Reaction on Filipino Food: Off the menu article in LA Times

LA Times published an article last February 25, 2010 entitled Filipino food: Off the menu. This was written by Amy Scattergood. Basically, the article is pointing-out an apparent truth about the absence of Filipino dishes in acclaimed restaurants in L.A.

The author named some celebrated Filipino chefs in L.A – a few owns and manages fine dining restaurants while others are famed chefs and sous chefs. Most of them grew up eating Filipino foods but Filipino dishes can nowhere be found in their restaurant’s menu. In addition, the article mentioned something about “a distinct line” between the private and professional kitchens of these chefs. Filipino dishes are only cooked at the chef’s home kitchens and close to never in their restaurants.

I think that the article is informative. The author did a nice job in presenting the current state of Filipino dishes in the mainstream perspective. However, there are still some questions left unanswered and there are answers that need further elaboration.

The classic question “Are we there yet?” can sometimes be compared to the attitude of some Filipinos. We always ask but we never act. Instead of asking that question, why don’t we instead ask this: “What should we do in order for us to get there?” I believe that these people have the answer.

Here are some quotes from the article telling us why Filipino dishes haven’t made it in the limelight yet, based on the opinion of the experts:

“But how does it fit into what we do? It really doesn’t.”

“The food is so regional, we don’t have one unifying dish,”

“Visually, it’s not very appealing. It’s stewed and brown and oily and fried.”

“It’s probably one of the least understood cuisines,”

These quotes may sound negative to some readers – but I am taking them positively. You see – a problem can only be solved if the cause is properly identified. The quotes above represent some of the causes; all we need to do now is to find ways to address them.

This article will be more informational if the author went the extra mile by gathering possible insights as to how these issues can be addressed.

In your opinion, what should we do in order for Filipino dishes to be recognized globally?

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Comments

  1. Call me corny, but it starts with self-love: recognizing and lifting up the cuisine, whether its in the home, the mom-and-pop, or at a white tablecloth restaurant. This means not looking first for affirmation by the “mainstream.” It means not dumbing down ingredients and names, but cooking up Filipino flavors with integrity.

    Yes, some Filipino food is stewed and brown (and tasty good). There’s plenty dishes in global cuisines (ie, Sicilian) that are also stewed and brown and lauded in the pages of Saveur. There’s so many bright and delicate dishes obscured by the lechon – from kinilaw to lumpiang sariwa to binakol. Regionalism? That’s something to be proud of. Ingredients from various cultures? That’s true the world over. Are these issues, or are they strengths?

    I’m proud of Pin@y chefs doing their thing, but I’d disagree its up to any “experts” to tell folks what to do. We all need to eat, so we’re all experts in food. We all can play a role in shifting the public attitude.

  2. Albert says:

    After 17 years of running a fast-food sandwich franchise, I’ve been asked countless times by lots of people, including Filipinos, why I decided on an American sandwich franchise instead of a Filipino restaurant. The simple answer I’ve stood on, and still hold on to today, is that we Filipinos are such great cooks and culturally love serving and enjoying our cuisine with our family (note that the average Filipino family in the US will still sit down and eat dinner together). This in turn affects our buying habit. Filipinos do not eat out as much as the average American does. There in lies the problem. While we would like to present Filipino food as an equally great cuisine, we do not support the Filipino restaurateur.
    I was disheartened to know that this Filipino restaurant in St. Louis closed because they never really got enough Filipinos to support them. The restaurants in Virginia Beach are stuck in doing cafeteria style cuisine.
    I say, if there is a demand for white-table Filipino cuisine, we as Filipinos should be the first to support it, but yet, we’re also the first one to criticize it as being too expensive or too fancy.
    So, while I had thoughts of actually making the best adobo ever in the first white table cloth Pinoy restaurant in Virginia Beach, Tito Andoy or Tita Celia always will make one cheaper and more enticing because they bring family to the table as we Filipinos are known for. So, when you have four or more people eating, you decide to just stay home and cook. And, keep the Filipino cuisine for invitation only.

  3. I lived in LA I think the problem is the pinoy restaurant here is a ripped off like Jenn Batra said they charge so expensive yet the food portioning is so small if they want to to compete they should at at least make the food portioning big like the chinese restaurants with one serving 4 people could eat, I could even buy a $1.00 dumpling in the San Gabriel CA.
    Another thing the quality of the food they serve esp. in some pinoy resto in west covina area its like a left over from yesterday. The red ribbon in walnut grove and west covina their palabok is small and expensive same with the max fried chicken in Puente Hills mall CA the chicken is so small & expensive Id rather buy a roasted chicken in Walmart and will only cost me $5.99
    They are here in the U.S. not in the philippines they should at least adapt the american portioning.
    In where I lived (Valley San Gabriel CA) Im close to a lot of restaurant all I can see is chinese, vietnamese, korean, Thai, Indian, Italian & of course american, pinoy food is nowhere to be found, pinoy resto here is located only where the pinoy lives it means they only caters to pinoys and not with other nationality.

