Filipino American Community of Colorado Dancers at the 2012 Colorado Dragon Boat Festival

(Photo: Courtesy of Gil Asakawa)
Leah Eveleigh will be is cooking for a Typhoon Haiyan fundraising event this Sunday. Then viewers can watch the Filipina chef sharpen her knives on “Cutthroat Kitchen” on the Food Network in January.

Denver-area diners may remember Eveleigh's catering company, Tropical Paradise, and her annual booth at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. She then opened a Filipino restaurant with the same name in Aurora, which folded after several years. Soon she may gain a national profile via the Food Network. The season premiere for “Cutthroat Kitchen” is this Sunday. The episode featuring Eveleigh is scheduled to air on January 19.

The chef won’t be watching the premiere on Sunday, though. She’ll join a handful of other Filipino chefs -- including Kathy Geitl of A Taste of the Philippines (the popular 16th Street Mall food cart), Leshner and Sara Del Rosario of Orange Crunch (award-winning Filipino empanadas cart), and chef Michael Waxman -- in serving up the savory cuisine of the Philippines. Dishes include Lumpia (eggrolls, including banana lumpia for dessert), Pancit (a national dish made with noodles, vegetables and meat), Pork Adobo (marinated with vinegar and soy sauce), and Chicken Afritada  ( cooked in a tomato-based sauce.)

Eveleigh is from the Philippines, and the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) in early November hit her hard.She has family members who live in the northern part of the same island as Tacloban, the city that was worst hit. It took Eveleigh two weeks to contact her sister, nieces and nephews. Their homes were mostly destroyed, but luckily, no one was hurt.

The week of the disaster, Eveleigh reached out to Denver’s Filipino community and offered to help with any fundraisers. “I am passionate about helping my people back home. It will take a while to get them back on their own feet again,” she says.

The need for aid has brought together the tightly-knit Filipino community. This Sunday from 4-9 p.m., a fundraiser will be held featuring food by Eveleigh and her peers. The event will also include performances by traditional dance groups from the Filipino American Community of Colorado and the Philippine American Society of Colorado, Polynesian dance from Halau Hula and hip-hop by Hype 303, a large local troupe composed largely of young Asian Americans.

The event is being organized by an umbrella organization, the National Federation of the Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), which represents seven local groups.

Eveleigh says she won’t stop with this event. She plans to keep helping to raise funds for the Philippines, and to directly support her family there. “I was able to send money to them so they can buy food,” she says. “And I am planning to go home so I can help them in person.”

Maybe if Eveleigh does well in “Cutthroat Kitchen,” she’ll be able to help even more. The chef has signed a non-disclosure agreement with the reality show and cannot divulge details about her performance. But she confides, “I can share with you that I did very well in the competition. I know that I made the Filipino community and Denver proud.”

Philippines Hurricane Haiyan Relief Event
http://www.facebook.com/saklolocoloradoSunday, December 15 4-9 P.M.
Exdo Event Center, Denver