With the upcoming opening of his Manhattan restaurant called Rice and Gold, Dale Talde continues to be a man on a mission, not just to build his empire but also to push Filipino cuisine whenever and wherever he can.
A couple of weeks ago, Talde collaborated with fellow Top Chef alumni Sheldon Simeon for a barbecue/luau party. Tickets to the two-seating pop-up event at the Massoni in midtown got sold out when word got out that the two were collaborating on a project.
“He was in town, so I said let’s do something. I love Sheldon, he is a good dude, he’s a homie,” Talde said. “I was in Maui 2-3 years ago and he was then at Migrant. I ate there and it was f’in awesome, man. That’s how I met him.”
The ideas came flying – the concept was fast, it was not individual dining, it was a party.
“We will eat some great food, watch some hula dancers and finish it off with halo-halo or shave ice, all while drinking beer or cocktails. It’s actually like going to a barbecue at your Ate’s house, or Tito’s house,” Dale said laughing.
I had to ask about that “Tito” reference, because their posters for the event said it was going to be a barbecue at Tito Dale and Tito Sheldon’s.
“I’m 38 right now and my body feels like 65. I should be Lolo,” he quipped, as he let out a loud laugh.
For Sheldon, the possibility of working with Dale, the chef he watched on Top Chef, was a great opportunity too hard to pass up.
“When you get to cook with your brothers, it is a celebration of our culture. We’re all brothers in some way or form. It couldn’t be a more personal moment. The moments that I got to spend cooking with my grandparents is still vivid in my mind even though they have passed. The memories are still seared in my mind,” Sheldon shared.
That image is of his lolo letting him taste the sabaw (soup) using an aklo (Ilocano word for ladle) that his own grandfather made.
“We wanted to make it luau-esque. We were blessed to have a 220-pound mangalitsa pig. So we used the hams, bellies, head, the whole nine yards,” Dale said. “Every celebrated event at my house where we had a potluck, my mom was one of 13. You ask one auntie to make pinakbet, another to make pancit and another one makes kare-kare. I wanted to ask him that same thing, what do you want to make?”
So basically, it was two Filipino guys who love to cook and eat hanging out.
Aside from the collaboration with Sheldon for the pop-up luau dinner at Massoni, Talde is also working with Alvin Cailan of Eggslut for a project at the New York Food and Wine Festival this October.
It is going to be the ultimate Sunday brunch with a silog station and the concept is a Mother’s Day-style brunch (which is not happening on Mother’s Day).
A lot of people are excited to see this collaboration between Dale and Alvin, the creator of Los Angeles’ latest cult favorite Eggslut, a chef driven, gourmet food concept inspired by Cailan’s love for eggs and is known for its staple egg sandwich.
Next Big Trend?
“I don’t care if you don’t want to eat Filipino food, I am still doing it. It’s on you. The Filipinos will always come and eat,” Talde said, showing flashes of his old mercurial self when he began on Top Chef a few seasons ago.
He has reason to feel a little pissed, especially when some people in the food industry call Filipino cuisine a trend, or worse, a fad. Sometimes, being called the next big thing (for the past five years and counting) is nothing big anymore.
“They all say it’s the next big thing but who gives a sh*t? I don’t f*cking care! You know what the new thing is? Fats,” Talde said. “Don’t put Filipino and poke on the same category, which a lot of people are doing. They’re trying to say that boba tea as the next new sh*t, we’ve been eating and drinking this for 25, 30 years.”
“I don’t care about them branding Filipino food as the next new thing. Now, more than any other time, is when we show that immigrants have been and will be the backbone of this country, whether you want it or not,” he added.
“Anything that you connect with a trend becomes a timeline,” Sheldon said. “Judging somebody else’s food and calling it disgusting, for me that is discrimination.”
“It’s like trying to put someone down for who they are,” Dale said, agreeing with Sheldon.
Talde said what is happening in the country in the past few months have made him realize a number of things. Born to immigrant parents from the Philippines, he is an immigrant who, through sheer hard work and passion has achieved his American dream.
“We’re immigrants, I am all about the immigrant food and I’ll call it what it is. I am a son of immigrants now living in America and this is the food we are making. I’m trying to figure out how to remind people that this country was built on the backs of immigrants,” he said.
“They talk sh*t about slowing down immigration coming to the US but they weren’t crying that sh*t in the late 60s when they needed healthcare professionals. Now they’re picking and choosing? We raised your children, we fed you, we take care of you in the hospitals and you’re too good to eat our food?,” he asked.
“It is frustrating and it is to some degree status quo for us. This is the reality we’ve been living all our lives in America. We’re some Asian culture that no one ever knew was there. We’re always second-class citizens. We speak up for ourselves now and we always have. But are your surprised? We took it on the chin for years because to a certain degree we were happy to just be in a better situation,” he added.
Aside from Rice and Gold at The Bowery Hotel, Talde is also opening a couple of dining spots and a bar in West Palm Beach. He currently owns Atlantic Social in Brooklyn and the three Talde locations (Miami, Jersey City and Park Slope, Brooklyn).
Dale and his partners at Three Kings Restaurant Group (TKRG), David Massoni and John Bush, debuted their first project in Manhattan with the opening of Massoni in the Arlo NoMad Hotel last year. The group then opened Atlantic Social in Brooklyn followed by The Crown, a rooftop bar and lounge, in the 50 Bowery Hotel in New York City’s Chinatown.
I kidded him about the empire he has been building, one that has been years in the making.
“Hey, man, I’m just trying to carve out a little niche that hopefully people like. I thank my parents – my mom and dad are the most supportive people that I know. It’s a good ride,” he said. “Now is a good time. I have the energy to do it now.”
Our conversation shifted to one of the dishes they served that evening. It was KBL (Kadyos, Baboy, Langka), an Ilonggo dish and a nod to Dale’s roots.
He said he thought on using KBL but then no one would understand the dish (except maybe for the handful of Filipinos present at the dinner). Someone suggested calling it Black Beans with Pork.
“Why are we trying to turn it into something it’s not? Let’s call it what it is – Pig’s Feet with Black Beans.
If they don’t want to eat it, it’s on them,” Dale shared.
“That’s the way I am cooking now, that chefs are saying to represent. It’s not even to represent, [I cook Filipino] because it is the right thing to do,” he said.
“You can’t say that any more honestly than that. It’s the right thing to do,” Dale said, smacking the table for emphasis.