By: Grayson Mask
Thomas Keller once remarked, “A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” In other words, a meal’s emotional component is as important if not more important than the ingredients. This assertion validates Cassaundra Bayot’s culinary philosophy as practiced in Mahal Eating, a Filipino Traveling Kitchen she co-founded with Alonzo Goodrich. For Cassaundra, food symbolizes love, and cooking for others is an extension of her heart. So, while Mahal Eating presents an exceptional aspect of Filipino culture to enrich the DFW area’s cultural experience, you can’t miss the spices of love it spreads.
Background and Inspiration
Cassaundra’s childhood was full of cooking with family. Her parents had a wealth of cooking experience and were always interested in raising their children with the beautiful flavors of Filipino cuisine. They also ensured that the interest (in cooking) and skills were immersed in their children. These experiences were so dear to Cassaundra’s heart that she knew she would also raise her children with local Filipino meals.
Here’s what she had to say: “I’ve always grown up with it. My family, both sides of my mom, and my dad have a really extensive background when it comes to cooking. My mother’s more on the sweet side. My dad is more on the savory side. So I wanted to learn more about it because I knew eventually I’d want to share it with my kids. And then just like how diverse Filipino food is, I really wanted to understand it and take more initiative to learn it.”
It’s, therefore, not a surprise that she took further learning in culinary schools and got engaged in several culinary competitions, such as those organized by ProStart and American Culinary Federation, ACF . And she won some with her team. By the time she attended the University of North Texas (UNT), she had “started looking more into the management side of things,… started doing more like the front of the house, such as restaurant management.”
The Vision and Emergence of Mahal Eating
Given her background, Cassaundra has always known she’s going to be making different Filipino foods at some point. However, between 2018 and 2019, the vision of opening a local restaurant became distinct. Alongside her fiance and business partner, Alonzo Goodrich, she had a strong desire to make Filipino food accessible to people in the DFW area who probably only get it when they are with their Filipino families , “or those who have never had it, but want to try it.” And she wanted the establishment to be “well known in Dallas.”
While Cassaundra’s vision was clear, she did not know the best way to go about it. At least, not until COVID-19 hit. During the pandemic period, she saw a lot of Filipino businesses come up with the idea of pop-up shops. And that was when it clicked. The right approach to getting the local business started and thriving occurred to her. She said, ”And we saw a lot of other Filipino people, businesses doing pop-up events, such as pre-orders . . .. And we were like, wait, that makes a lot of sense for us to make it accessible the way that we felt like it without having to use the means of a restaurant.”
With this inspiration, they started pre-orders. And they began with the popular Filipino dish called “Siopao ” with the aim of showing that “you can make Filipino food at home without the fear of it.” That was the birth of Mahal Eating. The business moved into doing a lot of pop-ups and collaborations with people and businesses in Dallas. However, because of their vision, they organized the first private dinner. Cassaundra says, “We decided to take it on the road with ourselves and do a private dinner. So it evolved from the fact that we simply wanted to be accessible to everyone and anyone without the restaurant aspect.”
What the Private Dinners Offer
You can be sure the private dinner is a ticketed event with pre-sales that offers an immersive taste-bud experience with Filipino cuisines. Recently, Mahal Eating took a nice approach in the form of a loyalty event for customers who have supported the local business consistently throughout the last year to be a part of a private dinner party. The dinner party gives us insight into what Mahal Eating’s private dinners are about.
The event offers the participants a rich creative experience of the Filipino world. They get to see, feel, or witness the intricacies of Filipino culture firsthand. According to Cassaundra, the parties showcase the creative side because so many photographers, videographers, singers, and songwriters known through local friends will be involved. She says, “We wanted to give them [the artists] a space while giving us a space and opportunity… So it entailed things like live music, a DJ, and paired cocktails.”
Besides the creatives, you’ve got the main stuff, the food. According to Cassaundra, one of the courses can be Lumpia , a party hit, “the Filipino egg roll that we serve.” Another is Babingka , like the dessert, which is very nostalgic for a lot of people. You’ve also got the Chicken Tocino Sandwich , a crowd favorite. Whatever the selected courses, she “would walk them through these courses and let them know the history behind the Filipino items or why I loved it as a child growing up.
Mahal Eating’s Upcoming Events
As per the upcoming projects, Mahal Eating is looking to have a new location in February, which will feature an exclusive invite for the next private dinner party and a DJ set by DJ Rene. . It is Cassaundra’s way of giving back. And that correlates with the meaning of the business’ name. She said, “Mahal. . . means love. So this was like my way of giving back to those who have supported us for the last two years.”
In the coming years, she looks forward to growing the private dinners and enhancing the Mahal Eating Filipino cuisine for many more people across the DFW area.