Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Chase Sobelman
Chase Sobelman started her career with Compass in 2001, opening the Executive Dining Club at Revlon in New York. She left the company for several years and was happy to return in 2019 as a chef with Chartwells K12. The mother of three shares how her heritage influences her cooking and how she uses food to keep her and her family connected to their culture.
What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month mean to you?
For me, it is a good opportunity to reconnect to my heritage. My parents are from the Philippines, but I was born in the U.S. and raised mostly in New York and the Northeast. Over the years, living away from my parents, I kind of lost that connection to the culture and have recently realized it is important for my kids to have that because there’s so much about the culture that they don’t know.
When I was in grade school and high school people didn’t even know what Filipino was. I don’t want that for my kids. The Philippines are so far away and it’s hard to get my family of five there, so I want to make attending Filipino parades and cultural celebrations in the U.S a higher priority. I want to make sure my kids feel a connection to their heritage.
How does your heritage influence your work as a chef?
I always felt that my mother was the best Filipino cook. When I started cooking, I worked in a lot of Asian restaurants but didn’t cook Filipino cuisine because I thought I couldn’t cook it as well as my mother. When she moved away, I realized the only way to expose my kids to traditional Filipino food is to start cooking it at home. I love to cook a traditional soup we call Sinigang. It’s a savory and sour Tamarind soup. I think it has a flavor profile that is for a more mature palate, but my kids love it.
My husband is also a chef. When we cook together at home it is an event. We expose our kids to really good food and great dining experiences. In the Filipino culture, we welcome people into our homes and feed them. It is a huge part of our lives. It’s all about coming together, breaking bread and serving people and showing the utmost hospitality to guests. We’ve opened our house up at Thanksgiving to the entire neighborhood because we want to share that with them.
How has Filipino cuisine evolved in the culinary world?
In the past five years, there has been a huge surge of Filipino chefs and our cuisine has evolved in the culinary world. Filipino chefs have really embraced the food and taken it to a new level. I think the fact that the Philippines has become a more popular travel destination has also influenced an acceptance of the food and now there are Filipino chefs on the Food Network.
How have you evolved since you first started your career as a chef?
Over the years in this industry, I have matured a lot. In the beginning, I was a people pleaser. It kept me from being as creative as I could have been. Now I’ve found my voice. You have to be real. You have to be humble and you have to be ready and willing to learn.
As a chef with Chartwells K12, you provide meals to school age children. What impact do you want to have on them?
I want to expose the kids to more sustainable, plant-centric ways of eating rather than serving them overly processed foods. The kids are there to learn and nutrition can support that. I want to provide them with the proper recipes and nutrition to help them learn and thrive.