A Filipino restaurant in Chicago has earned its first prestigious Michelin star.
Kasama has made Filipino culinary history as it was named the world’s First Michelin-starred Filipino restaurant. It’s a modern Filipino restaurant in East Ukrainian Village in Chicago, Illinois. It has achieved its one-Michelin star status this April 2022.
The restaurant is owned by chefs Timothy “Tim” Flores and his wife Genie Kwon. Chef Tim grew up in Chicago but his mother’s roots hail from Imus, Cavite. His wife, Genie is Korean but was born in New Orleans.
“Kasama” or in English “together” or “partner” symbolizes the Filipinos’ love for coming together or being with others. According to the owners, Kasama meant working together and combining their ideas in running their business.
Chef Tim shared on Michelin, “We named the restaurant Kasama because, apart from myself and my wife Genie [Kwon] combining forces into running this restaurant, we also combined the concepts we wanted to do.”
“We wanted to do Filipino food, and she wanted to do French pastries. And so Kasama, meaning ‘together’ in Tagalog, made sense for us. It was just fitting, and it made so much sense to use the word,” he explained.
According to the Pinoy chef, one of the keys to the success of their restaurant is how he is able to work well with his partner. Like any couple, they have arguments but they don’t let them get in the way of their business and personal lives.
“We try to make each other better. And even if we get into an argument at work, we leave it here at the end of the day. You have to be able to leave it behind, especially for us because we’re partners both inside and outside of work,” Chef Tim said.
Being recognized as the world’s first MICHELIN-Starred Filipino restaurant was truly overwhelming for the couple. According to chef Genie, they were truly thrilled and it was a great reward for all their hard work for the past 2 years.
She said, “We felt a lot of pride and relief. And we can start to think about something beyond the day-to-day. For the last two years, it’s been one day at a time. I feel like it just gave us hope to think more towards the future. We’re just so happy that our team was recognized for all the hard work they’ve done.”
Meanwhile, chef Tim is confident that their success is only the beginning of Filipino cuisine. He said Filipino food deserves so much recognition and their achievement is just the start. He already noticed the rise of many Pinoy chefs and even international chefs doing their own versions of Pinoy foods.
“And I believe that now, the rise of Filipino food is really beginning. You’re seeing a lot of chefs across the United States and all over the world just doing modern takes on some Filipino dish. I believe it’s an outcome of the generation,” he said.
This must be true because a Filipina introduced the Pinoy sorbetes in Belgium and it became a big hit. Another Pinoy sold streetfoods like isaw in New York and he earns over P800,000 in a month.
Among the Pinoy favorites included in Kasama’s menu are adobo, kare-kare, banana-Cue, halo-halo, ube basque cake, bistek & eggs, and many others, all given a modern twist.