Leap and the Net Will Appear [Part Isa {1}: The New Filipino Kitchen]

Contributors at  The New Filipino Kitchens  book launch, September 2018

Contributors at The New Filipino Kitchens book launch, September 2018

The journey of Timpla has been a series of immense leaps taken—with the hope that nets will appear with each plunge. Thankfully, we have landed on nets in so many more ways than we could have ever imagined. From our first supper club held on October 20, 2015 to the book launch of an anthology we contributed to on September 27, 2018—we have been lucky and blessed for all the times the oceans have parted and allowed us to cross its mystical and uncertain waters.

Our first official leap was a “soft launch” of the supper club back in June 2015—a trial run for our friends of what we hoped Timpla would be. We conducted this dinner about 5 months after sitting together on a cold Saturday morning in a Safeway food court to write down our mission and vision for Timpla (read about our beginnings in our first blog). This soft launch became the basis for how we would continue to execute our future supper clubs. Dozens of unknown questions sped through our minds as we planned the event: how do we do the introduction; what should our pricing be; how much time will each course take; in what order do we want to present the dishes; what kind of music should we play; how should we dress? To our immense relief, we didn’t have to worry as much as we thought—both Filipino and non-Filipino friends LOVED the soft launch! The reactions we received assured us that our vision was clear, executed well, and we were encouraged to just be ourselves. Their positive feedback and constructive criticism helped us realize that maybe we can actually do this.

A few months later, we became involved with a Filipino-based event called NextDayBetter. As part of the planning committee, we worked with an amazing group to curate a speaker event featuring notable leaders in various industries. And of course, we were in charge of the food and beverage portion. We used this perfect opportunity to premiere Timpla to the public. Although we had never done a "real" event and were not confident in our abilities to cater for hundreds of people, we curiously took the leap to see if a net would appear. Our debut occurred during the opening session as guests entered. We presented a dish that highlighted our culinary style: squid ink qwek qwek with guajillo aioli and atchara—a modern take on classic Filipino street food. To our surprise and amazement, guests loved the dish—from the unique presentation of a hard-boiled egg encased in black squid ink batter to the playful combination of various flavors. They asked about our inspiration behind the dish, and we shared our story and what we do—or at least planned to do—with our supper clubs. We left the event with lots of connections and requests to “sign me up for the next one!” Little did they know, the next one was actually going to be first one.

With excitement rolled over from the NextDayBetter event, we felt like we were finally ready for our first official supper club. We executed a dinner for eight guests by corralling some attendees from the event as well as some who learned about us through social media. Although we were filled with nerves with the looming thought, “People actually paid for this!”—we tried to stay calm and remember the advice our friends had given us: you have an amazing product and a solid plan to execute this dinner; just be yourselves, tell your story, and the rest will be fine. As the doorbell began to ring and new faces appeared, we started by shakily introducing ourselves, presenting wine, and allowing the evening to flow as naturally as possible. The nerves soon faded away as enticing and genuine conversations took place. Little did we know, a small but steadily increasing group of folks were rooting for us to succeed and anxious to be part of future events!

After the success of the first one, we continued doing supper clubs monthly, each time getting better at timing, communication, presentation, and comfort level. It transitioned from being a nervous ordeal to just hosting a really fun party with great food, drinks, and company. That’s when the net showed its full appearance. We began meeting and connecting with Filipino foodies, artists, and community leaders all over the country; becoming friends with our guests and sharing other events and dining experiences with them; getting asked to speak in panels and doing interviews for media articles; and getting asked to do weddings and private parties. One of the best opportunities during that crazy, exciting, adrenaline-filled two years was an opportunity to contribute a recipe and story for a cookbook.

Cookbooks ready for sale!

Cookbooks ready for sale!

