Carlo Lamagna, the chef and owner behind Portland’s acclaimed Filipino restaurant Magna, has dealt with this issue for years: Customers will approach him, or comment online, and argue that his food isn’t authentic. It’s something Lamagna has discussed in interviews, on Instagram, and, most recently, in a TEDx Wrigleyville talk, held at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, where he challenges the common definition of authenticity when it comes to food.
“Filipino food is this point of pride for a lot of people,” Lamagna says in the speech. “But oftentimes, they don’t go past the dishes that they grew up with or what they’re familiar with. They’re overlooking the origins of the ingredients, the origins of that dish, and the history of the Philippines itself.”
To explain, he talks about the impact of trade routes on Filipino cuisine, in particular the Manila Galleon Trade Route, also known as the Acapulco trade route. That Spanish trade route — both countries were colonized by Spain — impacted and blended Mexican and Filipino ingredients and cooking techniques. He also talks about what writer Soleil Ho calls “assimilation food,” when immigrants adapt recipes using the ingredients common to their new homes.
“Cuisine, much like culture and people, adapt and evolve,” Lamagna says. “What is authentic and traditional to an individual is heavily influenced by their personal history and their environment.”
Watch the full video below: