Second gen entrepreneurs blaze new trails in restaurant business

Owners Matthew Adolfo (l) and Greg Edwards. (Rob Newell photo, Westender)

From Windsor to Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver, Filipino chefs have been challenging the notion that Filipinos are averse to risk-taking.

Most of them second generation, they have embarked on taking on the risky and highly competitive food business from small operations of a few seats to full-seating operations.

We begin a series featuring these new breed who sometimes veers away from the traditional food of their parents cook for them to other varied tastes.

Vancouver’s Bao Down

Undaunted by the highly competitive restaurant business in Vancouver where restaurants come and go, two second gen Filipino-Canadians recently opened Bao Down in Vancouver’s Gastown district.

Owners Greg Edwards and Matthew Adolfo describe their restaurant as a Sandwich Shop, Asian Restaurant and Asian Fusion Restaurant.

The brothers-in-law joined skills – Edwards as an experienced chef and Adolfo as a seasoned businessman to offer their version of what Filipinos know as ‘siopao’, a kind of steam bun.
But instead of a closed bun where you don’t see the ingredients, their bao is opened- faced unlike the traditional sandwich.

Bao Down zeroes in on the Asian sandwich. “It’s reminiscent of gua bao (Asian steam bun-wiches). It’s the same thing but we play around with what’s it,” says Edwards. “It reminds us of our childhoods. Matthew grew up in Toronto. I grew up in East Vancouver but I used to live in the Philippines.”

BaoDownYVR bao (front), A Lovers’ Quarrel bao (right) and kimchi fries (back), at Bao Down. (Photo: KK Law)

Adolfo is married to Edwards’ twin sister Pam whose mother is the former Esther Soldevilla from Iloilo.

Edwards, the chef, has licence to break rules. He’s been in the restaurant biz forever. He worked in all of Umberto Menghi’s restaurants when the restaurateur ran a fleet of them and then Edwards then took time-out be a mining engineer but returned to cooking. He last worked as the chef at Chewie’s Coal Harbour.

Complementing Edwards culinary skills is Adolfo’s business acumen.

Adolfo is part owner of Sukhothai in Toronto, the best Thai restaurant in the city, according to Toronto Life magazine. He’s planning to open a northern Thai restaurant in Vancouver this summer called Kanchanaburi on West Second Avenue, next to The Flying Pig.

Aside from his restaurant interests, he is senior director for business development for the Performance Publication Media Group which publishes PasMag. His social media skills are being deployed to promote Bao Down.

If reviews are an indication, Bao Down is up there with practically every publication in town writing about Bao Down. The media buzz went the rounds with The Vancouver Sun, Vanbuzz, Where, Westender, Zomato, Yelp, Foodgcressing, Gastown, Noosh & Nibble, Vancouver Foodster, Flavour Hunter among others.

Vancouver Magazine calls it Vancouver’s new obsession:

“What’s not to love about these white, pillowy, slightly steamed buns that can be stuffed with endless variations of Asian-fusion fillings? Bao Down’s Bao Chicka Bao Bao- loaded with tender free-range chicken marinated in fried lemongrass and garlic – is as fun to gobble as it is garble.”

Bao Down has two locations – 12 Powell ( 778) 379-3611 in Gastown and at 2211 Manitoba.

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