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Filipino Food Steps Into the Spotlight in San Diego

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The flavorful cuisine takes center stage at a local event

Deemed “the next big thing” by Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, Filipino food is having its moment in many of the country’s top culinary cities. In San Diego, home to the second largest Filipino-American community in the U.S, there have long-existed traditional eateries and point-point joints mostly concentrated in National City and a few other local neighborhoods, but fans of Filipino flavors are still waiting for the cuisine to cross over and find a wider audience.

The future of Filipino food was on full display last night at the San Diego Natural History Museum, where Pacific Arts Movement held a screening of documentary called Ulam: Main Dish as part of the 8th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF). The first feature film about Filipino cuisine, Ulam highlights Filipino and Filipino-American chefs and restaurant owners who are currently making headlines in national food media.

The modern Filipino food movement has been simmering in San Diego for some time, with collaboration dinners and other events showcasing the cuisine. It’s estimated that there are upwards of 25 chefs of Filipino descent in lead roles in local kitchens; participating chefs at last night’s event included head chefs at George’s at the Cove, Born & Raised, Bivouac Cider, Supernatural Sandwiches, and more who cooked a traditional kamayan-style dinner featuring interpretations of classic Filipino dishes for a sell-out crowd of 300 diners. And we’re hearing that some new projects based on Filipino food might be in the pipeline.

A fresh wave of Filipino eateries in San Diego might include an offering from one of the stars of Ulam, Nicole Ponseca, who was in attendance at last night’s event. The owner of two modern Filipino restaurants in Manhattan, Ponseca is opening a third eatery in Brooklyn and has a cookbook coming out this fall. A native San Diegan and former advertising executive, she tells Eater that Filipino food and other Asian cuisines from immigrant cultures just might be what finally brings the city some long-awaited acclaim within the larger food landscape and says that she hopes to return to San Diego to be a part of it.

Craig Jimenez (Supernatural Sandwiches)
Mike Arquines (The Lab Dining Sessions)
Marcus Twilegar (Parq), Jon Bautista (George’s at the Cove), Phil Esteban (Consortium Holdings)
Jayrell Ringpis (Snoice)
Tara Monsod (Tender Greens)
Marlaw Seraspi (Open House)
Danilo “DJ” Tangalin, Jr. (Bivouac Ciderworks)
Kristianna Zabala (Nomad Donuts), Evan Cruz (Arterra)