A Filipino bakery and modern restaurant in Chicago in Illinois, United States just earned a Michelin star, the culinary industry's much-coveted recognition that denotes world-class standards in food and service.
Kasama, owned by chef-couple Filipino Tim Flores and Korean American Genie Kwon, is now a proud one-star establishment based on the assessment of the Michelin Guide of French tire company Michelin. Three other restaurants in the city were also bestowed the same star rating.
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Located in the city's East Ukrainian Village neighborhood, Kasama reimagines Filipino classics through a fine dining lens and gives them a contemporary twist. It opened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, though it had been conceptualized as early as 2018.
Kwon is in charge of Kasama's baking operations as well as its Instagrammable offerings. Flores, meanwhile, is in charge of the Pinoy classics.
In its citation posted on its website, the Michelin Guide said the dinner tasting in Kasama reflects Flores and Kwon's training, experience and heritage.
Special mentions went to their mushroom adobo with mussel emulsion, pancit with Serrano ham, and halo-halo combining Asian pear granita, pandan ice cream and freeze-dried mandarin.
"Naturally, the result is an ambitious, clever and distinct meal, where traditional Filipino food is given a creative spin," the guide said, adding that the restaurant's design is "clear upon entry—an impressively equipped kitchen framed by a counter where diners watch the action unfold. Banquettes tucked under the windows make for plush seats."
After receiving its Michelin star, Kasama took to Instagram to thank its team and "wonderful" patrons.
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"It is still hard to believe what this industry has been through since the beginning of 2020," its post read. "To make it here and to be recognized by the @michelinguide is truly beyond anything we could have ever imagined."
Prior to earning a Michelin star, Kasama made it to the New York Times's 50 Most Vibrant and Delicious Restaurants in October 2021.
It was also featured as one of Chicago's finest restaurants in publications like Eater, James Beard Foundation, Chicago Tribune, and Esquire.
The restaurant now joins Filipino food spots Bad Saint, Purple Yam, Spoon & Fork, and FOB Kitchen which also worked their way to Michelin Guide in the previous years. The Michelin Guide has been awarding the prestigious Michelin stars since 1904.
In awarding a star, the Michelin Guide said it takes into account "the quality of the ingredients, the harmony of flavours, the mastery of techniques, the personality of the chef as expressed in their cuisine and, just as importantly, consistency both over time and across the entire menu."
Earning two stars, the company said, means "the personality and talent of the chef are really evident in their dishes; their food is refined and inspired."
With the highest three stars, the "superlative cooking of chefs" are already "at the peak of their profession; their cooking is elevated to an art form and some of their dishes are destined to become classics."
Micheline Inspectors reassess Star restaurants yearly to ensure that they deliver the same high-standard cooking they were honored for through and through. These establishments, however, can lose their stars if they are "no longer at the same level that it was."