Hi Blaine! Can you take us on your journey to becoming an Award Winning Chef and owning one of Denver’s Best Food Trucks: Adobo Food Truck? How did you get here?
Mabuhay! My name is Blaine Baggao. I am from Roswell, New Mexico where I developed a passion for southern New Mexican food and Filipino food on the occasion we’d visit my Filipino grandmother. My mother raised two boys, opened her own cardiology lab and won a national award for Business Woman of the Year in 2003. She gave me the inspiration to be an entrepreneur. I attended New Mexico State University planning on a career as a financial analyst. After a head-on motorcycle accident in 2012, I did not remember who I was. Luckily my memories returned. However the lasting traumatic brain injury and PTSD from the accident forever altered my life. I could no longer pursue a career in finance. My body and brain were broken but I was determined to make sure my story did not end there. Years later, I cashed out my 401(k) and went in on a food truck with one of my best friends. I used the food truck work to rehabilitate myself by rebuilding my cognitive skills, redefining who I wanted to be and providing an emotional outlet to focus on while honoring my grandmother and late mother.
Are you from Colorado? Which neighborhood did you eventually choose to call home?
I am from New Mexico but first moved to Boulder and lived off Pearl Street for a few years. I currently live in Arvada. I like the neighborhood feel, the growing restaurant scene in the area, the parks for my dog and ease of travel to our restaurant locations.
Why was it important to you to combine Filipino Cooking + New Mexican styled food? How do you think it speaks it the ever growing Food Scene and population in Denver?
For me, it is all passion for food, people and that feeling you get when a dish takes you somewhere. I am self-taught so everything comes from a desire and passion to learn, connect with people or represent. The two things I am most familiar and comfortable with were New Mexican Food & Filipino food. So, I like to create dishes inspired by different styles of cooking that I am passionate about as I explore my culture. I think the food scene in Denver is doing incredibly well! There are so many independent Chef’s taking the leap to start their own business. The community, as always, is so supportive of folks chasing their dream and so there are so many delicious new spots to enjoy.
What are some of your favorite food creations that are available at Adobo?
My favorite dishes are the ones that take me back to a place and time that remind me of memories with loved ones or a time in my life that I treasure. My lumpia reminds me of visits to my grandmother’s house. The feelings of being home, connected to my family and spending time with someone I love so much. My second favorite is our smoked carnitas taco that won TOPTACO in 2018. It’s totally different from any other taco but consistently has folks telling us it’s the best taco they have ever had. That means a lot.
How does Social Change play a part in your inspiration for your food creations?
I think food and or art always plays an important role in the conversation of social change. In my adolescent years, I directly experienced racism every single day. I think I have so many emotions about some social change issues, so much to learn and so much to explore in myself before I feel comfortable having a voice in that conversation. I am a very outspoken person with a brain injury who wears their heart on their sleeve. So, before jumping into any conversations on some big issues, I think I need a lot of time to let myself figure out if I have a message, if I want to share that message, if that message is something I will feel comfortable with in 10 years, etc. I think that I am most impactful when I support organizations that I believe in who focus on social change issues I care about.
What challenges have you experienced on your journey?
I have experienced a few challenges on my journey. I lost my mother to suicide when I was 19. I lost the relationship with my 2 year old daughter and family after a divorce. I lost myself and identity to a brain injury after the motorcycle wreck. The most challenging times in my life have been indescribably painful but at some point I learned to work through the pain, envision my future and use the heartache as motivation. COVID was a hard time but the resilience and perseverance I had developed through my life helped me to survive 2020 and grow 300%. I do well under pressure and came up with ideas like raising money online to feed local healthcare workers in March of 2020. We started selling our award winning carnitas on instagram and would deliver to peoples houses driving 350+ miles a day. We eventually launched a digital food truck park allowing customers to order from multiple trucks online with scheduled pick up or delivery times.
What was it like having your food featured on Netflix’s “Fresh, Fried, and Crispy”?
It was an incredible experience. The film production team was the best. I was a little nervous but they really did an amazing job to help me be myself and tell my story. Since the episode has come out we consistently have folks who saw the episode come to visit us. It’s a blessing. We just filmed another short spot with a show I can’t disclose just yet that is on their 18th season. It will air on Netflix, Hulu and Lifetime. Follow us on IG for updates!
Where can we find Adobo? What are all the locations?
We have 4 locations to find us.
3109 FEDERAL BLVD
DENVER, CO 80211
ADOBO at First Draft
1309 26th St
DENVER, CO 80205
HELLO CAFE – MEOW WOLF CONVERGENCE STATION
1338 1ST ST
DENVER, CO 80204
ADOBO FOOD TRUCK
Check our IG for the Food Truck schedule!
Is there anything you’d like to promote in this article coming up this year or anything you are proud of accomplishing in the past few years that we haven’t mentioned?
Honestly, I’m learning to be more kind to myself so being proud of myself and how I’ve handled one of the hardest times in my life means more to me everyday. The last 5 years could have gone a lot of different ways. I’m mostly proud of how much I have grown as a person and also proud of our new restaurant. This month is the first time I have come up for air since taking the keys on this property in October of 2021. In our first 6 months of being fully open we have been honored with since opening:
- Westword Reader’s Choice – Best New Bar in Denver
- Westword Editor Choice – Best Mash Up – Filipino, New Mexican
- Top 100 Restaurant in Denver – Westword Magazine
- Top 10 Green Chile in Denver – Westword Magazine
- Ultimate List of Denver’s Top Tacos – 5280 Magazine
- Best Bars in Denver with Live Music – Westword Magazine
I am proud to be one of the original 13 vendors and our continued relationship with Meow Wolf Convergence Station. I am proud to be one of the twelve Pitmasters cooking at this year’s Denver BBQ Festival at Mile High Stadium on Memorial Day weekend.
How would you describe the Personality or “Vibe” of Denver?
Denver has an eclectic renaissance vibe to me. I think diners know what they like but also are open to new things and enjoy a broad variety. I see Denver’s chefs and the culinary scene in a renaissance. The ones that survived covid basically survived a near death experience for their business. I don’t think anyone can or wants to go back to the old ways so we are all individually pushing the limits, creating and redefining what achievement looks like for each of us.
Reach Out to Blaine for more Info:
@13aggao – Chef Baggao
*I’d just like to add a shout out to my daughter – You’re my reason for everything. I love you, Olivia.