A sneak peek at Billy Dec’s ‘Food. Roots. Philippines.’

Billy Dec in ‘Food. Roots. Philippines.’

Billy Dec in ‘Food. Roots. Philippines.’

Chicago’s award-winning
restaurateur and
media personality
films a quest for
family and food in
Southeast Asia

Billy Dec’s Food. Roots. Philippines. explores an ancient recipe for success on the other side of the world. Currently in post-production, the PBS project is a journey into the country, culture, and cuisine of his ancestors.

The Southeast Asian island nation of the Philippines inspired much of the flavor that filled Dec’s childhood home and eventually helped him achieve success as a restaurateur and Emmy Award-winning media personality in the United States.

'Southeast Asian cuisine in Food. Roots.Philippines.'
Southeast Asian cuisine in ‘Food. Roots.Philippines.’

“The best Filipino food in the world was cooked by my Lola (Grandmother),” he explains in a fundraising video for the project. “Unfortunately, when she passed away, none of her recipes were really passed down to us.”

Traveling by plane, boat, jeepney, van, motorcycle, and mountain path, Dec takes viewers on a search to find his last remaining elder.

Stops on the route include metropolitan cities, tiny remote islands, and a hidden village where a 103-year-old tribal tattoo master decorates the host with a design that connects to his ancestry.

Making new friends, tasting new foods, and acquiring recipes along the way, he connects with “the culinary story of my ancestors” in a whirlwind of food, music, and color.



The restaurant and nightclub impresario
Billy Dec is a native Chicagoan who began his career as a restaurant and nightclub owner and operator while studying at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. After opening a club on Goose Island called Solo, he built a string of hit venues including Equinox Wine Bar and Circus.

Today, he is the owner and proprietor of The Underground in Chicago and Sunda New Asian restaurants in Chicago and Nashville.

Sunda — an upscale River North eatery that “celebrates the cultures of Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, China and more” — celebrated its ten-year anniversary in May.

The actor and media personality
Dec has also found success in film and TV. Besides launching Elston Films with a trio of partners in 2015, he has played roles on Friends, Entourage, Chicago Fire, and Mollywood. He also won a pair of Midwest Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement for Entertainment Programs, served on one of President Obama’s Advisory Commissions, regularly contributes to Esquire, and appears as a guest on CNN, Good Morning America, and other programs.

Dec gets a tribal tattoo in 'Food. Roots. Philippines.'
Dec gets a tribal tattoo in ‘Food. Roots. Philippines.’

Dec’s restaurants have also frequently hosted events for organizations in the advertising and film communities. The AICP Awards, the Midwestern Independent Film Festival, and the Chicago Latino Film Festival are just a few that have filled his venues on special occasions.

Food. Roots. Philippines. is expected to run nationally on PBS at the end of the year. To learn more about the project, click here.



Director: Todd Jarrell
Film Crew in the Philippines:
   Chino Neri
   Julian Rodriguez

Send your sneak peeks to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, dan@reelchicago.wpengine.com.