Karlo plates up a course. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF KARLO EVARISTO
We first met Karlo Evaristo during his savory chef heyday, when he would artistically plate up the most amazing dishes and take photos of them, which he frequently posted on Instagram. He now has lots of followers, 63,700 and counting.
This culinary genius with a magical touch of photography grew up in Bacolod, surrounded by a loving and supportive family that runs Aboy’s Restaurant, the most popular diner in the province.
More than just inclined to pursue a burning passion in the kitchen, he initially took up and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management degree from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in 2006.
This was followed by a diploma from the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management in Quezon City in 2007.
He then enrolled in the accelerated course at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California.
The Philippine-born and now US-based Karlo kicked off his official career at Studio, a fine dining restaurant that specializes in French-Californian cuisine in the seaside resort city of Laguna Beach, California. Trained by luxury hotel and resort mainstay chef Craig Strong, Karlo improved his skills and principles along the way.
“Harmony was our battle cry,” he reminisced with pride.
Around this time last year, the now-more-confident Karlo, together with chef Jared Ventura and bar director Brad Fry, sharing similar dreams, launched ADIA, a pop-up restaurant concept in the Los Angeles (LA) and Orange County areas.
The result? Sold out dinners each and every time they opened reservation dates.
The secret was in their format. With no permanent kitchen, these innovative chefs rented out commissary kitchens in strategic regions, where they served the front of the house in batches of 10 guests per time slot.
The experience summed up to a sit-down dinner that enticed the clientele with savory aromas, eye-catching plating and, of course, an explosion of flavors — condensed into tasting portions of 21 courses, paired with expertly-selected cocktails and wines.
In early 2020, guided and inspired by the responses of loyal customers among many other studied and reviewed considerations, the brains behind ADIA wanted to establish a permanent location.
However, COVID-19 struck. Plans fell through. Expectations crashed. Visions shattered.
At the onset of the virus, Karlo was fortunate enough to try out the breads from Bub and Grandma’s in LA, which immediately struck a chord in him. He instantly knew he wanted to change gears.
And thus, this once-upon-a-time savory chef pivoted to the baking of sourdough and focaccia.
Establishing the brand 61hundredbread, after the zip code of his Philippine hometown, he set up shop in his own home in the historical San Juan Capistrano.
Some may recall the oldies hit “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano,” recorded by Pat Boone, the singing idol of the 1950s.
The chef at work taking photographs.
Ever since his new focus, Karlo has been obsessively baking every single day. And as any baker would tell you, he uses only flour, water, salt and yeast. And yet, the results are always amazing.
He personally grinds his own grains, which ensures razor-thin precision on each and every single loaf he makes. He manages to produce 16 two-pound loaves of sourdough and focaccia each day. This is why his breads are always in-demand and out of stock. Good luck grabbing one when the craving suddenly hits!
Due to the lockdown and social distancing protocols, he has resorted to the online world yet again to advertise, share and impart his creations. Orders are done through reservations, and may be picked up in two days — after all, obra maestras take time to create.
“The end goal is not to achieve the perfect loaf or have the best bread in the world. The goal is to show that something as simple as bread, done with passion, can be extraordinary and, ultimately, delicious,” he said.
His Instagram account and bakery page are still peppered with Karlo’s photography, be it of ornately-decorated plates or mouthwatering breads.
We never know what’s next for him. One thing is clear: photography has been a constant throughout the phases of his career.
Karlo is on Instagram at (@karloevaristo and @karloevaristo_photography) and he may also be reached through 61hundredbread.com.