Paolo Dungca

Born in the culinary capital of the Philippines, San Fernando, Paolo Dungca moved to Los Angeles with his mother when he was 13 years old. While in nursing school, Dungca picked up a job as a dishwasher at Disneyland and was taken by the energy and noise of the kitchen. Despite his mother’s desire for him to become a nurse, Dungca knew he was meant to be on the line and traded nursing school for culinary school.

His first foray into fine dining was as a line cook for Chef Kevin Meehan’s pop-up series leading to the opening of Kali in Hollywood. In 2014, Dungca flew to Washington, D.C. to visit family and he suddenly felt at home. He canceled his return flight and jumped into the D.C. culinary scene, starting with a job at the now-shuttered Vidalia. In 2015, Dungca joined his mentor and future business partner, Rising Stars alum Tom Cunanan, at the Filipino restaurant, Bad Saint, before moving on to become chef de cuisine at Restaurant Eve under Rising Stars alum Cathal Armstrong. Three years later, Dungca followed Armstrong to open and develop the menu for Kaliwa, a District Wharf restaurant that blends Korean, Thai, and Filipino flavors.

A trip to the Philippines in 2019 reinvigorated Dungca’s desire to cook his native cuisine and bring Filipino food to the forefront of American dining. After helping Rising Stars alum Erik Bruner-Yang open ABC Pony in 2019, Dungca reunited with Cunanan to open a Filipino-American fast food stall, Pogiboy. In addition to serving playful and sneakily cheffed-up renditions of the dishes he grew up with at Pogiboy, Dungca runs “the little pasta shop,” Piccoletto, and progressive Filipino sit-down concept, Hiraya, all within The Block Foodhall DC.