Updated: Sep 15, 2022
For What's Cooking Atlanta
A Blog Docomenting the Rise of Filipino Food in Atlanta
By Hope Webb
On March 25, 2002 I was just 22 years old, living alone and working at The Bank of New York. The episode of Fear Factor aired and Balut made its debut as the cringeworthy staple food of the Philippines. The message was clear, civilized people should only consume Balut if they are dared to, blind-folded, with a chance to win $50,000. After that every American was programmed to ask every Filipino they ever encountered for the rest of their lives the unoriginal, stereotypical and very predictable question, “Do you eat Balut?”. If my eyes weren’t attached they would roll right out of my head onto the ground and into the beyond.
Since becoming more grounded in Atlanta’s Filipino Food scene, I’ve made it my mission to trace back the Filipino Food Movement here in Atlanta. I’ve heard about Fil-Am in Asian Square, the place in Virginia Highlands next to Yeah Burger, Barrio Fiesta, Janet’s Kitchen, and Andrew Bantug’s sold out Kamayan dinners at Upper Room in 2015. I’m finding the more that I dig into the history of Filipino Food here the more I have to go back to those moments in time when Filipino Food was first exposed to the American masses. A time when impressions good or bad were made to the American consumer and then do some detective work to pinpoint exactly when there was a shift in social acceptance.
In 2007, Episode 3 of Andrew Zimmer’s first season of Bizarre Foods aired, he picked and probed at Balut making certain to reinforce for the viewers at home that “all Filipinos eat this.” He called the embryonic fluid (that we describe as tasting like chicken soup) as the “funkiest” part of the whole experience. I can’t help but to roll my eyes (out of my head… again) at this poorly orchestrated pixelated episode that may as well be from the 70’s. The juice is really the funkiest part Andrew? Really? He certainly did change his tune 5 years later when he declared Filipino food “the next big food trend in America”. only after Anthony Bourdain toured and tasted his way through the foodscape of the Philippines in a more graceful, grateful, poetic, empathetic, and down to earth way leaving the world curious not crude as Zimmer had left it in 2007.
Anthony Bourdain’s was such pioneer and a steward of the hospitality industry who brought culinary and cultural awareness around the globe into our homes. Contrary to Andrew Zimmer’s food tours of shock and awe and a far cry from Joe Rogan’s mutually degrading Fear Factor. He shed more light and understanding on our culture and cuisine than any past food show celebrity. The love story between Bourdain and the Philippines began in 2009 with Season 5 Episode 7 of “No Reservations”. After all the press junkets surrounding that series and leading up to his return to the Philippines in 2016 for his 7th Season premiere of Parts Unknown, I would argue that Anthony Bourdain single-handedly shifted the worlds perspective on Filipino food and it only took him the better part of a decade to do it. Thank you Tony you are sorely missed but your spirit lives on in the #filipinofoodmovement
Remember, 2012 was a very important year in the history of Filipino Food in Atlanta. It was the year Sarap Atlanta and Eggrollin ATL made their debuts on the pop-up food scene. Shortly after Claire’s Kitchen was off to the races. They still hold it down to this day. These details are very important to our present day footing and the space we hold in the food blogger Mecca that is the Atlanta’s abundant food scene. Had it not been for those before us where would we be? Certainly not where we are. The butterfly effect in this case sent ripples into the universe and created the perfect storm. I’m just happy to be here. Mabuhay!
Holding Down the Filipino Pop-up food scene at Amano in Old Fourth Ward
Estrellita is now open 6 days a week
New on the #filipinofoodmovement scene
A New Filipinx Artist Collective
Hosting Adobo Tastings for the Win🏆