Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month By Supporting These San Diego Chefs

While San Diego is home to the fifth-largest representation of Filipino Americans in the US, comprising around 6% of the entire county’s population, few outside the Filipino community are aware of the nuances and depth of the specific Southeast Asian cuisine.

However, an ambitious cohort of local Filipino American chefs, including Tara Monsod of Animae, Phillip Esteban of White Rice, and Justin Gaspar of Hommage Bakehouse, are bringing their heritage to the forefront of San Diego’s culinary scene through flavors and experiences that encompass their roots. As AAPI Heritage Month approaches in May, these are some of the local chefs to support, celebrate and learn from.

Tara Monsod Executive Chef at Animae

Chef Tara Monsod of Animae

For chefs, food is often a personal reflection and Animae’s Chef Tara Monsod is no exception. Her eclectic menu, stacked with elevated Filipino dishes and an unparalleled Wagyu steak program, offers guests a front row seat to experience culinary memories from her childhood reimagined through a heightened level of refinement.

San Diego’s Filipino community has wholeheartedly accepted the invitation, flocking to the restaurant to enjoy familiar flavors made by a chef who cuts no corners and relishing in the display of Filipino food against the backdrop of an award-winning luxurious restaurant space.

Tuna Kinilaw for AAPI Heritage Month

In menu mainstays such as the Tuna Kinilaw, with coconut, calamansi, and cilantro chili oil and Short Rib Kare Kare with green beans, eggplant, and bagoong peanut oil, Chef Monsod draws on themes from traditional Filipino dishes while playing with techniques from cuisines across Asia while taking advantage of Southern California’s bounty of fresh produce and high-quality proteins.

Batangas Kaldereta for AAPI Heritage Month

New seasonal dishes like the Crispy Pig Ear with sweet tamarind glaze, bean sprout, tofu, and peanut; and Batangas Kaldereta with breaded beef tongue, potato puree, and mushroom relish are a continuation of her vision of presenting traditional Filipino ingredients in a luxe fine-dining steakhouse environment.

Phillip Esteban, Founder and Chef at White Rice (various locations)

Chef Phillip Esteban

Since opening White Rice in Liberty Station in 2021, award-winning chef Phillip Esteban has brought much-deserved local and national attention to Filipino cuisine throughout his signature savory rice bowls, or “silog.” Coming off the success of his first location, he expanded his concept last fall with the first standalone outpost: White Rice Bodega in Normal Heights, which offers the same diverse array of rice bowls as well as beer and wine.

Filipino rice bowl

In celebration of the 2 year anniversary of his first location’s opening and just in time for AAPI Heritage Month, Esteban is bringing fresh flavors in the form of a fully revamped menu at White Rice Liberty Station and White Rice Bodega. The updated menu is heavily influenced by Esteban’s childhood memories, cultural identity as a Filipino American, and the natural maturation of his various restaurant concepts.

White Rice joins AAPI Heritage Month

Diners can explore offerings such as the smoked Cabbage with patis (Filipino fish sauce), caesar dressing, grated hazelnut, aged cheese crumbles and fresh herbs; Laing with grilled sunchokes, spicy coconut laing sauce, salsa verde, pepitas and fresh herbs; and the XO Sweet Chili with glazed wild prawns roasted on a spit, salted yogurt, and fresh lemon.

Esteban’s number of restaurant concepts continues to grow with another White Rice location in  Linda Vista set to open in June and the much-anticipated Wildflour Delicatessen in Liberty Station scheduled for a summer debut.

Justin Gaspar, Owner and Head Baker Hommage Bakehouse

Justin Gaspar

As a proud HAPA (half-Filipino) entrepreneur, Justin Gaspar and his team at Hommage Bakehouse are behind some of San Diego’s most well-known and loved pastries, artisan breads and expertly laminated croissants.

While focused on staying true to the historical spirit of bread making, Gaspar experiments with traditional Filipino flavors and ingredients, and at the same time, shares a little piece of his culture with all those who know and love Hommage. In turn, Gaspar’s baked goods have developed a devoted following, with Southern Californians seeking out the pastries in the city’s top cafes, restaurants and farmers markets as well as Hommage’s storefront in Sorrento Valley.

AAPI Heritage Month

Connecting with Philip Esteban through their shared Filipino heritage, Hommage frequently holds special pop-ups at Esteban’s White Rice Bodega where the Filipino ube bibingka and calamansi custard buns sell out consistently. With their sights set on opening their flagship storefront in Mission Valley this summer, Gaspar hopes for these fan favorite pastries to become a mainstay on Hommage’s menu, alongside an ever-changing array of goods utilizing the freshest in-season ingredients crafted by Gaspar and his tight knit group of bakers—all of which are encouraged to utilize creative freedom to incorporate flavors from their upbringing and culture into their offerings.

Well Fed x Animae Dinner For AAPI Month

On Tuesday, May 23, join us for a 5-course family style dinner with Executive Chef Tara Monsod of Animae and Chef-Owner Phillip Esteban of Well Fed. In celebration of AAPI Month, these two chefs have joined forces to share their unique stories. Their menu will transport diners on a journey of untold flavors and possibilities, showcasing cultural influences that go beyond traditional boundaries. The dinner will be served family/shared style with other guests. Cocktails and wine will be available for purchase at cash bar. Ticket includes gratuity and tax.

For more details and to purchase tickets, click here.

See you there

Tara Munsod, Phillip Esteban, and Justin Gaspar are among the many talented Filipino-American chefs who are making their mark on the culinary world, blending traditional Filipino flavors and techniques with modern innovation. By supporting these chefs and others like them, we not only get to savor delicious food, but also honor the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the AAPI community.

Let’s continue to uplift and celebrate the voices and talents of AAPI individuals throughout this month and beyond.

See you there, San Diego!

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