Joseph Fontelera in front of his previous restaurant, Boonie Foods. His new location, Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant, is at 4337 N. Western Ave. in Chicago.

Joseph Fontelera: Niles West Alum & Chopped Contestant

Feb 13, 2023

After graduating high school and college, many young adults find that they don’t want to stay close to home. But Niles West Alum Joseph Fontelera has come back to the Chicago land area after graduating from Kendall College. Since then, Fontelera has been making his mark in the community. Fontelera has become an amazing chef, earning the Michelin Bib Gourmand award, which is an award given out to places that have delicious food at a reasonable price. Fontelera made an appearance on the Food Network show Chopped on Season 51.

During his high school years, Fontelera was still unsure about his future and what it holds. Not knowing what to pursue after high school is very common, and as Fontelera says, finding what is right for you will come with time.

“I don’t think I had a dream job in high school. I think I mostly just wanted to have fun. Cooking was definitely one of my interests back then though. Also, I absolutely do not encourage following a linear path or the notion of a dream job if that doesn’t align with you. When the time is right, you will know what to do, whether that’s to go back to school for a previous interest or to bounce around from job to job to see what you like and get to know yourself. For some, like myself, it was a combo of both that got me down my current path,” Fontelera said.

Before opening up a restaurant of his own, Fontelera worked as a chef at many other restaurants in the city. However, opening his own restaurant has sparked his drive and compassion for him to express his culture through serving Filipino cuisine.

“He has switched to being more than just a chef. He is an ambassador of Filipino culture through food. He gets to explore his roots and research old recipes, he gets to influence the way the restaurant industry functions,” Math teacher Olga Shafran said. Fontelera is more than just a chef. Him being an advocate for his Filipino culture and really embracing and putting that sort of passion into the food he cooks makes the food even more enjoyable.

Fontelera still has connections to Niles West as he stays in contact with Chinese teacher Wileen Hsing. “I remember being so moved by listening to his journey and seeing how he wasn’t only succeeding professionally, but also with his identity as an Asian American chef and inspiring others to hold true to their identity as they found their own journeys,” Hsing said. Fontelera is so open and proud of his culture and this is something that is needed not only in this world but in this school since it is such a diverse school.

If you have the time, make sure to stop by Fontelera’s latest venture, Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant located at 4337 N. Western Ave. in Chicago. The type of cuisine is traditional Filipino food. Fontelera’s goal in cooking is to spread the Filipino culture not just in Chicago, but around the world and make Filipino food a household food and he is empowered to do so.

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