicago. Chicagoans are just beginning to understand Filipino food, and that understanding is challenging because, as Pablo explains, “our cuisine evolves as we evolve and continue to cook our foods. Our challenge as keepers of this tradition is to be inclusive while not alienating others within and outside of our communities.” As part of their mission, Pablo and Roxas bring Filipino food to the people through events like February’s Usapang Pagkain, which Pablo says “is a discussion within the Filipino community about the food that sustains us as individuals and groups. Usapang Pagkain is an intergenerational space that explores ways to focus on how our food can support our communities physically, nutritionally, emotionally, psychically, historically, spiritually and socially.”

Balitang America: Usapang Pagkain Starts Discussion On Filipino Health, Community, Food

by Connie De Leon, posted on Balitang America on January 20, 2018.

CHICAGO -- Food enthusiast Divina Calo shares the same sentiments about food as the other 50 attendees of Usapang Pagkain event last Saturday.

The free program initiated by AFIRE Chicago and Filipino Kitchen, which is the first of six events, continues to bring Filipinos together to share and learn Filipino practices that center on health, community, and food.

“We really wanted to start a discussion with the Filipino community about how to utilize and reclaim our food to talk about health & wellness,” said exec director Michael Aguhar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Which is why the program, supported by a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, focuses mainly on heart-disease prevention through diet.

“What are healthy foods?” said exec director Clarita Santos. “What should we be eating? How are we all connected? How do we make sure that you maintain your health or even get healthier? How can we help you so you don’t get sick in the first place? Around that is prevention rather than cure.”

“This event was a collaboration we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Naomi Salcedo, AFIRE manager. “Hoping to address, dispel a lot of misconceptions what Filipino cuisine looks like.”

“That Filipino food is very unhealthy, very fatty, very oily, everything is fried, everything is crispy pata but it’s not.”

Filipino kitchen demonstrated how to cook tinola and arroz caldo, and also held an in-depth discussion on its history, benefits, and alternatives.

“We want to highlight the fact that we can still eat what we love to eat but be healthier about it and find alternatives,” said Salcedo.

Worldview WBEZ-FM: Weekend Passport: Appreciating Japanese And Filipino Culinary Culture

People often use food as a means to connect to their cultural identity. As a prelude to the upcoming Chicago Gourmet event at Chicago’s Millennium Park this Friday evening, the Consulate-General of Japan features a conversation on Japanese traditional culinary culture. Kultura Festival, an expo highlighting Chicago and Midwest-based Filipino American culinary and culture, will also take place this weekend. Global Citizen Nari Safavi talks with Chef Naoyuki Yanagihar from Tokyo and Chef Gil Paule of Hapa Chicago about Japanese and Filipino cuisine. Safavi will also share more global events to check out this weekend.

ABC 7 TV Chicago: Golden Donut Sparkeles At Filipino Food Festival in Logan Square


CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Cristal Golden Ube Donut came in a fancy black gift box tied with a bow.

This decadent $100 donut is made out of 24-carat gold leaf, purple yams imported from the Philippines and jelly comprised of Cristal champagne. It was available in Chicago on Sunday for one day for Kultura, a Filipino American food and arts festival in Logan Square.

"For each donut, it takes a fourth of a cup of 2007 Cristal champagne, it takes 8-10 sheets of pure 24 carat gold leaf," said golden donut creator Chef Bjorn DelaCruz.

Delacruz developed the fantasy treat as a thank you for his cooks and waitstaff at his Brooklyn-based restaurant, the Manila Social Club.

"It was a celebratory dessert. I made it for New Years for the staff. I didn't think it would catch fire like this," DelaCruz said.

People took pictures of the decadent dessert.

Those who could afford the splurge said it was worth the hefty price tag.

"It was amazing. The jelly inside has a delicate sweetness, the dough is light and fluffy. And I can't believe I'm eating this right now," said Sarahlynn Pablo.

Watch the clip here.