Jackie Chio Lauri first reached out to us in 2016 with a mission to create a food anthology of Filipinos living throughout the world. She learned about Timpla from other contributors, read through our website, and appreciated the way we wove together food and culture. Having no clue what to expect or even if this project would come to fruition, we boldly agreed to contribute. We recycled the cassava cake recipe from our first supper club and took about three hours the day before the deadline to write the story (sorry Jackie!). We wrote a simple prompt about growing up with family parties almost every weekend. Similar to doubts during our first supper club, we hadn’t yet understood our potential in writing and storytelling.

Several weeks later we received feedback from Jackie: our story was good but not cohesive with the recipe and did not have a capturing flow or organized prose. Initially we were frustrated because the writing style was similar to that of our blogs which we thought were written with our best abilities; therefore, we were confused as to what was missing. However, several correspondences with Jackie taught us that our story was in fact one note and overly simple—it wasn’t taking the reader on a journey. With this advice, we flipped the narrative. Instead of setting the scene at our aunt’s house, we began in our Petworth rowhouse and weaved together our supper clubs with those childhood parties—showing that whether traditional or modern, Filipino food has been and will always be the connector of people, family, and friends.

Working with Jackie to revise the story and perfect the recipe showed us what a talented writer and excellent leader she really was—she encouraged us to push past our comfort level and create work better than we ever thought we could make. She brought together thirty very different contributors for a memoir that encapsulated the uniqueness of Filipino identity as a whole. As the project evolved and the book began to take real form, Jackie created a Facebook group where we constantly received updates: from getting White House Chef Cris Comerford to be a contributor, to obtaining an agent and publisher, to sharing a release date, to winning awards and obtaining noteworthy reviews, to showing us photos of the book days before it’s release. Alas, the net had appeared for not just our hard work, but the hard work of 29 other contributors and one amazing leader—The New Filipino Kitchen: Stories and Recipes From Around the Globe was released on September 18th, 2018, nearly two years after its conception.

Kristina reading an excerpt from our story  Anatomy of a Filipino Party

Kristina reading an excerpt from our story Anatomy of a Filipino Party

A book launch for The New Filipino Kitchen was held on September 27th at Kramberbooks in Dupont Circle, an evening brought to life by the Philippine Embassy. Six contributors from throughout the country—Paolo Espanola from New York City; Alexa Alfaro from Milwaukee, WI; Vanessa Lorenzo from Richmond, VA; Dalena Benavente from Tennessee and California; and Cristina Quackenbush from New Orleans, LA; as well as the four of us from Timpla representing DC—read passages, signed books, and met some great people. We learned that despite everyone’s diverse experiences throughout various parts of the world, time periods, childhoods, adulthoods, and careers—we all have one crucial common denominator: the important connection between memories, family, and Filipino food. The evening was filled with beautiful energy, great conversation, and people of all backgrounds and generations coming together to celebrate this milestone. Filipino food representation and acknowledgement has truly come a long way in the past few years, and we were so proud to be there that night among colleagues—or rather, soulmates—who had the same passion to share their experiences of Filipino American identity. A post-event celebration took place at DC’s quintessential restaurant Old Ebbitt Grill. Being the Filipino Fat Asses we all were, we stayed to drink, dine, and wait for the half-off oyster bar special into the wee hours of the night. We ended the evening by promising to visit each other’s restaurants, pop-ups, and food trucks, and hoping to meet again for future book launches.

Being part of such an uplifting experience filled our hearts. Knowing that you can share a part of yourself that is so deeply personal to you and receive overwhelming support is truly a grand net appearing after a shaky, unbalanced plunge. We are so proud of how the book turned out: from the gorgeous photographs, to the heartfelt forwards and introductions, to each contributor’s thoughtful stories, to the delicious recipes that we are just dying to try. This has been one for the books (haha, like the pun?!) and fuels our sentiments for more writing in the future. As we expand our repertoire to art and storytelling alongside food, we are motivated with the same—if not more—great energy to see how far Timpla can really go.

*The New Filipino Kitchen can be purchased on Amazon:

*TFC segment summarizing the event:

*Inquirer.net recap of the event:

*Photos from the event: