2021 Chicago Rising Star Game Changer Chefs Tim Flores and Genie Kwon of Kasama

2021 Chicago Rising Star Game Changer Chefs Tim Flores and Genie Kwon of Kasama
Septemeber 2021

Tim Flores grew up just outside of Chicago with his parents, who immigrated from the Philippines in 1975. His first experience in professional kitchens was polishing dishes at GT Fish & Oyster between college semesters in Iowa. After graduation, Flores returned to Chicago and transitioned to GT’s kitchen, where he met his future wife and business partner, Genie Kwon, as she ran the restaurant’s pastry wing. Kwon, a native of New Orleans, graduated from Newbury College’s culinary management program in Massachusetts. By the time she found herself working alongside Flores, Kwon had cut her teeth at Flour Bakery & Cafe, Nobu Fifty Seven, and Eleven Madison Park. 

In 2014, Flores moved on to work as a line cook at Senza under Rising Stars alum Chef Noah Sandoval while Kwon served as the pastry chef at BOKA and netted a Jean Banchet Rising Pastry Chef of the Year award. After a couple rounds of post-service drinks, Sandoval, Kwon, and Flores decided to open a restaurant together. One year later they opened Oriole, a fine dining restaurant that earned two Michelin stars in its first year.

In 2018, Flores and Kwon left to conceptualize a space of their own. After two and a half years, they built that space in the Ukrainian Village and named it Kasama, meaning “together” in Tagalog. The couple lives up to the restaurant’s name by collaborating on the Filipino-inflected sweet and savory offerings. For example, Kwon’s halo halo recipe combines her own flavors with her mother-in-law’s recipe for leche flan.