Chef AC Boral of Bebot.

Bebot, AC Boral’s contemporary Filipino restaurant, was approaching its one-year anniversary when a fire broke out at 3:30 a.m. this past Monday. The fire, which originated inside the space and caused smoke damage to neighboring businesses in the small strip mall that it is located, has closed Bebot, leaving Boral and his work family to figure out how to best approach the future.

“Bebot is unquestionably going to reopen,” Boral said. “But COVID-19 brought Bebot to pivot in the work it does. I was going to announce the day of the fire how we were going to turn into a nonprofit—the timing could not have been crazier.”

The pivot Boral speaks of is the restaurant’s work with West Long Beach’s Filipino Migrant Center. During the pandemic, Bebot and his kitchen staff have dedicated themselves to bringing much-needed meals to Long Beach’s large, vibrant Filipino community. Thanks to a continual supply of donations through the partnership with the migrant center, Bebot feeds 600 Filipino families a week, something he wants to make a permanent part of Bebot’s legacy.

“We haven’t been open to the public because me and my entire staff are focused on feeding the community,” Boral said. “With the donations, we’ve been able to tread water, and genuinely, it made us feel good.”

The partnership started with limited expectations. Unable to use products in his restaurant, Boral told migrant center officials that he would happily provide meals. The first week, he served 10 families. Then 20. Now 600 families, about 1,600 people, are provided food in the form of groceries and hot meals, every week.

“Honestly, I never publicly mentioned anything because this isn’t the time for PR, this is the time to get to work,” Boral said. “We’ve been busy. Going from 10 to 1,600 meals for the Filipino community, there was no way for us to even be open to the public. After seeing how much this work was needed, and how it won’t magically go away, I felt the need to make this a permanent part of our structure. And I want to clarify: We have plans to reopen, but we know how fires go along this street.”

Boral is referring to the disastrous fire that took down Restauration, directly across the street from Bebot, for over a year because of insurance battles and legal concerns.

For now, Bebot’s kitchen has created a GoFundMe that will help with relocating to a new kitchen to continue their community efforts as well as cover employees’ lost wages.

“Bebot staff is ready to cook for anyone,” said Bebot Chef de Cuisine Janice Dig Cabaysa, who has also been hosting food classes and bake-offs (like the one happening with Romeo Chocolates this Saturday) in an effort to build revenue. “Your Pinoy fam won’t stop, can’t stop.”

Bebot is located at 2741 E. Fourth St.