NBC continues to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by highlighting two brothers with Filipino roots earning national attention and making local waves with Lasa Restaurant in the heart of LA's Chinatown.
Chad Valencia and and Chase Valencia work as a team at Lasa Restaurant, with Chase managing the front, while Chad is the genius in the back.
Chase says, "Us being Angelinos, [it is] our take on our cuisine."
He adds, "We took the food that we grew up eating, applying ideas and techniques that we learned and obtained growing up in California kitchens to make the experience uniquely our own."
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The menu at Lasa Restaurant is unlike any other because it is inspired by the family's heritage and also incorporates the brothers' California upbringing in a deliciously unique manner. Effectively and deliciously, the brothers make typically Filipino dishes with traditionally California ingredients and tastes.
Chad, the creative genius in the kitchen, explains, "Even if it's something interesting and new and slightly progressive, we definitely try really hard to make sure the flavors are nostalgic and relatable to those that have had Filipino food."
Food has a special way of connecting people. Just one bite can have enough power to bring back memories of a time and a place, and Lasa Restaurant actively seeks to represent the Filipino American experience.
"(Our parents) took the biggest risk to give us the most opportunity when they immigrated to the states," Chase shares why jumping into the restaurant business was not necessarily a welcome move. "So, for us to take a career path that's even more risk like a restaurant, there's going to be a lot of doubt and higher risk, and for us, that was also part of the challenge and also kept that fire going."
What started as small backyard pop-up dinners in 2013 gained momentum, and in 2017, they established their own brick and mortar restaurant in Chinatown's Far East Plaza.
"We made this out of nothing," Chase says with pride.
The pride is warranted, as Lasa Restaurant has been featured in national media and earned the praise of LA's most recognizable food critics. Food and Wine Magazine even chose Lasa Restaurant as its "2018 Restaurant of the Year."
"We're one of the largest ethnic communities here in Los Angeles," Chase beams about LA's Filipino American community. "Seeing the acceptance from critics or the press and overall people, Angelinos, it's really an exciting time."
Chad adds, "Filipino food is just finally kind of getting the attention it deserves."
In Los Angeles, that attention to Filipino cuisine now includes the Valencia brothers, who are cognoscente of the fact that the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands and seemingly just as many cooking styles. So, some of the biggest critics end up coming from their own community.
"I'm not your lola. I'm not your tita. I'm not your mom," Chad says to emphasize that they are providing their own take on the food of their ancestors. "We love what we do. We're the generation that are embracing their identity."
He adds, "We're here and we're proud."