Chef Tom Cunanan of Bad Saint - Biography

Washington, D.C.

October 2018

Tom Cunanan was born in the Philippines as the sixth of seven children. He moved to the United States when he was 3 and did most of his growing-up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He joined the Boys & Girls Club in high school and got a job as a busboy and dishwasher in a fine-dining establishment. Upon graduation, he attended the culinary program at the Art Institute of Washington in Arlington, Virginia, for a few semesters before deciding he would learn more effectively through first-hand experience.

Cunanan’s first jobs led him through a variety of cuisines, including French gastronomy at La Chaumerie and upscale Southern at Vidalia. While working as executive sous chef at New American bistro Ardeo+Bardeo, Cunanan’s mother fell ill. In her final months, he worked with her to carefully document all of her original recipes from the Philippines. In 2015, Cunanan launched Tarsier Catering, a small Filipino catering company that quickly morphed in Bad Saint, a 24-seat restaurant in Washington D.C. Bad Saint has garnered many awards and critical notices, including being named the “No. 2 Best New Restaurant” in the United States in 2016 by Bon App├ętit, and earning a three-star review from Pete Wells in The New York Times. Cunanan was nominated for a James Beard Award for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” in 2017 and 2018.

Cunanan travels to the The Philippines for research as often as he can, adding authentic techniques and ingredients to his progressive Filipino-American repertoire.