Jojo caught her lola rolling lumpia at 4AM
Get to know Jojo in this Q&A and get her “Adobo wings” SUNDAY from 6-8PM in Ravenswood!
Q: What’s your cooking background?
Jojo: I grew up in a Filipino household, so when my mom wasn’t working as a nurse, she was in the kitchen. As a little kid, I would shop for groceries with her at the Asia marts. Sidebar: If you’ve never been in an Asia mart, it’s an experience — there’s a very distinct aroma when you walk through the doors, of what I can best describe as exotic spices and fresh seafood. There’s amazing produce that you don’t see in your typical Jewel-Osco, and the meat department has every cut from nose to tail for all kinds of animals. Being exposed to that kind of food and the culture behind it was ingrained in me from the very start.
When I’d come home from school, I would watch my mom butcher a chicken on her little chopping board, scale fish over the sink, and cut vegetables for stews. I learned to cook by watching my mom and my lola (my grandma, rest her little soul) cook meals for our family and friends, whether it was a casual family dinner or a party!
Q: What can you tell us about the dish you’re making and what inspired it?
Jojo: This is my spin on something everyone loves: wings! My wife is in the fitness industry and if there’s ever an opportunity to make something she loves that isn’t fried, I’m taking it! Since we’ve been together, she has developed a deep love for Filipino cuisine. One of her favorite dishes is Chicken Adobo. I basically took those iconic flavors of adobo (the soy sauce, the vinegar, the garlic), concentrated it into this delicious glaze, and tossed it with some oven-baked wings. It’s a winner winner, adobo wings dinner!
Q: Who do you think about when you make this dish?
Jojo: I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and grew up eating what is essentially Filipino soul food. Chicken adobo, bistek tagalog, tortang giniling, arroz caldo, chicken tinola, kare kare, etc. From a very young age, my brother and I were exposed to different types of vegetables and different types of seafood and the cuts of meat that weren’t as popular to get. I think that really made us more open to different cuisines and dishes.
Q: What’s your favorite food memory?
Jojo: When my lola would babysit us, we’d stay with her at the apartment. I remember waking up very early to use the bathroom, around 4 a.m., and noticed the kitchen light on. I quietly crept over to see what was happening, and saw my lola sitting at the kitchen table. There was a bowl of pork mince filling on the left, a small bowl of water next to that, a plate of wrappers, and a mound of rolled lumpia about three dozen high — she would start rolling lumpia early in the morning so when our parents would pick us up from work in the morning, she’d give them the fresh lumpia to fry at home. She always made sure that friends and family had something to eat, and a lot of that has stayed with me.
Q: Anything else we should know about you and your cooking?
Jojo: It’s all love, baby! The love I have for cooking runs deep, rooted by the strong women from my family. My hope is that you get that feeling when you try my stuff!