Feeding an appetite for connection
Father-daughter restaurant Tito Boy takes Filipino fare to southeast Winnipeg
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/08/2022 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A few weeks after Agustin Doming retires from his job at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, he’s planning to go back to work — and he couldn’t be more excited.
A lifelong dream will soon become a reality for Doming when he and his daughter Jackie Wild open Tito Boy, the first southeast Winnipeg restaurant (730 St. Anne’s Rd.) to serve traditional and fusion Filipino fare.
“I know so many people say it’s never too late to follow your dreams, and I think my dad is an incredible summation of that,” Wild said.
Doming grew up in the southern rural mainland of the Philippines and immigrated to Canada in the 1980s. From a young age, he always felt most at home in the kitchen.
“I watched my mom cooking in the kitchen all the time, so that’s where I get my passion for cooking, from my mom,” Doming said.
In the ’90s, Doming enrolled in culinary school at the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology and worked in the hospitality sector for a few years.
Then life happened. Doming and his wife became parents when Jackie was born.
“I was a young kid at the time and my dad had decided that while he still had that love and compassion for cooking, he did want to get a little bit more work-life balance to make sure he had more time to spend with me back home,” Wild said.
But Doming’s passion for sharing food with others never waned — and when Tito Boy opens in the fall, he’ll return to doing what he loves.
Tito Boy is Doming’s familial alias. “Tito” means “uncle” in Tagalog, and “boy” is usually the signifier for the youngest uncle.
“Almost every single Filipino family has a tito boy, so it’s a very familiar name for many,” Wild said.
The vast majority of Filipino restaurants in Winnipeg are located in North End and West End, where Wild grew up. Opening in the southeastern part of the city provides Wild and Doming with an opportunity to bring traditional and fusion Filipino fare to a new crowd.
“It’s going to be the first — and we really do hope the first of many — restaurants that will open up in the neighbourhood, so that way we can share our cuisine with the wider community,” Wild said.
Doming will serve up classic Filipino favourites such as adobo and lumpia, along with other creations.
As Gazel Manuel, a PhD student at Carleton University who studied Filipino food culture in Winnipeg explained, community is at the forefront of Filipino food endeavours.
“A huge motivator for immigrants to start restaurants in the first place is to meet a community need,” Manuel said. “A lot of Filipino families nowadays that immigrated have to work two jobs, so they have no time to cook. They rely on these places to get their food.”
Manuel said Tito Boy’s story is similar to that of many Filipino restaurateurs she interviewed — they came from working-class roots and couldn’t afford to open a restaurant when they were younger.
In the last decade or so, times have changed. While conducting her thesis research, Manuel discovered younger Filipinos have different perspectives than their parents and grandparents.
“Their motivations for opening a restaurant are a lot more complex than just meeting economic needs,” Manuel said. “It’s more to do with cultural pride.”
When talking about how Tito Boy connects with the greater Filipino community, Wild and Doming use the concept of kababayan — “fellow country people” in Tagalog — to describe the connections between the local community and the Filipino diaspora.
“We are a community that is so intertwined, not only with our familial culture, but our regional culture and our greater national culture,” Wild said. “Food brings us together.”
While they’ve had many partners in the community who helped make the restaurant a reality, Tito Boy is a family endeavour that, so far, has brought more connections than challenges.
“I learn from my dad each and every day,” Wild said. “It’s been a really heartwarming experience, because we’ve got the chance to spend so much time talking about his story, his upbringing and all of his favourite dishes growing up.”