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Portland chef awarded Food & Wine's Best New Chef 2021

Chef Carlo Lamagna was one of 11 chefs from restaurants across the country to receive the recognition.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland chef is getting some big recognition after getting named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2021.

Carlo Lamagna is one of 11 chefs at 10 restaurants who have been awarded the honor. Lamagna has been a chef for about 22 years and owns Magna Kusina in Southeast Portland.

“Magna Kusina is what I'd like to call a modern Filipino restaurant,” said Lamagna.

He said his restaurant approaches traditional Filipino dishes in a modern way.

One example is his oxtail stew, traditionally made with peanut butter. However, instead of peanut butter, Lamagna chose to make his own pumpkin seed butter. The idea not only promotes the evolution of Filipino cuisine, but also makes it more accessible. In this case, people with peanut allergies could finally try the dish.

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“This one guy, you know, he started crying because he was like, ‘I’ve always wanted to try this dish but I never could,” Lamagna recalled.

Magna Kusina is one of a handful of places serving up Filipino food in the city. People have taken notice, particularly the folks at Food & Wine. Lamagna said the list of those being considered for the honor started with about 700 chefs. Then it was whittled down to 70-100 chefs before 11 chefs were picked to be recognized.

“When I found out, I just started crying,” Lamagna said.

He flew his family out to the awards ceremony in Aspen, Colorado.

“They were just looking at me just like beaming, beaming with like, just pride. And you know, I started welling up,” said Lamagna.

Credit: Carlo Lamagna
Carlo Lamagna with his family at the awards ceremony

To him, it’s about more than just receiving an award. He said what hits deeper is that he’s fulfilling a promise to his dad.

“My dad passed away in 2009 […] part of our final conversation was that, ‘please don't forget who you are […] be proud to be Filipino and you know, share it to the world,” Lamagna said.

That's become his mission.

Credit: Carlo Lamagna
Carlo Lamagna with his father

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“We're getting an opportunity to make our voices heard.”

Lamagna expresses his pride and culture through sharing Filipino food and teaching martial arts to those in the Filipino community so they can connect with their roots as well.

“I always say my job is twofold. One, it's to introduce Filipino food to the masses."

His other job, he said, is to make sure his dishes resonate with people in their hearts and minds. Lamagna’s goal is to evoke memories of family dishes or visiting a friend who served up Filipino food.

“That’s what food is, right? It's emotional.”

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