* an excerpt from the interview with the Filipino Food Movement’s VP posted on April 21, 2016
Oct. 15,2016 is the return of Savor Filipino, the big Filipino food event launched by the Filipino Food Movement that woke national interest in 2014. This year’s theme is “buksan”, meaning to open – a call to the public to open their minds and their palates to various chef interpretations of Filipino dishes that will be offered at the event.To be held at The Overlook Lounge in Oakland, California, tickets are priced at $64 – $199.
We asked the co-founderand VP of the Filipino Food Movement what she considers as her accomplishments and frustrations as a Filipino food advocate. But first, a brief personal introduction: US born to Filipina mother, Joanne Boston-KwanHull, lives in Daly City, south of San Francisco. Filipinos makeup the biggest population in Daly City that this tongue-in-cheek, hyperbolic claim is often told:
“You know why it’s always foggy in Daly City, right? Because all the Filipinos turn on their rice cookers at the same time.”
Joanne presents herself as a 9 to 5 employee at a medical accounting firm in San Francisco and a 24/ 7 Filipino food advocate. She spearheaded projects, such as Project Adobo and kapaMEALya, and is the Vice President of The Filipino Food Movement (FFM), a non-profit, community-driven organization to help mainstream Filipino cuisine.
I quote from the FFM website, text that resonated with me and I’m sure would resonate with most Filipinos around the globe too:
“We believe that the story of our culture, and indeed ourselves, is programmed into the DNA of each ingredient, no matter where it is grown; each dish, no matter how it has evolved; and each cook, no matter where he or she may come from. “
MFB: As an advocate of Filipino food culture, what do you consider as your biggest achievement? Biggest frustration?
Sous Vide Pork Adobo with brocolli rabe & fried mushrooms by Chef Jerrick Figueroa at Pampalasa Restaurant in San Francisco.
JBK: I would have to say that Savor Filipino (the country’s first Filipino Festival) was our biggest achievement and frustration. It was a triumph because 30,000 people came to the event! This was the first Filipino food-focused event ever held in San Francisco. Being part of the steering team was a great learning experience. Again, it took a lot of hard work, lots of late meetings and sleepless nights. We noticed a lot of things before, during, and after the event:
1) Filipino chefs were eager to work with us during this event and they did not hesitate to collaborate with each other. This was great to see.
2) Patrons were saying that the prices were too high. It almost made me think that they did not believe value can be put into Filipino food. We had top-notch, nationally known chefs cooking dishes that can appear in a white table cloth restaurant. Yet, there is this ridiculous belief that Asian food – especially Filipino food – should be “cheap.” At this event, we had quality ingredients made by quality chefs. Nothing cheap about that.
3) There are still people who cannot let go of the fact that Filipino food is evolving before our very eyes. Filipino food is special to our chefs because it is so attached to their memories and families. They like to pay homage to a moment in time or even a person in their life through a dish that they fashioned themselves, but was motivated by a traditional Filipino dish. Old school believers do not like that. I highly doubt that the Filipino food from 2010 is the same as the dishes in 1910, 1810, 1710, and 1610. Sure the evolution came over a course of centuries, but now there is a fear that the integrity of the dishes we know and love will be lost if it is customized too much. That’s totally understandable, but we also have to understand that we can respect the traditional and give room for the contemporary at the same time. Change always comes with time.
MFB: What is your advice to the global Filipino diaspora who would like Philippine cuisine to be globally recognized?
JBK: Be present. Go to Filipino events. Go to family parties. Cook the food. Do anything that will potentially teach someone about the cuisine. Share it on a blog. Take photos. Teach a class. Cook a dish for your friends from a Filipino cookbook. We need to expose the food. All the while, we need to keep an open mind.
We shouldn’t judge someone else’s adobo or afritada because it will never be exactly as how you grew up with it. We shouldn’t write off anyone else’s dish just because it doesn’t look or taste like your mom’s. Enjoy it for what it is. If we constantly compare our standard to everyone else’s version, we will be disappointed majority of the time.
A lot of people tell me that because there is this competitive spirit in Filipinos, it will be naturally hard to impress each other. This is why people refuse to eat out and prefer to have Filipino food at home. If they choose to eat out, they’d rather eat Japanese, Italian, Indian, etc. This can be why there is a lack of restaurants.
MFB: What’s your goal in the next few years?
JBK: It may not be a goal that will be accomplished by me, but I hope that there is constant Filipino representation on mainstream television. I hope there will be a go-to figure that will educate the general public about the dishes. Another goal I have been holding is to open a Filipino culinary culture center somewhere in the Bay Area. I live in Daly City – one of the most Filipino-dense cities in the country. I would love to open one near there. It would be a place where we can have workshops, wine tastings, pop-up dinners, chef seminars, classes and so on. The sky’s the limit! My general goal is to have Filipino food recognized as a delicious cuisine that isn’t automatically linked to Fear Factor.
*Joanne Boston-KwanHull is one of the contributing authors of our upcoming book, My Food Beginnings – a collection of Filipino food memoirs.
The Filipino Food Movement on social media:
Facebook: The Filipino Food Movement
by Jacqueline Lauri of My Food Beginnings
Bringing people together through food and stories.