Chef Reinterprets Filipino Food with Farm-Fresh, Community-Focused Sensibility

By Jacob Sisneros and Thomas Cordova
EUGENE SANTIAGO, owner and chef of Baryo in Long Beach, Monday, June 10, 2024.

A passion for using farm-fresh produce originally brought chef Eugene Santiago to Long Beach.

He was helping out regularly at a farm in Sierra Madre when he realized he wanted to reconnect with the ability to use hyperlocal produce with his food.

Now, his food, under the name Baryo, can be found at Union@Compound, a restaurant accompanying an art gallery on Coronado Avenue just south of East 14th Street.

Baryo is Filipino for the Spanish word “barrio” meaning village or neighborhood.

Part of the mission statement on Baryo’s website contains Santiago’s vision for his food: “It’s important to us to work towards the idea that food can be grown, cooked and shared within a small proximity.”

While doing pop-ups to serve food at farmer’s markets around Long Beach, he encountered Farm Lot 59, a 0.6-acre urban farm on California Avenue north of East Willow Street.

During the pandemic, Sasha Kanno – who runs Farm Lot 59 – lost a lot of her restaurant partners and had an overabundance of produce. Since he was already helping her farm, Santiago decided to cook the food and donate 100 meals a week to a local women’s and children’s center.

“What originally was supposed to be like a two, three-week program turned into three or four months,” Santiago said.

He continues to donate meals in Long Beach, now to an adult day care center he connected with by calling around to find out who needed catering.

“We were just kind of navigating where the needs were and providing meals to the elderly felt right,” Santiago said.

Small plates served at Compound include roasted cauliflower, pork asado bao buns and pancit, while larger plates include an oyster mushroom skewer, black cod with a side of Filipino comfort soup and Filipino-style Galbi – a grilled bone-in short rib with a side of coconut rice.

Via the Baryo website, Santiago also offers party trays with a variety of choices along with homemade coconut jam.

The jam is made from coconut milk cooked down with pandan leaves and sweetened with demerara sugar, which is produced from sugarcane and contains large grains.

Santiago said his end game is to have his own brick-and-mortar store in Long Beach.

“I see it more like a little market, a little corner market,” he said.

Union@Compound is at 1395 Coronado Ave.

Editor Note: This article was originally published on June 19 by the Long Beach Post, a nonprofit news organization.

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