Lemoore grad Rodelio Aglibot, respected nationally known chef, dies at 52. He was an LHS Hall of Fame inductee

Nationally known chef and LHS Hall of Fame inductee Rodelio Aglibot passed away this past weekend. This file photo shows the chef preparing dinner for the annual Hall of Fame dinner.
Nationally known chef and LHS Hall of Fame inductee Rodelio Aglibot passed away this past weekend. This file photo shows the chef preparing dinner for the annual Hall of Fame dinner.

Lemoore High School Hall of Fame recipient and nationally recognized chef, Rodelio Aglibot, died Saturday (March 29) of cardiac arrest after suffering a heart attack Friday night in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was just 52 years old. Aglibot was in Cincinnati at the time, preparing to open another restaurant.

He resided in Chicago and was best known for his River North Pan-Asian restaurant entitled Suna and other Chicago restaurants. Throughout his two-decade career, he earned the nickname the Food Buddha.

His sister, Ruby Byers, posted about her brother's death on Facebook.

"My brother was such a gift. God used him to show His love through him through his food, random texts/calls that would uplift people, his presence and ability to make you feel like you were his best friend (and you truly were). God used him to connect people to other people and opportunities that have impacted lives across the globe. Rodelio Aglibot was really a blessing to so many."

Funeral services are pending.

One of the many highlights of the Lemoore Foundation for Excellence Hall of Fame annual events was the year Aglibot, after his 2014 induction, returned in 2015 to prepare dinner for the newest inductees and an appreciative audience.

The following is a 2015 article about Rodelio Aglibot that appeared in The Leader

This year's inductees into the Lemoore High School Foundation Hall of Fame are getting a special treat this year. The inductees, and all those who come to see them so honored, will be fed dinner by a past inductee, who just happens to be a renowned chef.

This year's dinner and induction ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on May 9 in the LHS cafeteria.

Don't know what's entirely on the menu yet, but Rodelio Aglibot, Lemoore High School Class of 1986, was the first-ever chef inducted into the Foundation Hall of Fame just over a year ago.

Unfortunately for Rodelio, but fortunately for this year's participants in the 2015 Hall of Fame dinner, the talented chef who currently resides in Chicago, was so moved by his induction last year that he promised the large crowd that he would return and prepare this year's meal.

The Foundation kept him to his promise, and he readily agreed to return to his alma mater.

"I'm proud to have been honored as a Lemoore High School Hall of Famer," said Aglibot. "This is my way of giving back to my beloved high school and supporting my niece Frances as she is inducted this year as well. This also gives me a good excuse not to be at my own restaurants for Mother's Day. A chef is only as good as the ones that cook with him. I look forward to cooking with everyone."

So, what will Rodelio whip up for the 100-200 guests? "It will definitely have Central Valley flair with my own personal twist to highlight my career over the years," he said. "Yes, there will be tri-tip."

Born in the Philippines and raised in Hawaii, Rodelio had his first inkling that his professional calling in life would be cooking at a very early age, crediting his parents as his early culinary mentors while attending Lemoore High School. After watching his father cook at home as a child, Aglibot tried his hand at the technique in a treehouse with a hibachi grill and a can of Spam.

Yes, he did become a well-known chef - despite the Spam.

Luckily, he didn't burn his backyard to the ground. Still, it did set him off on a culinary path that he is following today, combining lively and experimental energy with unique ingredients, modern touches, and a touch of surprise.

Known the world over by media outlets as "The Food Buddha," because of a dedication to his heritage and his approach to menu development, Aglibot has been featured on many national television programs for his new Asian cuisine, as well as Italian and American cooking. In the summer of 2011, his show "Food Buddha" premiered on the Learning Channel "TLC." Upcoming shows are in development as the viewer's response to his passion for food was well received and contagious. He has also been featured on the "Today Show," "CBS Morning Show," local morning shows in Chicago, LA, NYC, Minneapolis, and Miami. Guest appearances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Food Network's "The Best of," "Your LA TV," the "Stephen Harvey Show, Style Network's "It's My Party," Fox's "Live Like a Star" and "Entertainment Tonight," "Good Day LA and "Extra."

He's earned glowing reviews from a variety of newspapers and magazines, including USA Today, Chicago Magazine, just to name a few. He received glowing 3-Star reviews from the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune. He's earned many "Best Restaurant" and "Best New Dish" honors from many critics and publications.

