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Chef Keanu Francisco's new pop-up is called Kusinera, which means "female cook" in Filipino.
The establishment of chef Francisco's pop-up follows a noteworthy trend that has defined the hospitality industry in 2020. The pandemic and subsequent closure of restaurants have laid the way for an influx of pop-ups and ghost kitchens across the city.
With there no longer being any physical ties to the once-bustling public spaces chefs and cooks previously occupied, there has been more opportunity for food entrepreneurs to venture out on their own without facing the intimidating challenge of opening a brick and mortar business.
At Kusinera, everything chef Francisco cooks is inspired by women of his past. From historical influences like Maria Orosa, a Filipina war heroine made famous by her banana ketchup, to the chef's own mother, who passed down her cooking skills, which in turn made Francisco, the chef he is today.
The dishes on Kusinera's pop-up menu are rooted in a multitude of influences and flavours. This chef may have grown up in Canada, but Filipino cuisine inspires most of his menu conception. The menu consists of both traditional dishes, as well as a few new creations. No item is on the menu haphazardly, each dish telling a story and coming with a history -- a raison d'être -- if you will. The goal for Francisco is to introduce unfamiliar dishes to Torontonians in the hopes of making Filipino food more well-known and enjoyed.
One of the first dishes to makes its way onto the rotating menu was kare-kare, a peanut stew commonly enjoyed in the Philippines -- this is a dish Francisco's mom had yet to perfect, so Francisco sought out to finish what his mom started. Another dish inspired by his childhood is the leche flan, made with caramel and topped with Maldon salt.
A favourite on the menu, the Stone Crab Alavar was inspired by a childhood memory of Francisco's. At age 13, on the chef's last trip home visiting Manila, Francisco ate this dish at (now closed) Zamboanga Restaurant. The dish blew the chef away and is made with a sauce from the southwest Philippines.
Each dish is based on a memory from his past, with the hopes of creating special, delicious memories of your own when you taste Francisco's food for yourself.
Check out their Instagram to find out about their next featured dishes. The next Kusinera pop-up is happening January 24 and 25 -- you don't want to miss it!