Last August, Rodelio Aglibot was named the co-executive corporate chef for the BLT Restaurant Group and the affable chef left Chicago for New York. Projects, including helping open The Florentine (a BLT restaurant) with Todd Stein and a contract as consulting chef for Sunda, kept Aglibot coming back to Chicago. Well, now he's back here permanently.
Aglibot, aka The Food Buddha, left his post with BLT and moved back to Chicago a little more than a month ago. He helped revamp the Sunda menu with chef Jesse DeGuzman, has other consulting gigs in the works and launched a new charity, In Chef's Hands.
The non-profit organization's mission is to "provide culinary educational experiences with renowned professional chefs for individuals with special needs who have a passion for food and cooking." The whole idea kicked off when a friend asked Aglibot if he would meet his cousin, Scott Crane, who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. The chef invited the family to Sunda one day last November and asked Crane, who is a self-described "food lover extraordinaire," to join him in the kitchen to cook.
"We made lunch and got him in the kitchen in his wheelchair," Aglibot said. "This was in November and I was having thoughts of my position at BLT and this summed up why I do this, why I am a chef. I felt grounded. I do this to cook with people and share with people."
So Aglibot got together with some friends and chefs, including Stein, and founded In Chef's Hands. The group has its first fundraiser June 14 at Old Town Social and has reached out to chefs like Jared Van Camp (OTS), Patricio Sandoval (Mercadito), Rusty Kook (The Florentine), Radhika Desai, Chris Pandel (The Bristol), John Manion, James Gottwald (Rockit) and Mark Sparacino (Prosecco), to volunteer their time to work with special needs people. Tickets, at $25 each, will soon be available for advance purchase online.
"It's about committing time and spending one-on-one time with these people and their families and having an exchange and keeping it real," Aglibot said. "It's not a demo. You're sharing of yourself and they are with you."
The organization's tagline is "food therapy for the soul," which is something it looks like Aglibot needed himself toward the end of his time with BLT. "I was like 'Why am I doing this and where is going to get me?'" he said "I'd rather be happy and come back to Chicago. I chose happiness over having a high-profile position. I'm much happier now."
· Sunda Reveals New Spring Menu [~EChi~]
· In Chef's Hands [website]
Todd Stein, Scott Crane and Rodelio Aglibot [Photo: Facebook]