WGN TV-Chicago: $100 golden donut among Filipino delights at Kultura in Logan Square

$100 golden donut among Filipino delights at Kultura in Logan Square

CHICAGO -- In its second year the Kultura Food and Arts festival in Logan Square aims to delight your senses.

Chef Björn DelaCruz of New York's Manila Social Club is the creator of one of the festival’s biggest talkers: the Cristal Ube Golden Donut. Each handmade donut takes 90 minutes to make, and includes ingredients like Ube, a sweet purple yam found in the Philippines, Cristal (yes, as in the champagne) and 24K gold leaf.

"Were trying to expose Filipino food and introduce it to as many people as possible," DelaCruz said. "The conversation just isn't about the donut now, it’s about Filipino ingredients and culture and food, and it’s quite exciting.”

Chef AC Boral brought his Naks Tacos to Kultura from Long Beach, California.

"Most people don't know the Philippines and Mexico have a really deep history, centuries deep, since the 19th century with the Spanish Galleon trade,” Boral said. “Manila and Acapulco were the primary port cities, [so] there was a lot of exchange of goods and ingredients and culture.”

Kultura also features local culinary favorites like Chef Chrissy Camba of Maddy's Dumpling House. Chrissy is a “Top Chef” Season 10 and “Chopped: Grill Masters” alum. She says cooking her sweet and savory dishes for Kultura is a cake-walk compared to her time on Top Chef.

“It was very, very stressful; you don’t really sleep and you are nervous and you are in a house with strangers; some people can assimilate pretty quickly, but I am not one of those people," Camba said.

If you're still thinking about that Cristal Ube Golden donut you're going to have to travel to NY to get one and it’s not cheap; one donut will cost you $100.

Watch the clip here.

Chicago Magazine: Has Filipino Food Finally "Made It" in Chicago?

Has Filipino Food Finally “Made It” in Chicago?

The Midwest’s first Jollibee. Seafood City’s blowout grand opening. Filipino food is having a moment in Chicago—will the popularity stick this time?

In 1998, a restaurant called Rambutan opened on a rather removed stretch of Belmont just west of Milwaukee Avenue, serving a version of Filipino food that was nothing like the usual mom-and-pop, steam-table fare. Despite enjoying some success, even moving to a hipper spot in Wicker Park, the restaurant shuttered after just four years in business.

“For whatever reason, it just never really captured people’s imagination the way Japanese, Chinese, Thai food did,” says Joaquin Soler, Rambutan’s then-chef de cuisine, now the owner of Smalls Smoke Shack.

In retrospect, Soler says, Rambutan was ahead of its time. But this year could prove to be the tipping point for Filipino food in Chicago.

In 2016, it’s been common to see people queueing up for the Southeast Asian country’s cuisine—whether it’s at fast-food chain Jollibee, which opened its first Midwest outpost in Skokie in July, or the equally hyped supermarket Seafood City on Elston Avenue—again, the first for the Midwest.

And on Sunday, Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square will play host for a second year to Kultura Festival, billed as a modern Filipino-American food and arts festival, where Filipino chefs from Chicago and other cities turn out the sort of street-meets-sophisticated food—duck confit adobo tacos, ube waffles—that people happily line up for, iPhones in hand, ready to Instagram. 

Last year’s inaugural festival drew a mixed crowd of more than 1,000, double what organizers Sarahlynn Pablo, Natalia Roxas-Alvarez, and Caitlin Preminger of the website Filipino Kitchen had anticipated. There’s more of everything this year: food, entertainment, space, and, they hope, attendees.

“We have the critical mass of the community,” Pablo says.

Momentum has been building from coast to coast. Bad Saint, a 24-seat Filipino restaurant in Washington D.C., is No. 2 on Bon Appetit’s annual list of the 10 best new restaurants in America. (In the magazine’s August issue, a full-page photo and recipe for halo-halo was hard to miss.) In Los Angeles, much of the buzz is centered on a crop of young Filipino chefs, among them Alvin Cailan (Eggslut/Ramen Champ/Unit 120), Charles Olalia (Rice Bar), and Chase and Chad Valencia (LASA), who cook versions of food they ate growing up, in distinct settings: bustling shopping plaza, tiny counter restaurant, weekend-only pop-up.