Recently he was featured as a contributing chef with several recipes to his credit in the recently published "I Love Bacon" cookbook and contributes recipes on the "New Asian Cuisine" cookbook and named one of "Star Chefs" 500 chefs to know. Currently, he is working on an Earth, Ocean cookbook.

At age 14, Aglibot and family settled in Lemoore. He later attended UCLA, where he studied geography before relocating to San Francisco to pursue his culinary aspirations at the City College's Hotel and Restaurant Program, one of America's longest-running culinary school programs. He was accepted into the prestigious Chef's Apprenticeship Program at the Five-Star and Five-Diamond Greenbrier Resort, located in West Virginia. It was the most important and influential experience of his career, and it was where he was introduced to authentic cooking and classical techniques.

"I was surrounded by some of the most talented and career-driven chefs I'd ever met and refer to my practice at Greenbrier as culinary boot camp," he said. He did 1,500 covers a night and cooked decadent 12-course meals at Greenbrier, which turned into the education of a lifetime.

He returned to San Francisco and would be involved in five restaurant openings over three years, most notably the E&O Trading Company, and later became the opening executive chef and consultant of ZaZen, a beachy Asian Bistro in Venice, California. He also founded a specialty seafood company in San Francisco called Ahi Brothers, distributing tuna to the most beautiful dining destinations in the Bay Area, such as Aqua San Francisco, Gary Danko, and The French Laundry.

His ascent into celebrity chefdom began when he became the opening executive chef of the celebrity-studded juggernaut Koi Restaurant in Los Angeles, where he earned his stars for creating an innovative menu of Asian dishes, blending bright flavors with an array of textures and temperatures. Garnering the Hollywood spotlight, Aglibot also established himself as a respected and personable chef, focusing on traditional Japanese ingredients with an essence of French techniques and California style.

Within two years of being at the helo fo Koi, Rodelio developed his concept leading to the creation of the restaurant Yi Cuisine, which went on to be named one of the Best New Asian Restaurants by Food & Wine magazine. As memorable as the experience at learning business and restaurant management was, Aglibot somehow knew there were other things for him to learn, and he moved on, continuing his education through cooking and travel.

Traveling throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Southeast Asia on a multitude of projects, Aglibot was sought after as a chef with expertise in New Asian cuisine, concept creation, and restaurant openings. Celebrity guest chef appearances began filling his calendar with locations and events as varied as the Westin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, the Shangri-La Hotel chain's two properties in Hong Kong and Manila, the Malaysian International Gourmet Festival held in Kuala Lumpur and at a chef event in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In the fall of 2006, Aglibot consulted and helped conceptualize Sunda New Asian restaurant in Chicago. Sunda launched in the spring of 2009, and the accolades are still coming. Aglibot oversaw the culinary program at Sunda as Founding Chef until the spring of 2011.

In 2010 Aglibot and BLT Restaurant Group in New York created a partnership for Rodelio to create an Asian Gastropub concept for BLT. Relocating to New York is a dream come true for Rodelio, better yet, to be involved with a respected and progressive restaurant group such as BLT, Aglibot's experience and scalability made him the most dynamic choice to lead BLT as its corporate Executive Chef. During his time with BLT, Rodelio directed 15 restaurants nationwide and is responsible for all new concepts opening under the BLT flagship. During nine months, Rodelio orchestrated the opening of six restaurants to which he tailored menus and recruited key personnel. He returned to Chicago in the fall of 2011, where he is currently based.

Today, Rodelio's primary focus is as VP of Culinary Operations for Intrestco, L. This lifestyle hospitality company creates and operates restaurant concepts such as E+O Food and Drink, located just outside downtown Chicago. E+O is Rodelio's flagship restaurant in Illinois. Intrestco was founded with partners Aeron Lancero and Paul lee. A downtown Cincinnati venue is slated for fall 2013.

He is a three-time James Beard Foundation Dinner participant with his latest dinner in the fall of 2009. Rodelio actively participates in the promotion of the Culinary Arts as a guest speaker and judge for cooking competitions. He believes in civic duty, his proudest being a non-profit charity he helped found in 2011 named "In Chef's Hands." His organization connects individuals with special needs who have a passion for food and cooking with established chefs in the Chicago land area. The motto, "Food Therapy for the Soul," resonates as the mission for his charity. A New York Chapter is slate

Aglibot continues his passion for knowledge and enlightenment. His unpretentious food style, knowledge of ingredients, and exciting food traditions are trademarks to his personality. He lives his life by his philosophy.

"A tragedy in life is not to find oneself and one's passion…an event greater tragedy is to know one's passion and deny oneself of its treasures."




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