All in the Family at Philippine Cuisine and Groceries

 Chef-owner Hospecio “Shiong” Lubaton leads the family endeavor, Philippine Cuisine and Groceries. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Chef-owner Hospecio “Shiong” Lubaton leads the family endeavor, Philippine Cuisine and Groceries. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Filipino values are maintained in the family where respect and the work ethic are learned at an early age. This is reflected in Philippine Cuisine and Groceries, a popular spot in Crestwood, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago. The restaurant-grocery store is a family endeavor of the Lubatons.

Hospecio “Shiong” Lubaton and his wife, Stella Deypalubos Lubaton, are from Marbel, South Cotabato, and Iloilo City, Iloilo, respectively. They met in Manila. What they have in common up to this day are the Ilonggo language and the love of cooking.

Stella learned to cook when she was growing up. “Cooking was a social activity for my family, friends and relatives,” she explains. In contrast, Shiong only learned to cook when he was an adult. He is indebted to his cousin Letty Dedel, who was residing in Manila. “She was very patient with me,” he remembers. “She had this gentle approach, making me learn and enjoy cooking, which eventually became my passion. I owe my culinary skills to her.”

Shiong and Stella modeled their household and passed on their culinary skills to their children, Shean, Matthew and Dawn, who learned discipline, efficiency and creativity in the process. When Philippine Cuisine and Groceries was established, the Lubatons all had to pitch in to make the business successful.

 Daughter Dawn Lubaton is the cashier. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Daughter Dawn Lubaton is the cashier. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

And they have stuck to their goal. The restaurant-grocery store is doing well, and it can run smoothly even without Shiong and Stella. Shean and Matthew do the cooking, while Dawn is responsible for desserts and the cash register. They only call their parents for emergencies and major decisions.

Shiong is the chef, and most of the dishes are based on his recipes. However, according to Dawn, some of the recipes are given by customers. “We have close relationships with them. They feel at home and share their recipes with us. We like that. We are always open to suggestions, and we try to give them what they want.”

Shean and Matthew have effortless culinary skills, though they have had no formal training. They know recipes by heart and have learned to develop their own distinctive styles. “Cooking was something that we learned naturally because we have always helped in the kitchen at home,” Matthew shares. However, cooking for a restaurant took some adjustments, like the volume of food and the observation of customers’ preferences.

 Sons Matthew and Shean Lubaton are always busy in the kitchen. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Sons Matthew and Shean Lubaton are always busy in the kitchen. (Photo by Ivan Kevin Castro)

Food and service are paramount at Philippine Cuisine and Groceries because customer satisfaction is a top priority. The Lubatons tell their customers that they do not have to pay when they are not satisfied with the food and service. And they mean it. “We would like to know when there is a complaint. It means we have to work harder to achieve excellence,” says Shean.

People flock to Philippine Cuisine and Groceries because of excellent food. Some of the standouts are sisig, igado, and Bicol Express. At a Sunday buffet, Remedios Robinos was gushing over the wide selection, while her friend Eva Tirad was busy with the desserts.

“Philippine Cuisine and Groceries always has awesome food!” exclaims Remedios.

Eva adds, “And the Lubatons treat everybody like family! This is home for us!”

Philippine Cuisine and Groceries
14149 South Cicero Avenue
Crestwood, IL 60445
Tel. (708) 925-9683

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 Rey E. de la Cruz

Rey E. de la Cruz

Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., writes from Chicagoland when he is not loving the arts and traveling. He is the author of the children’s book, Ballesteros on My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines, which also has Ilocano, Spanish, and Tagalog versions.


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