Soler and others say this groundswell of interest in Filipino food and culture by a broad, non-Filipino audience is partly rooted in the growth and maturation of Chicago’s culinary scene and dining public as a whole. It helps that the greater Chicago metropolitan area has the sixth largest Filipino population in the nation.

But until recently, the Filipino food scene here has been mostly inward-facing—Filipinos cooking for Filipinos, under the radar, out of the spotlight. There have always been places in Chicago and the suburbs serving food that tastes just like your (or your friend’s) Filipino grandma’s. Stalwarts such as Isla Pilipina in Lincoln Square, which maintains a devoted customer base. On Sundays, the dining room is 90 percent Filipino, says Ray Espiritu, who took over from his parents nine years ago when he was 24.

Even Kristine Subido, chef of the late, lamented Pecking Order, which like Rambutan appealed to an American audience, says she pulled back on emphasizing the Filipino side of her casual, chicken-centric restaurant. She opened it in 2010, when fried chicken was a trend du jour, and closed it two years later. (She continues to put out her food as Pecking Order Catering, at the Logan Square Farmers Market and at events like Kultura Festival.)

Subido might have been too early still. But exposure to the cuisine continued in more subtle ways, either from TV (the occasional Top Chef contestant of Filipino descent or Travel Channel show with Anthony Bourdain wolfing down balut) or on the menus of other restaurants around town. Pablo points to Lawrence Letrero of Sable Kitchen and Bar at Hotel Palomar: “Look at that menu. He’s got pancit lug lug. How much more Filipino can you get?” she says.

There also has been a generational shift. Young Filipino-American cooks are breaking the mold and getting noticed.

“The first generation that comes here, their goal is to survive and be prosperous. And then the first generation born here, maybe it’s not a goal but unconsciously it’s to assimilate, eat mac and cheese and all that. The generation after that—that’s the one. They’re talking to their Lola [grandmother], eating adobo and pancit. It’s part of their search for identity,” says Soler.

The pop-up restaurant culture has these given second-generation Filipino cooks room to experiment without too much risk or expense and, crucially, to promote their food, which the older generation didn’t.

“There’s a lot to be said for Facebook,” says Pablo. “The internet has allowed us to connect to each other across the diaspora and see all the cool things Filipinos are doing all across the country. It feels so much closer than it ever has.”

Chef AC Boral, one of the visiting chefs at Kultura Festival, lives in Long Beach, California, and runs Rice and Shine, a Filipino-American brunch pop-up. While in town, he’s doing a dinner Monday at Fat Rice. The restaurant is taking care of the cocktails; Boral will do a 10-course, $75 menu of what he calls Filipino-American soul food, dishes like foie gras toast and bruléed bibingka for dessert.

Boral says while he feels some obligation to pay tribute to his parents and his culture in his cooking, he, like his peers, just wants to express himself without having to explain too much or worry about authenticity.

“There’s this surge of creativity, a reframing of Filipino food not just for ourselves, but for everybody else,” Boral says. “We want everybody to try our food.”

There is still room for more Filipino food, high and low, elevated and everyday, at least in Chicago. Rambutan 2.0 has yet to materialize and stick. Espiritu says at one point, there were seven Filipino restaurants within a one-mile radius of Isla Pilipina, but that’s no longer the case. Chrissy Camba’s attempt at a full-blown Filipino restaurant, Laughing Bird, had a too-brief, six-month run in Lincoln Square in 2014; she has been looking to make her Maddy’s Dumpling House pop-up concept a permanent one since then.

Keeping a brick-and-mortar business alive, no matter what the cuisine, is still really, really hard.

At Smalls, Soler infuses his barbecue with Filipino and other Southeast Asian flavors but says with Filipino food having such a moment, it’s made him want to do more.

“I’m definitely considering getting back into it, putting out the food I grew up eating, things people in Manila ate when I was growing up,” he says.

The demand is there. It always was.

