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Filipino cuisine is in the spotlight, but don't call it a trend

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the restaurant business, recognition from the James Beard Foundation is on par with winning an Oscar. And last night a number of chefs were floored to receive a James Beard Award.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM FLORES: I never thought that I'd be cooking Filipino food until we opened Kasama, and...

(APPLAUSE)

FLORES: To be recognized for cooking my mom's food is insane.

SHAPIRO: Tim Flores and his wife and business partner Genie Kwon won for best chef in the Great Lakes region. They run a modern Filipino restaurant in Chicago called Kasama.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And they were among five nominations for Filipino Americans this year. Filipino chefs or restaurants were also nominated in places including Seattle, Oakland, Calif., and Asheville, N.C. And Margarita Manzke of Republique in Los Angeles finally won after eight years of being nominated for outstanding pastry chef or baker.

SHAPIRO: It was a formidable showing for Filipinos on a big stage, though Filipino foodies have heard that before.

GENEVIEVE VILLAMORA: It seems in American food culture, there's this relentless drive for always looking for the new, hot thing. And it's one thing if it's just, like, a specific item like cronuts, but it's another thing when it's, like, a cuisine that's attached to people and history.

SHAPIRO: Genevieve Villamora helped judge the James Beard Awards for media this year. We should note her husband works for NPR, and she's a friend of mine. She was also an owner of the late Filipino restaurant Bad Saint, whose chef won a James Beard Award for best chef in 2019.

VILLAMORA: It's like, the next new thing, the next new thing. We've been the next new thing for, like, over 20 years, you know? And then it's, like, also that feeling of, like, when do we just get to be part of the American culinary landscape?

KELLY: That said, Villamora says lately the James Beard Foundation has been trying to better reflect the real diversity of American cuisine. And she's excited to see more Filipino American chefs serving Filipino cuisine.

VILLAMORA: A younger generation of Filipino Americans in the restaurant industry is having more confidence to have their restaurant be a Filipino restaurant instead of, like, a French bistro or, like, a pasta-wine bar.

KELLY: Restaurateurs like Tim Flores of Kasama.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FLORES: My parents are in the Philippines right now on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut while I stand on this stage on the verge of [expletive] my pants.

KELLY: As of last night, his mom's food is now recognized as just very good food.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BLACK KEYS SONG, "SO HE WON'T BREAK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Lim
[Copyright 2024 NPR]