  4. I am one of the organizers of the Filipino-Canadian group here in our city and 3x a year we have this what we call “Taste of the Philippines” we sell Filipino Foods and mind you a lot of Canadians flock to this event. They loved our foods. Another event the Heritage Day, we do the same thing with the display of Philippine products and presentation of dances and sometimes songs – these promote our cultures, foods and history. I know here in Canada all over the different cities and provinces, they do the same. But you are right that we need more promotions from the Filipino Chef itself and maybe more Filipino restaurants will help. I thank chef Ronn who just posted in this blog for doing this. Attention to all CHEF there, its time to shine isn’t that’s what the station ID of ABS-CBN is all about – Filipinos will shine all over the world and this is one way of doing that.

  5. As a Chef..and working with/ (feeding them as well )various natinalities worldwide…filipino Dishes are really authentic and very tasteful. We need not really have to be in the top most 10 list but…for them to savour these dishes of ours is magical (to them and) us (Chefs/Cook) as the person who execute them.

    I always get “nods” with my clients/custumer… it doesnt really need extravagant presentation…as most Filipinos are …because they are already there, just like a star, shining.

    A special “Asian Night” that features all/most authentic Philippines dishes could do the trick. I did this sceme… when it’s Friday… it should be… Filipino Day, and it was a success. From Breakfast- Coffee Break/Lunch& Dinner. All I got…? is “Lovely”…and the widest smiles.

    And that always makes my day….

    regards….

    • Rheena says:

      I’m so proud of you Ronn! I really think you’re doing a great job! If all the other Filipino Chefs would do the same I’m pretty sure our cuisines will soon be ‘on the menu’!

      As for me, though I’m not a chef… (maybe pretending to be one, hahaha), I see to it that my friends from other nationalities have a taste of our Filipino dishes. At times it is they who ask that I cook for them. As always, they are enjoying it.

      Cheers to you Ronn and to all the other Filipinos who are proud of Panlasang Pinoy!

    • joanna says:

      sooooo true Ron!! we need not to be on the top for us to appreciate coz were already there… :D

  6. just bring it out there and let the people judge….Although honestly, most filipino food is a revision andor patterned from dishes all over the world. kinda’ a “borrowed” recipe. it always tastes somewhat like chinese food, indian food, indonesian food, spanish food, etc. We are a mixed race and we cant escape this fact. This may have greatly influenced our food prep. and probably the reason why pinoy food is hard to bring out there and be claimed as ours.

    • jenn batra says:

      IM FILIPINO MY NAME IS JENN
      I JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW THAT IN MY EXPERIENCE (JERSEYCITY)I WENT THERE TO EAT ONE OF THE SMALL RESTAURANT.I NOTICE THAT THE FOOD IS NOT EVEN LABELED IF IM NOT A FILIPINO HOW WOULD I KNOW WHAT IT IS NO EXPLANATION ETC..I CANT ASK EVERYTIME I POINT IT OUT IT WILL BE ODD. AND ALSO I WAS IN ATLANTIC CITY I WENT TO THE FILIPINO RESTAURANT I FOUND OUT THAT IT WAS EXPENSIVE I UNDERSTAND IT WAS A FILIPINO DISH.BUT IT DOES’NT MEAN THAT TO RIP-OFF PEOPLE.I ONLY WENT THERE ONCE IS NOT THAT BEING CHEAP BUT STILL NOT EVERYBODY COULD AFFORD IT AND IT CLOSE EARLY ALSO.THE MAIN PROBLEM IS NOT OUR FOOD! WE NEVER OPEN A RESTAURANT BUFFET INEXPENSIVE LIKE CHINESE FOOD.WE COULD ALWAYS COMPETE WITH THE INDUSTRY.OUR FOOD IS COMBINATION OF SPANISH FOOD AND MEDITERIAN. THIS IS AMERICA PEOPLE DONT HAVE TIME TO COOK BECAUSE ALL THEIR TIME IS WORK AND FAMILY.BY THE TIME THEIR HOME (TIRED ALREADY). I HOPE YOU COULD UNDERSTAND OF MY POINT OF VIEW.

  7. If these Top LA Pinoy chefs and restaurant owners who have all the means would not have the courage and creativity to promote our own Filipino dishes then it will remain at it is, making excuses about identity, that Pinoy food is an appealing and 7,000 versions of adobo is not acceptable. I am definitely a Filipino my self not anything else, and will keep on promoting our own Filipino cuisine on my own little way.