We barely made it on our connecting flight from Denver to Chicago (I’ve finally stepped foot on Colorado! For literally 5 minutes!) and apart from the brief Amazing Race moment where we walked briskly, it was all’s well that ends well, considering I’m not really a “nick of time” kind of guy.

Filipino Kitchen came through once again with this pop up, setting up Sarah’s condo as our venue, selling tickets online and setting up a nice couch for me to stay in. We were also beginning to get to know each other better, as evidenced by the girls’ convincing (we are using the word “convincing” loosely here) me to buy a pair of very tremendously red shoes. On the prep side, things went much quicker with a pair of awesome ladies, Cat (who will be taking up classes at the ICC) and Maranda (who’s working at Stephanie Izzard’s Little Goat Diner) lending their help. I personally found that my greatest success this trip was to convince Maranda that a slice of pizza was better with bagoong on it.

At this point, I was not letting on that there was a certain anxiety growing in me, threatening to punch through my stomach like the alien from, well, Aliens. We didn’t have a complete headcount of the diners and the pop up was looming. I discovered that the cocktail drinks we concocted would be served to an actual bartender attending our pop up, I was running out of clean underwear and Caitlin’s roommate saw me shamelessly stuffing my face with a large bag of gummy bears while lying down watching Netflix. Ok, one of those four things I mentioned isn’t true.

Just as how we made it to Chicago, though, it was all’s well that ends well. In the nick of time. We sold out at the last hour (I may mean this literally), service went smoothly with Sarah back in the kitchen adding another pair of hands and we had just enough time to perfect and test our drinks to make them perfect. Most importantly, my food was well received. We helped entertain a family whose parents were on vacation, fed some private plane pilots from Carolina, and we introduced people to the wonders of Beef Pares with Red Horse.

As I plopped on the couch hours after our pop up, I felt a few things. I felt relief that my work part was over and I felt pride that we did our part in pushing Filipino food forward. I felt a certain giddiness that Filipino food is in the conversation in America. Maybe, just maybe, we can finally make what Andrew Zimmern predicted come true. Filipino food will be a significant player in the American food scene as long as we keep chugging along. I also felt a slight pain on a spot just below my right shoulder. Air hockey against Caitlin is an actual sporting event, so I really should have stretched.

Those two weeks in San Francisco and Chicago turned out to be the kind of “busy-ness” I needed. It was nice to be around food and people who breathed food with every breath. It was invigorating to be able to celebrate Filipino food. It was heartening to see a growing Filipino community with a passion and pride in our heritage that is growing as fast as their community. I also got a chance to kick start my fund drive to build my public school library. I have Natalia to thank for that. Or maybe it was Sarah? Okay, maybe it was my fund drive. 2015 beating me into submission?

I still can’t figure that part out, but thank you.

So this closes this chapter of my life. A fun chapter with Filipino Kitchen that will….

“You know, Filipino Kitchen is doing the Kultura Festival in October.”

“Yeah but I’m not sure if I have enough money for plane tickets, plus you know my fund drive for the public school library may not be finished by then.”

“You could open a booth at Kultura and sell food to help make money for your library…”

Oh no. Here we go again…