We first reported about Kasama last October when it made the New York Times list of 50 Most Vibrant and Delicious Restaurants 2021. Now just six months later, the proudly Filipino restaurant in Chicago run by chefs Tim Flores and Genie Kwon has added another feather in its cap: a Michelin star.
According to the Michelin Guide, Kasama joins three other restaurants in Chicago who recently earned the similar honor. The French tire company Michelin has been releasing its Michelin guide books since 1904, awarding stars—from 1 to 3–to food establishments that it deems excellent. The recognition has made icons out of restaurants and chefs around the world, and earning or losing one is always a significant event.
The Michelin Guide praised Kasama’s tasting menu which “emphatically displays” Flores and Kwon’s talent, training, and heritage “for an experience that is ambitious, clever, and distinct.” It adds that the duo “have taken traditional Filipino cooking and given it a creative, contemporary spin in items such as maitake mushroom adobo sauced with mussel emulsion; ‘pancit’ reflecting Spanish influence with thin squid ink noodles, scallop conserva, and shaved Serrano ham; and Chef Kwon's elegant take on ‘halo-halo’ combining Asian pear granita, pandan ice cream.”
Responding to the honor, the restaurant, via Instagram, thanked its former and present teams, as well as its patrons. “It’s still hard to believe what this industry has been through since the beginning of 2020,” said the message, “To make it here and to be recognized by the @michelinguide is truly beyond anything we could ever imagine.”
Chefs Flores and Kwon bravely opened Kasama during the pandemic. Kwon is in charge of the baking operations and is responsible for Kasama’s Instagram-worthy creations. She finished a culinary management program in Newbury College Massachusetts and got further baking experience at Flour Bakery & Cafe, Nobu Fifty Seven, and Eleven Madison Park in New York. She later ran the pastry wing at GT Fish & Oyster, where she met Flores who would become her husband and business partner.
Flores, born to Filipino parents who migrated to the US from the Philippines, trained as a line cook at Senza restaurant under Chef Noah Sandoval. Flores is the master behind the takeout-friendly Pinoy food items found in the Kasama menu like lumpia, pancit, and chicken adobo. He and Kwon previously ran the two Michelin-starred restaurant, Oriole, with Sandoval.
Kasama was conceptualized in 2018 as a casual contemporary restaurant that specialized in Filipino cuisine and great pastries. It started out strong when it finally opened for business in July—all the food was sold out by the end of the day. Who knew it was only the beginning of great things to come?