It started with a text.
Mike and I met in the summer of 2014 on that most notorious of dating apps, Tinder. We rapidly discovered that this was more than a summer fling. We were best friends from the start; it was love at first swipe. From there, we moved in together and hosted as many parties as we could. Me, in the kitchen cooking for our friends, and Mike acting as the host, entertaining and making sure everyone was happy. Why? Because we loved it. We were a strong team.
We both had full-time careers. I was working as a Dental Administrator, Mike as a Project Manager. It was from my desk that I texted Mike one day, “You know what would be great? Filipino Caribbean food. Does anyone make that?”
After much Googling, we discovered that it was a unique idea. As we sat with it, it became all we could think about. I invented recipes and tested them for weeks. We invited our friends over and had them taste and critique for hours.
From that text on, we were determined. We felt a fiery need to share this food with as many people as possible. I perfected those recipes. Mike slaved away creating a business from scratch. When we finally posted our first picture on instagram and saw the interest we were generating, Tito Ron’s was born.
Ronald Petate is my father. Tito is the tagalog word for “Uncle” and is often used as a term of respect when addressing your elders.
My dad, like many Filipino immigrants, has devoted his life to working hard and providing for his family. I grew up watching him leave at 10pm every night to work an exhausting night shift and then come home in the morning, gently coax my cranky butt out of bed, make all of us breakfast, get us ready and take us to school. Never complaining and always there when I needed him. Because of my father, I grew up understanding the value of patience, perseverance, faith and a strong work ethic. Naming this business after him was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.
Other than that, my dad is one cool ass dude. If you’ve ever met him at our booth, you know why he’s being called Toronto’s Official Tito (not affiliated with Toronto’s Champagne Papi).
There’s just something about Filipino food.
To me, nothing compares to the simplicity, the comfort, the soul, the sheer love that I see in Filipino food. Food in the Philippines is influenced by many cultures; Chinese, Spanish and Malaysian just to name a few. Dishes differ from region to region and from family to family.
At Tito Ron’s, we add Caribbean influences to our food. An important part of my family isTrinidadian and our family gatherings usually include curries and rotis as well as lumpia and pancit. There are so many ingredients and methods of cooking that are common between the two types of cuisine. Pineapples, coconuts, cassava, tamarind and plantains are a few ingredients that we use in both cuisines and that we love using to create our own dishes. Look at the simple, slow-cooked stews that are made by both cultures and you’ll see that both value the importance of comfort in food. It seemed natural for us to combine the two cultures in our own offerings.
The first Tito Ron’s recipe that I tested was for Lumpia Trinidad. “Doubles” is a common Trinidadian street food. Channa (curried chickpeas) are served with bara (a flat, fried bread). We make fresh, hand-rolled Filipino style lumpia with a channa filling and serve it with a Tamarind barbecue sauce. While we aim to honour traditional Filipino ingredients and methods, I find the addition of Caribbean flavours adds an additional level of spice and seasoning that makes our food truly unique.
We love Toronto. The hustle, the neighbourhoods, the restaurants, the shops, the people. We’re lucky to live in a city with such diversity. Yet, Filipino food is woefully underrepresented.
If you’re looking for Filipino food in downtown Toronto right now, your choices are extremely limited. Most of the people that we’ve met who have tried Filipino food have only done so within the homes of Filipino friends. As a Filipino person and a diehard Torontonian, I feel like this needs to change. Filipino-Canadians are the third largest Asian-Canadian group in the nation. Toronto, as the diversity embracing city that it is, needs to be representative of that.
As a small business, we’re aiming to be out there every day representing for the Filipino community in the city. But we need your support to get there!
It’s hard to believe, but Tito Ron’s has only been operating since May 2015. 8 short months. In that time, we were able to establish ourselves on the summer festival circuit in Toronto. We’ve successfully participated in the T.O Food Fest, the inaugural Sweetery Festival, the Coconut Festival and the Parkdale Flea Market. We capped off the season with the much publicized Toronto Food & Wine Festival where our sweet and savoury lumpias got finger-licking thumbs up from celebrity chefs David Rocco, Roger Mooking, Gail Simmons and Mark McEwan!
We’ve rolled and sold thousands of lumpia, we’ve expanded our menu, and we’ve built a solid following of lumpia lovers on social media who come out just to see us. We even hadthree sold out days at this Fall’s Gourmet Food and Wine Expo thanks to our loyal fans.
Now we’re ready to take our work to the next level. We want to be able to serve up our food every day for the city that we love.
The first questions we hear after someone has tried our food are, “Where are you located? Where can I find you?”
We’re here to answer the call; We’re moving into a space in the food court at 214 Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market this March! We want people to be able to get their Filipino food fix every day. We’ll have a weekly rotating menu of Filipino classics remixed with a little Caribbean flavour. We want people to come to us when they’re feeling unique, unpretentious, affordable comfort food.
Tito Ron’s, along with amazing support and funding from Futurpreneur Canada, have already put significant funds towards making our dream a reality. We’ve secured the space, we’ve done research and development and solidified our business administration, but there’s still a gap in funding between where we are and where we need to be and we’re hoping that’s where you come in!
We’ve got big plans for the Kickstarter funds; your donations will primarily go toward buyingmuch-needed equipment upgrades and renovations for the space. Small-to-medium sized expenses add up quickly, everything from fryers and cash registers to signs and utensilsneed to be bought before we can start offering up the food we think Toronto deserves. With your help, we can make sure that Tito Ron’s comes out swinging, offering the best street food around from a facility that’s properly equipped to show you what we can do.
If I’ve learned anything from my experiences building this business, it’s that you really never know when something amazing is about to happen. Who knew growing up eating eggs and spam for breakfast with my mom and dad that it would cultivate a love for food and cooking that would last a lifetime? Who knew when I signed up for Tinder that I would find the man and business partner of my dreams?
My passion for Filipino culture and Filipino food grows every day, along with our hopes and dreams for this business. It grows along with our love for our city and for each other. This venture went from a part-time project to a full-blown business. Mike went from my boyfriend to my fiance. I went from pursuing a paycheque to pursuing a dream.
I want Toronto to be a part of my next adventure. Support Tito Ron’s and, I promise, amazing things will happen!