5 Magazine: Kultura Filipino Food Fest is Back in Chicago

Kultura Filipino Food Fest is Back in Chicago

Going on its 2nd year, the wildly successful Filipino food extravaganza Kultura is back at Logan Square’s Emporium Arcade and Surf Bar on Sunday, October 2, 2016.

Last year food media and events coalition Filipino Kitchen launched Kultura Festival to a sold out, ravenous crowd of both Filipino and non-Filipinos alike. The fest coincides with the start of Filipino American Heritage Month, where they present over a dozen Filipino American chefs, visual artists and musicians.

Some of the featured chefs are Chef AC Boral (CA), Chef Sherwin L. Tee (Manila), Chef Bjorn Delacruz (Brooklyn) and from Chicago Chef Chrissy Camba, Chef Kristine Subido, Hapa Chicago, Jo Snow Syrups and Oxtail Filipino Inspired.

DJs have also been part of the festival fare, this time with Joey Figueroa, Karl Almaria, Czboogie, RTST, Kristin Sanchez and Itzi Nallah.

But now there’s even more added to this amazing day of events. There will be workshops on batok (tattoos), baybayin (an ancient writing system) as well as Philippine history and martial arts by the indigenous art group Katao Living Traditions based out of San Francisco. Add to that there will be the 9th annual Adobofest home cooking and balut eating contest.

One of the highlights of this event will be the US debut of the highly acclaimed Filipino-Canadian electronic tribal music trio DATU and contemporary all-female dance company HATAW. The combination of these two powerful forces is a synergy of electronica, folklore and mythology all with a modern twist. They incorporate modern-day elements with their sound and movement with plenty of invocations and homage to their Filipino heritage.

As Romeo Candido of DATU explains, “Filipinos from Toronto growing up in the 90’s were all about House!I think my first vinyl was a Fast Eddie 12 inch. And the 120-130BPM goes perfectly with our indigenous percussive Filipino music and instrumentation, so we are kinda trying to do our take on Tribal House, as it has collected and brought together people from all around the world.”

nd with regards to performing in Chicago for the first time he says, “Some of our biggest influences, from Kanye West all the way back to Frankie Knuckles come from Chicago, so it is fitting that we bring our Toronto-Filipino sound to the home of these legends.”

Aside from performing at Kultura Fest, you can also see them perform at a free show at Chicago’s Field Museum on Saturday Oct. 2nd.

Early-bird Kultura Festival general admission tickets are available through Sept. 15 for $15 and can be purchased here. After that date, general admission tickets will be $20.

DATU/HATAW (Photo by: Bo Fajardo)

KULTURA: Chef Bryan Collante

Kultura Facebook event:

DATU Soundcloud:

DATU Facebook:

HATAW Facebook:

Philippine Daily Inquirer: US debut of Toronto's Datu-Hataw at Chicago Kultura fest

US debut of Toronto’s Datu-Hataw at Chicago Kultura fest

CHICAGO – Toronto’s acclaimed Filipino Canadian contemporary dance company Hataw and modern Filipino tribal music crew Datu will make their debut performance in the United States on the Kultura Festival stage, Sunday Oct. 2, at Emporium Logan Square, 2363 N Milwaukee Avenue.

“Some of our biggest influences, from Kanye West all the way back to Frankie Knuckles come from Chicago, so it is fitting that we bring our Toronto-Filipino sound to the home of these legends,” said Romeo Candido of Datu.

“With Filipino culture on the cusp of its tipping point, we believe this intercity collaboration is part of a bigger modern Filipino movement that is quickly picking up momentum and believers,” he added.

Hataw Artistic Director Jodinand Villaflores Aguillon added, “Equipped with new media like Facebook and the internet, our generation has so much more access — not just to information, but to each other. Being part of an event like this is a physical manifestation of that interconnectedness that we share across the diaspora.”

“We are thrilled to bring Datu and Hataw to the United States,” says Filipino Kitchen co-founder, Natalia Roxas. “Their performances spark the heart and the imagination on what a modern, decolonized Filipino can be, artistically.”

