Creating phenomenal Filipino food and opportunities

People of Adelaide

Filipino food might not be the first cuisine that jumps to mind when choosing a restaurant but Adelaide's Adobo Co and owner Christopher Gime are here to change that. 

Seven years ago Xueqian Zhang arrived in Adelaide as an international student from China and fell in love with exploring the city's incredible places. Her latest discovery is the enormously popular Adobo Co, Filipino restaurant in Port Adelaide. She sat down with owner Christopher Gime to hear how this restaurant was born from the challenges of COVID-19.

“Do you want to interview my boss?”

To interview Christopher Gime is an accident. Initially I just wanted to make a video about the Filipino cuisine. I’ve never been to any Filipino restaurant before, so when my Filipino student, Sai, recommended me Adobo Co for its authenticity, I was excited about checking it out with my friends.

However, we didn’t expect how popular it was, and we had to wait for 45 minutes, so I thought, “Why not take some photos while waiting?” Unexpectedly, a waitress asked me if I wanted to interview her boss, Adobo Co owner Chris. It sparked my curiosity: he must be a good boss then. I found out he is much more than that.

Chris came out after a short while. My first impression was of a rigid and serious man. Not very tall but fit, short hair with tanned skin. He nodded and grinned a bit. “Perhaps it will be a brief interview.” I thought to myself, but I also sensed some determination and humility within him. We ended up chatting for over half an hour, and I felt inspired and grateful after hearing his stories.

Adobo owner

Article author Xueqian Zhang and Adobo Co owner Christopher Gime

This restaurant only opened in June 2020. Chris lost his job as a head chef due to COVID-19, and Jobseeker was not enough to support his family back in the Philippines. He decided to take a gamble and open his own restaurant for the first time.

The beginning was hard. Chris had very few customers. However, a Vlog posted by a customer changed everything. His restaurant began to become popular among the local community.

Gradually, he started to hire people. Now, he has six cookery students working for him, and they had all lost their jobs during COVID-19 and they had no family support.

“I spent two months training them. It was hard, but I enjoyed that. I love sharing my knowledge.” When he told me that his students can now cook without his supervision, a sense of pride and achievement shone on his face.

One thing that Chris always says to his students is:

“Be proud of who you are as a chef. Make sure your food is good. When you put the first spoon of your food in your month, close your eyes. If all the elements explode in your month, that means you are a good chef.”

Not only that, Chris also wanted to sponsor their visas. He knew how hard it is to get a visa, as he was in a working visa himself. “That’s the only way that I can help those people.”

For him, to become a good leader (help others and form productive relationships) is much more important than being a boss. I now understand why that waitress wanted me to interview him.

Adoboco food

A delicious spread of food from the Adobo Co menu

Introducing Filipino cuisine to Adelaide

Besides sharing, he has another passion, cooking. When he talked about cooking, his eyes beamed. So, what does Chris enjoy as a chef?

“When I see my customers enjoying the food, thanking me for the lovely and beautiful food with their empty plates.”

Now Chris has another mission: introducing Filipino cuisine to Adelaide. He is very proud of doing that, because he knows Filipino cuisine is not well known across the world. Therefore, he wants to keep his restaurant as authentic as possible. It’s not always easy. When he can’t find some key ingredients, he needs to be creative, such as using a lemon to replace the flavour of a kumquat. But isn’t it cool to see things from a different perspective? By changing, we celebrate some new and interesting flavours.

Also, I started to get curious, had cooking always been Chris’s passion? No, I discovered something completely different yet fascinating.

“I’ve never known cooking would be my pathway.”

Chris was born in an impoverished family back in the Philippines. He always wanted to become a pilot, but it never happened. Instead, he started fishing when he was only seven years old.

Then he went to Manila to sell ice-cream on the street while studying to be a mechanic. However, he couldn't find a job after finishing the course due to lack of experience. To survive, Chris started to work as a dishwasher, that was where he discovered his interest in cooking. "There was free food there", he smiled as he told me this.

He then started to apply for cook jobs instead in the next five years. Eventually, the crewing manager was touched by his determination and offered him a job, to work in a cruise ship as a utility cleaner. He accepted, as he knew that is a way out.

When Chris met his boss and told him about his cook identity, he was brought to the main kitchen to do some cooking. The following day before embarking, he got promoted to be a utility cook. From then on, Chris started to shine, becoming a sous chef, one of the second-highest positions there.

Christoper gime

Adobo Co owner, Christopher Gime

“I am still not rich yet, and just as simple as everyone else. But I became the only person in my family who changed his life.”

What drove him? A quote. Chris said he heard that when he was young: “It’s not your fault that you were born very poor. But when you die, if you are still poor, then that’s your fault because you didn’t do much about it, working hard and doing smart in your life.”

He continued: “Being a fisherman, living in a third country was very hard. I’ve never enjoyed my childhood. But I’ve never complained. You always look at the good things, sometimes when you are down, very down, stand up. If you always look at the bad things, you will die very badly. Always look things in a positive way. Maybe it’s not easy, it’s not like one click that you can get what you want instantly, but time will come. Hard work and dedication, that’s enough for you. You don’t need to be a very talented person. All you need to have is good intention. Don’t do bad things at other people. Help others if you can, but don’t let others abuse you. That’s all I learned in my life.”

Chris’s kindness, compassion, hard work and positive attitude really motivated me, and lingered in my head and heart for days. You made me realise how lucky I am and how powerful words can bring. So, if reading this resonates with you, please pass it along. And, if you want to try some authentic Filipino food, this is your go to place. I am sure you will enjoy it.

Adobo Co.

118 Commercial Rd, Port Adelaide SA 5015

Article by

Xueqian (Chien) Zhang

I came to Adelaide seven years ago as an international student from China. Adelaide is the first foreign city I’ve been to, and it’s like my second home now. I love telling stories, exploring new places, and sharing different cultures. I see the world as a playground, and I am passionate about spreading love, joy, inspirations and positivity to this world.