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Rodelio Aglibot - The Food Buddha

Food - I love being inspired by it! I believe it brings such peace and creativity to your soul. when the opportunity arose to meet a true guru of cuisine, I jumped at the chance. Welcome to the world of Rodelio Aglibot (The Food Buddha), a true culinary pioneer. I was blessed enough to be able to follow him around and be engulfed in his world. To be honest, after dining at Me Geisha in Italy, I was already obsessed. This Hawaiian hero was born into a cooking family. Growing up cooking in a family restaurant, and having a father who cooked in the Navy, Rodelio probably found his passion there, which fuelled it into an empire. Over his twenty-year career (and still going strong), he has been the culinary creative influence behind many restaurants across the globe, aside from the restaurants that he owns. Rodelio was the executive chef of the celebrity studded Koi Restaurant in Los Angeles, as well as the corporate executive chef for all the amazing BLT restaurants. "I love love the way they built their brand" he states. This gave him many ideas for future projects as he became an asset to the culinary world. We have to start somewhere, so first we will explore his newest venture, Firefin Poke that is taking the world by storm.

For his chaino f Poke restaurants, Rodelio went back to his roots, but of course added a twist to his chain of Poke restaurants. The fish is flown in daily from Hawaii and is so unbelievably fresh you can tell by the taste, that it just came out of the ocean. I was lucky enough to be there for the arrival of a large Blue Fin Tuna. It was truly a sight to behold. That fish was swimming in the water yesterday. I am amazed it arrives so quickly to his restaurant. We are talking super sushi grade. He demands and enforces extremely high quality ingredients for all his venues.

I decided to start my tasting, old school with the Classic Hawaiian (ahi tuna, Hawaiian albacore, ono sauce, cucumber, sweet onions, ginger, radishes and scallions). Trust me, take his suggestion and have it with his signature purple rice. It’s out of control. The flavor is unreal - both the tuna and the albacore are enriched by the soy and ginger in the ono sauce. Each ingredient compliments the other in a blend of perfection. I love spicy, so next on the list was Tuna On Fire Poke, with his signature fire sauce, pickled jalapeños, avocado, sweet onions, cucumber and crispy shallots. This dish will make you melt. The tuna absorbs the sauce which enhances the flavor - and of course everything is better with avocado - which makes it so creamy. I then jumped into the Citrus Salmon, an explosion of tart and sweet (salmon, YMCA sauce, tomato, cucumber, sweet onions, scallions, tobiko, hijiki and lemon). I knew I was only getting started. Mr. Aglibot thinks outside the box with his Chicken Poke (organic chicken, YMCA sauce, spicy honey mayo sauce, sweet onions, cucumber, tomato, and carrot). You can choose to eat your Poke over rice, organic salad or the best damn gluten free noodles I’ve ever had. You could easily eat here daily and never get bored. I can’t wait to go back and try the Tofu Poke and there is even a Poke dessert. There are specials too, like Pork Belly Poke. You can also play chef and design your own. It’s not only super healthy, its delicious. Don’t forget to try the coconut water based drinks, with no refined sugar (believe me you won’t miss it). Rodelio is about to open his third Firefin in Chicago, and with lines out the door, he will soon be branching out to other cities. So fingers crossed, Firefin may be coming to a city near you sooner rather than later.

Rodelio Aglibot is a nomad who flies from city to city, involved in events and opening restaurants. Having a life that keeps you flying between Chicago, LA, New York and Italy just sounds terrible (wink, wink). Another great place he has is in Chicago,that I got to visit is E&O Food and Drink (AKA Earth and Ocean which he also has in Cincinnati). This is a completely different concept and is fine dining. I had to skip breakfast because I knew it was going to be a meal to remember. Of course being the signature chef and part owner of Me Geisha in Italy. I was not surprised the sushi bar was on point, but that was just the start. I began with the bone marrow and carne asada tacos. Fresh corn tortillas, cilantro, shallots, tomato jam and lime served with the most succulent bone marrow in the bone. Extremely creamy and rich. It was like being in some kind of sweet dream - absolutely mouthwatering. The chicken wings with Buddha dust and sesame sauce are crispy perfection. Definitely try the disco fries with gravy and E&O cheese sauce. This man makes fries a work of art. From brussel sprouts to chicken and waffles, E&O will have you coming back. The decor has a sleek design and walls that look like running water. You definitely have a dining experience that will replay over and over in your mind.

These are just a few of his restaurants. I have been to three in two different countries and I am going back for more. He has so many new ventures coming up in several different places in the world. I am sure to be living the Buddha experience for a long time to come. Not only does he have the restaurants. but his frozen foods are also something to crave. He loves simple and grew up on comfort foods. When he decided to make the best carrot cake on the planet, he really did. Now imagine if a carrot cake and a sponge cake had a baby that would be Rodelio’s signature carrot cake. It is served in his restaurants and as a part of his frozen food collection. It is light and fluffy - not dense - and he tops it off with cheese cream ice cream. After tasting it I knew there was nothing he could not do with food, and I knew that I wanted to learn and absorb all I could from this culinary artist. Rodelio has been featured on several national television programs, such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Best of on Food Network, Your LA TV, Entertainment Tonight, Good Day L.A. and Extra. Print features include Food and Wine, Bon Appetite, San Francisco Chronicle, Wine Spectator, Los Angeles Times, Angeleno, and Restaurants and Institutions. Rodelio was also featured as a contributing Chef with several recipes to his credit for the cookbook aptly named "New Asian Cuisine". He was also named one of "StarChefs" 500 Chefs to Know.

Besides giving us gifts in the kitchen, he is dedicated to is giving back. Five years ago he started In Chefs Hands. I asked him how this all came about and he told me the story of a friend calling him up. His friend had a cousin with Muscular Dystrophy who loved Rodelio's cooking and followed his culinary career on Instagram. He was asked if he would meet him. Rodelio said not only would he meet him he would do a cooking class with him. This gave a person who was suffering such pleasure and joy, but it gave Rodelio something too. In Chefs Hands was born, which pairs accomplished chefs with food lovers who have special needs, illness or physical disabilities, and taking them on a culinary journey.

Rodelio has an intense passion for life. No matter if he is rocking on the dance floor or surrounded by his incredible group of friends. He is the type of person loved by everyone. We spoke about everything from music to the best donuts on the planet. We definitely speak the same food language." Believe in it or don’t cook it baby" .You should feel emotion from what you eat and be changed for the better in some way. As we went on an edible tour of Chi town I made him stop at every place he said “Oh my god they make the best…..”

I feel in love with food in again in a different way.I am so excited to be teaming up with him for our hot new project,THE NEXT KNIFE. I am so happy he expresses himself, in the dishes he shares with us. Forever evolving, creating and challenging the palate. Literally changing the world one plate at a time. Embrace your passion for taste and fall in love with the Buddha as I did at thefoodbuddha.com.

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