The performance is at 4 p.m. at Kultura Festival on October 2. Datu and Hataw are also giving a 20-minute special sneak peek performance at The Field Museum on October 1, at 2 p.m., on the Museum Marae.

The Field Museum houses over 10,000 Philippine artifacts in storage, the likes of which were collected over 100 years ago. These objects have found a (re)newed meaning through the community partnership and co-curation efforts. Their monthly thematic workshops invites the community at-large, curators and experts to understand the meanings behind the cultural treasures.

Kultura Festival will be filled with music, as Filipino American DJs set to perform include Itzi Nallah (11:30-12:30); DJ Kristin Sanchez (12:30-1:30); Joey Figueroa (1:30-2:30); Czboogie (2:30-3:30); RTST and Ron (3:30 to 5). All music lineup schedules are subject to change. More information about each musician at

Philippine Daily Inquirer: Famous gold-dusted donuts to be at Chicago Kultura fest

Famous gold-dusted donuts to be at Chicago Kultura fest

CHICAGOAn array of flavored and fresh Filipino-style donuts, including the highly praised Golden Cristal Ube donut, will be presented at the Kultura Festival, Sunday Oct. 2, at Emporium Logan Square, 2363 N. Milwaukee Avenue in this city.

“Chef Bjorn DelaCruz and the Manila Social Club team are ready and excited to celebrate and participate in Kultura Fest!” says Toki DelaCruz, director of operations for the family-owned and operated Brooklyn-based restaurant that makes the donuts.

“We’re committed to sharing the beautiful culture of the Philippines as Filipino Americans through the arts and music and food, whether it be traditional or moving in a more progressive direction. Being part of Kultura fest is the perfect platform for that. Come enjoy the fresh donuts, socialize with the team, and meet the chef!” DelaCruz adds.

“We love what Bjorn and the family at Manila Social Club are doing in Brooklyn and happy to see them return to their Midwest roots (by way of Indiana),” says Filipino Kitchen co-founder Natalia Roxas. “The donuts celebrate the flavors of home in a bold and audacious way, and that’s what embodies the mission of Kultura Festival.”

The Manila Social Club Golden Cristal Donut is made with ube, a naturally purple sweet yam found in the Philippines and Cristal champagne, making it a unique and decadent donut. The Golden Donut is filled with an ube mousse and a Cristal gelée, covered in a Cristal icing, dusted with 24K gold dust and hand-gilded with 24K gold leaf. Each donut is handmade by Manila Social Club’s Executive Chef, Co-Owner and creator of the Golden Cristal Donut, Björn De La Cruz. An individually hand-made Golden Cristal Ube Donut is $100.

A limited number of Golden Cristal Donuts can be pre-ordered and picked up at Kultura Fest on Sunday, Oct. 2. Additionally, pre-orders can also be taken for the Golden Cristal Ube Donut to pickup on Monday, Oct. 3, at a Chicago location TBA. The Golden Donuts can be pre-ordered through the Manila Social Club website (no same-day sales will be made):

At Kultura Festival, Manila Social Club will also offer a donut bar of ube, gin-calamansi and buko pandan donuts.

Manila Social Club joins this year’s roster of Kultura Festival chefs: Chef Kristine Subido of Pecking Order Catering; Top Chef season 10 alumna Chef Chrissy Camba of Maddy’s Dumpling House; night market favorite Hapa Chicago; Melissa Yen of JoSnow Syrups; Oxtail Filipino Inspired; Dorothy Hernandez, co-owner and creative director of Sarap Detroit (Detroit); Chef AC Boral of RICE & SHINE and Naks Tacos (Long Beach, CA); and Chef Sharwin Tee of “Curiosity Got The Chef” on Lifestyle TV (Manila, Philippines).

Tickets to Kultura can be purchased online at Student and senior pricing available. Children under 5 years of age are free. Carefully curated to appeal to those who personally identify with Filipino culture and the curious or uninitiated, Kultura Festival aims to reintroduce Filipino cuisine to Chicago and the Midwest. More information can be found at


ABC 7 Chicago: $100 Donut Made with Gold Dust, Cristal to be Featured at Filipino Food Festival


CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Cristal Golden Ube Donut, a $100 donut made with gold dust and Cristal champagne, will be featured at Sunday's Kultura Fest - a Filipino American food and arts festival in Chicago.

The donut, a specialty of the Manila Social Club restaurant in New York City, is also made with ube, a naturally purple sweet yam found in the Philippines.

The Golden Donut is filled with an ube mousse and a Cristal gelée, covered in a Cristal icing, dusted with 24-carat gold dust and hand-gilded with 24K gold leaf.

Each donut is handmade by Bjorn DelaCruz, Manila Social Club's executive chef. They will also offer a donut bar of ube, gin-calamansi and buko pandan donuts.

A limited number of Golden Cristal Donuts can be pre-ordered and picked up at the festival.

Pre-orders can also be made for pickup on Monday. No same-day sales will be made.

Kultura will be held Sunday at Emporium Logan Square, 2363 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Pre-order donuts here:

Purchase tickets to Kultura here:

DNAInfo Chicago: Chicago To Get Taste Of $100 Doughnut Made With Cristal And Gold Leaf

Chicago To Get Taste Of $100 Doughnut Made With Cristal And Gold Leaf

LOGAN SQUARE — Over-the-top pastry alert: an ube doughnut made with a quarter-cup’s worth of Cristal champagne and coated in 24-karat gold leaf is coming to town.

Manila Social Club, the Brooklyn restaurant that makes the already-hyped Golden Cristal Ube Donut, plans to sell a limited number of them at Kultura Festival on Sunday at Emporium Arcade Bar, 2363 N. Milwaukee Ave.

One doughnut costs $100.

The only way to guarantee you’ll get one is if you pre-order on the restaurant’s website.

None of the sparkling gold confections will be sold on-site, though Manila Social Club chef Bjorn DelaCruz will have three other, more wallet-friendly doughnuts on offer — plain ube, gin-calamansi and buko pandan — for $3 each, no pre-ordering necessary. (You also can order the special doughnut for Monday pickup at a Chicago location to be determined.)

There’s no per-person limit on orders for the Golden Donut, which underneath all that gold is a deep purple thanks to ube, a purple yam. DelaCruz fills each doughnut with ube mousse and a jelly made from Cristal, before coating it in Cristal icing and applying the gold leaf.

The gold "doesn't add anything to the flavor," DelaCruz told Forbes. You’ll taste the Cristal, though.

It’s the second year for Kultura Festival, a celebration of Filipino-American food and arts that brings together local and out-of-town chefs.

Chrissy Camba of Maddy’s Dumpling House, Kristine Subido of Pecking Order Catering and Rampelle Aguilar of Oxtail Filipino Inspired are among the Chicago participants. Visiting chefs include Dorothy Hernandez of Sarap Detroit, and AC Boral of the pop-ups Rice and Shine and Naks Tacos in Long Beach, California.

Last year’s event drew 1,076 people, more than double what organizer Sarahlynn Pablo of the website Filipino Kitchen had expected. Pablo has booked Surf Bar, next door to Emporium Arcade, for more space this year.

There’s more happening, including workshops on Filipino martial arts and the ancient Filipino script called bayinbayin; a balut-eating contest (the Filipino delicacy is a duck egg containing the almost-fully-formed embryo); and an adobo contest for home cooks.

The festival is 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are $20, with discounts for seniors, students and kids. You can pay at the door but advance ticket-holders get priority access into the festival, Pablo said.

WGN Radio: Chef AC Boral Brings His Brand of Filipino Flavor to Kultura Festival!

Chef AC Boral Brings His Brand of Filipino Flavor to Kultura Festival!

Chef AC Boral joins Dane Neal to share the passion and pride in Filipino cuisine and culture. Hear as AC talks about the history behind the flavors and the bright future of the food as it takes center stage at this years Kultura Festival.

For more info on Kultura Festival including the Chefs and Artists participating from around the World go to:

Listen to the interview