Chefs in the City: Fredrik Berselius
Chefs in the City: Maiko Kyogoku
Chefs in the City: Emily Yuen

Chefs in the City: Woldy Reyes

Woldy Reyes on Filipino flavors, chosen family, and the ultimate comfort food.
Woldy Reyes smiles on couch
Photo by Andy Jackson

For this Broadcast series, Pioneer Works Supper Club chefs and collaborators are asked what small businesses they frequent—in a celebration of city life, good food, and all things local. In the process, we learn more about their background, their worldview, and what day-to-day activities inform their creative, culinary practice.

Woldy Reyes smiles on couch
Photo by Andy Jackson

WOLDY REYES: BROOKLYN

Woldy Reyes is a chef and founder of the boutique catering company Woldy Kusina, which was originally based in Brooklyn and since the pandemic has expanded to the Hudson Valley, where he lives part-time. Woldy takes a farm to table approach that integrates bold, Filipino flavors.

“For me, when I try to achieve the major Filipino flavors of tart, salty, sour, and spicy, I use soy sauce or tamari, which brings in that saltiness or the umami-ness. Additionally, to bring the tartness and sour flavors, I use various types of vinegars like coconut vinegar or plain distilled vinegar. I love using citrus a lot; lemons and limes provide freshness and tartness. The sweet component comes from coconut milk and palm sugar. And then you have a bit of spice from chilies, like Thai chilies or jalapenos. When you mix it all together, you achieve an umami bomb of Filipino flavors.”

Woldy and I met up at the Brooklyn apartment that he shares with artists Daniel Robin Clurman and Peter Stanglmayr. We spent the afternoon visiting the places that make Brooklyn feel like home when he’s here and that inspire his creative, culinary practice.

Reyes sits to handle several paintings on floor.
Photo by Andy Jackson

DANIEL ROBIN CLURMAN STUDIO

207 St. James Place, Brooklyn

“Daniel Robin Clurman’s studio is in Clinton Hill, in this apartment that he and Peter—who is a photographer—share, and where I stay when I’m in Brooklyn. I'm lucky to be housed by two creative people that are both sort of my chosen family. I'm always inspired by my heritage, but also the people that are closest to me. Daniel uses lots of bold color, so, that sort of informs me when I am plating a dish, that color and texture is also important, as well as flavor.  He’s a mixed medium artist, using primarily acrylic, spray paint, chalk, crayon, or pencil. Right now he's doing work with subjects from Instagram who  are primarily Black, people of color, queer, and trans, leaders in those communities. He captures their essence from their photographs. He did a portrait of me, very abstract, and it was called The Hearing Impaired Boy because I have a disability. It’s hanging on the wall in front of my bed upstate.”

Wall of drawings and paintings
Photo by Andy Jackson
Reyes examines portrait.
Photo by Andy Jackson

URSULA

724 Sterling Place, Brooklyn

"Ursula is a New Mexican inspired cafe in Crown Heights that was opened by my close friend Eric See. Eric is both its chef and pastry chef. He makes these amazing breakfast burritos, something that he grew up eating, and now they have a cult following. There are lines around the blocks on weekends. Not only does he make breakfast burritos, but also sopaipillas, which are like a fried dough that's stuffed with either stewed chorizo or black beans, and then topped with fresh lettuce and tomato and a mound of cheddar cheese. He makes incredible pastry—conchas, rainbow cake, trans cake, and super inventive donuts. Ursula also carries vegan, gluten free pop tarts and cookies from our friend Lani Halliday’s Brutus Bakeshop."

Reyes bites into treat behind cafe window
Photo by Andy Jackson
Reyes holds stuffed treat in hands.
Photo by Andy Jackson

"Everything Eric does has a thought behind it. He closed another business in the pandemic and then a couple months later decided to open his own place. He really wanted this space to be about community, especially queer community, so he employed a rainbow of colorful LGBTQIA people. He wanted to utilize this place as a space for other queer chefs who either may have lost their job or are kind of, like, figuring out what other pivots that they could make. I was able to do a pop up there, among many other queer chefs, so we can continue to do the food that we enjoy making.”

Reyes nibbles on concha and rainbow cookie
Photo by Andy Jackson
Retablos depicting Selena and angel hang on wall.
Photo by Andy Jackson

MAYA CONGEE CAFE

563 Gates Ave, Brooklyn

“I discovered Maya Congee Cafe when I started living in Bed Stuy and my queer chef friend had a place next door. They make this amazing congee, which is like a Chinese rice porridge. We have something very similar in Filipino culture called Arroz Caldo or aroskaldo; it’s usually served with crispy garlic and a bit of citrus. It’s basically rice that's cooked down with broth, and you can put a million different toppings on it. And what Maya does is they have more elevated versions of it. They add crispy broccoli and a soft boiled egg or duck egg. Their toppings vary from vegan kimchi to smoked fish and soft cheese. Warm rice porridge has been really comforting to me since I was a kid, especially on a rainy, cold day. That bowl of congee is just like a big, warm hug. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's one of those things that, really, if you're sick, will make you feel better."

Reyes dips spoon into bowl of congee.
Photo by Andy Jackson
Reyes smiles at table outside of storefront.
Photo by Andy Jackson

"They also carry Asian pantry items, which I'm really excited about. There's fish sauce and there's chili oil and there's the noodles that my mom used to have in our pantry. I'm happy that there's a place like Maya that feels like home in Brooklyn.”

Reyes picks ingredients from shelf.
Photo by Andy Jackson
Variety of cans and bottles on shelf.
Photo by Andy Jackson
Reyes smiles on steps.
Photo by Andy Jackson
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