about the chefs
Chef Alvin Cailan’s career began with a French classical culinary education followed by grueling stints at Matthew Lightner’s Castagna, Elias Cairo’s Olympic Provisions, and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and French Laundry. In 2011, he launched the Eggslut food truck in Los Angeles. Its overwhelming popularity prompted him to open Eggslut as a phenomenally successful brick and mortar at Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market. It is now The Most Instagrammed Restaurant in America. Sister restaurants in Venice Beach, the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas and the Brand in Glendale, California followed.
2014’s Rising Star Chef then turned his attention to his true passion: supporting aspiring restaurateurs and the promotion of the Filipino food movement. Within its first year, Unit 120, Chef Alvin’s pop-up kitchen space became the incubator for Amboy, his critically acclaimed Filipino Food venture along with the award-winning Filipino restaurant LASA. In 2016 alone, Unit 120 launched three of LA Weekly and Los Angeles Magazine’s Top Ten Restaurants of the Year, including Howlin’ Rays, Here’s Looking at You, and 71 and Above. Alvin has been featured as the ambassador for modern Filipino Cuisines in prestigious publications like Bon Appetit, Sunset Magazine, New York Times, Saveur, Food and Wine, and Bloomberg.
Chef Alvin Cailan’s reputation as a culinary trailblazer has prompted Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer prize-winning Godfather of Food Critics to crown him, “The King of LA.”
Nicole Ponseca & Miguel Trinidad Maharlika, Jeepney, Tita Baby’s
A native of San Diego, Nicole Ponseca moved to New York City to pursue a career in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi. Miguel Trinidad was born in a cab in New York City, attended culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education and upon graduation, rose quickly to become executive chef at the Soho hotspot Lola. Along with fellow Lola alum Enzo Lim, Ponseca and Trinidad opened Maharlika in New York City’s East Village in 2011 and Jeepney in 2012. The success of Maharlika pushed Ponseca and Trinidad to the forefront of Filipino cuisine in New York, garnering rave reviews from The New York Times and the Huffington Post. Jeepney would go on to receive a two-star review from Pete Wells and win TimeOut New York’s “Battle of the Burger” in 2014.
Ponseca is also a motivational speaker for young Filipino adults and an active fundraiser for charities in the Philippines. She represented Filipino American leaders during the Obama administration. Trinidad has been featured on Cooking Channel, Food Network, NBC, and Fox, as well as on ABS-CBN and GMA Network, both in the Philippines.
Romy Dorotan & Amy Besa
Amy Besa and her husband, Chef Romy Dorotan, have been in the restaurant business in New York City for over 20 years. They opened Cendrillon, a Filipino pan-Asian restaurant in SoHo in Manhattan in 1995, to a two-star review in the New York Times. After 13 years, they closed Cendrillon and opened Purple Yam in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn in November 2009. Purple Yam Malate, their first branch in the Philippines, opened on July 4, 2014 in Amy’s childhood home in one of the oldest historical districts of Manila.
Amy and Chef Romy are co-authors of the award-winning cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens (2006, Stewart, Tabori and Chang, NYC). The book received the Jane Grigson Award for distinguished scholarship and research and the quality of its writing by the International Association of Culinary Professionals in Chicago in 2007.
Johneric Concordia & Christine Araquel-Concordia — The park’s finest
The Concordia Family has been mastering the art of BBQ for generations. "Big Tony" Concordia experimented with cane and pineapple, simmered with soy sauce, peppers, and spices to create a flavor that appealed to his Filipino palette. This established a recipe for the sauce that has been passed on to his sons and grandchildren. Big Tony's third son, Chef Johneric, has taken this service on the road with the very same team of families he grew up with in Echo Park. Along with his wife, Christine Araquel-Concordia, Johneric and the Bautistas, the Pajimulas and the Araquels have been instrumental in developing the recipes that are served on The Park's Finest menu today.
For years, The Park’s Finest held the top spot as the #1 highest rated restaurant on Yelp in all of Los Angeles. The restaurant has been featured on the Food Network, and in various publications, including LA Weekly, EaterLA, Grub Street and more.
Charles Olalia is an award-winning chef, who rose to prominence as the executive chef of Patina in Los Angeles after a storied career in Michelin-starred establishments, including Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas, The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Coi in San Francisco. In 2015, Olalia left fine dining to open up the critically acclaimed Ricebar. Growing up in his native Philippines, rice served as a daily staple for Olalia. Today, chef Olalia is reinventing the rice bowl, escorting diners to Filipino cuisine with a barrage of addictive flavors. Ricebar has been named one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants of 2016, and has been lauded as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, TimeOut, GQ and more.
Chase Valencia & Chad Valencia
LASA, Los angeles
LASA was founded by Filipino-American brothers, Chef Chad Valencia and Chase Valencia. Both brothers have worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade. Chase worked at Wolfgang Puck Catering, where he was a Catering Sales & Operations Manager, Food & Beverage Controller, and Restaurant Manager for WPC accounts at LA Live, Sony Pictures Studios and Beats by Dre Headquarters. Chad Valencia worked at Corrina Weibel's Canele, and Brett Emerson's seasonal Spanish neighborhood restaurant, Contigo, in San Francisco. Both worked at Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl, in Los Angeles.
In 2013, LASA began as a series of intimate backyard dinners. During the following two years, LASA moved to extremely popular restaurant pop-ups at the Highland Cafe in Highland Park and at the Elysian in Frogtown. In 2016, they caught the attention of Chef Alvin Cailan of Eggslut. Cailan offered the Valencia brothers a weekend residency at his Chinatown culinary incubator, Unit 120, at the Far East Plaza. After a successful year of operating 4 nights a week at Unit 120, in 2017, LASA took over the culinary incubator space to make it as their permanent home.
In 2017, after being open for less than a year, LASA skyrocketed to debut at #18 on the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold’s annual list of the 101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles. Recently, Forbes ranked LASA as one of the Top 10 Coolest Places to Eat in 2018. LASA is now Food and Wine’s Best Restaurant of 2018.
Andre Guerrero — The Oinkster, Maximiliano, The Little Bear
Chef Andre Guerrero was born in the Philippines, and has been a chef and restaurateur in Los Angeles for over 30 years. He opened the award-winning fine dining restaurant MAX in Sherman Oaks, where he introduced Filipino lumpia on the menu. MAX received Excellent ratings in the Michelin guide, Zagat and Best Restaurant of the year for City Search and LA Magazine.
Chef Andre then opened Señor Fred, an equally successful eatery that helped cement upscale ethnic cuisine as one of Los Angeles’ dining trends. Always savouring reinvention, Chef Andre charted a course for new culinary territory. The result was The Oinkster, a local favourite for classic American fare and the home of the original, annual Burger Week Competition. At The Oinkster, he also introduced the “ube shake,” a Filipino-inspired milkshake served alongside American burgers. In 2011, Chef Guerrero opened Maximiliano, a neighbourhood Italian restaurant in Highland Park. Then, he followed with Little Bear, an arts district cafe pouring Belgian style imported and domestic beer, with a kitchen showcasing Belgian food favourites.
Today, he successfully runs The Oinkster, Maximiliano and Little Bear. He is a mentor to The Park’s Finest, and many other chefs in the Los Angeles dining scene.