Darren Young first became immersed in the world of barbecue and smoked meats when he and his wife, Charlene Lopez Young, moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles. Darren started out barbecuing for friendly get-togethers at their house, and Charlene – who is Filipino-American – eventually taught him about Filipino barbecue. With Darren cooking the meat and Charlene making everything else, they attracted more and more attention for their Filipino fare – and so, The Fattened Caf, a Filipino barbecue pop up and catering concept, was born.
The couple started their year with a monthly residency at Earthbound Beer on Cherokee Street, where they’ve been known to sell out in a matter of hours. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area and pop ups were no longer feasible, they started hosting drive ups where they would sell to-go plates of their food.
Now, it's even easier to find dishes from The Fattened Caf across the St. Louis area – the pair has partnered with Schnucks to offer several of its most popular dishes in prepared form, including chicken longanisa and a grilled chicken barbecue plate with garlic rice and pickled papaya. You can also watch The Fattened Caf's Instagram and Facebook pages for the chance to order some longanisa, Filipino sausages, for pickup from Earthbound.
What exactly is Filipino barbecue? It’s really grilled meat. Southern-style American barbecue is cooked low and slow over wood; it’s smoked for 12 to 20 hours. Filipino barbecue is a process that can be done in 20 minutes. The meat is cooked over hot, hot charcoal and marinated in spices native to the Philippines. –Darren Young It’s garlicky, [and] most of the time there is soy sauce or vinegar involved. –Charlene Lopez Young
What sides do you pair with it? The standard is jasmine rice, either made into a garlic rice or topped with garlic chips. Another one is my grandmother’s pickled papaya, which we call atchara in the Philippines. It’s [grated] green papaya with carrots and ginger – a lot of love goes into it. –C.L.Y.
Why bring Filipino barbecue to St. Louis? [St. Louis] is a great barbecue city. I said, “If St. Louis people can love St. Louis barbecue, how could they not fall in love with Filipino barbecue?” To me, it seemed to be a perfect fit. –D.Y.
What does it mean to you to be able to share Filipino cuisine with others? Food is a huge deal in Filipino families. [For us], it’s not even Filipino food; it’s just food. We would eat these meals that my mom would make or my grandmother would make – they were a part of home for us. My mom was an immigrant, so that was a way for her to connect with her family – and a way for me to as well. I was born in L.A., but I grew up in the Philippines. We practice everything about being Filipino, so it was a big deal for me to [make the food] and to have it with our friends – to eat Filipino food that I can say tastes like my grandma’s food. –C.L.Y.
Besides the pull ups, what have you been up to during COVID-19? We had a lot of time on our hands, and really tried to perfect our sausage-making skills. –D.Y. I think this time has given us the room to be a bit more creative and to dream a little bit more about what things can the Fattened Caf do that we have not yet done before. ... Maybe doing some sort of night market or backyard barbecue where people can actually grab meat on a stick, or variations of Filipino street food, for a much more affordable price than our full meals would be. –C.L.Y.