Local home kitchen dishes out traditional Filipino meals for Mission Viejo residents

Cristina Peczon-Rodriguez uses her home kitchen to dish out home-cooked meals to neighbors and friends. Cristina Peczon-Rodriguez/courtesy

Cristina Peczon-Rodriguez, a special education assistant teacher and an aspiring restauranteur, has a private Facebook group called the Bottomless Pit Kid, where she whips up home-cooked Filipino dishes to go. The group started on June 6, 2020, stemming from a motivation to keep up with the financial burden the pandemic has put upon Peczon-Rodriguez’s family. Recently, she entered an exclusive online competition to be chosen as the world’s Favorite Chef in 2021, along with a grand prize of $50,000 and a feature in a sponsored double-page spread in one of the largest cooking publications internationally.

The inspiration behind Bottomless Pit Kid’s name came from her children, particularly her two sons, both swimmers with the Nadadores. The 10-year-old and 12-year-old boys burn massive amounts of calories during their meets and eat multiple meals to help satisfy their continuous appetites. Peczon-Rodriguez uses the hashtag Bottomless Pit Kid regularly on social media.

Born and raised in the United States, Peczon-Rodriguez went to the Philippines for high school because of her Filipino background. Growing up in a country where she didn’t speak the language, she learned through cooking with her mother and grandmother.

“I remember sitting with my grandmother, and she was cleaning rice,” she says. “In the Philippines, the rice comes with rocks in it, so you have to pick it out. I remember being frustrated like, ‘what are you doing? Can I help you?’ and so our language became food.”

Both of Peczon-Rodriguez’s parents come from a province known for cooks and, for her, it was natural to learn how to cook. After spending some time in the Philippines as a newscaster at 19-years-old, she returned to the U.S. 17 years later to start a family.

Established in Mission Viejo, California, her home kitchen is now turning into a small business currently bursting at its seams. Her goal is to use the grand prize money to open up a commercial restaurant that will allow her to keep up with local orders. Neighbors are currently ordering up to 50 pre-packaged meals a week.

Peczon-Rodriguez can operate her business through Foodnome, which helps with the permitting process to legalize home businesses. She is currently trying to register under AB-626, a California bill that legalizes home kitchen businesses with the county’s approval.

“This bill would, among other things, include a microenterprise home kitchen operation within the definition of a food facility, and would define a microenterprise home kitchen operation to mean a food facility that is operated by a resident in a private home where food is stored, handled, and prepared for, and may be served to, consumers, and that meets specified requirements, including, among others, that the operation has no more than one full-time equivalent food employee and has no more than $50,000 in verifiable gross annual sales,” the bill states.

Peczon-Rodriguez cooks every Monday and Friday of the week, where she posts the menu the day before. She bases her menu on what is fresh and of good quality. Eventually, Peczon-Rodriguez would like to expand her menu with more influential food from her culture, including a mixture of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisines.

Some of her dishes include a 12-hour cooking time, which means that she owns four slow-cookers. Peczon-Rodriguez’s goal is to provide quality over quantity and strives to keep her customers’ tummy full of healthy proteins at a reasonable price.

“I don’t cut corners, and I cook only two meals a day,” she says. “When I cook those two meals, I want to make sure that they’re really really good.”

Peczon-Rodriguez bases her menu off of the weather and off of the food that is fresh and available. She will talk to the butcher at local grocery stores and ask about the next sales or the meats’ quality. This process is a big deal to her, and she puts a lot of thought into creating her bi-weekly menus.

Her dishes can easily provide for a family of four with two little kids. All of the meals are under $10 and include at least 8 ounces of protein. Krista Woodward, a customer, takes relief in knowing that she does not have to worry about dinner after a long day.

“It does. The kids each get their own rice, and then I get the other bowl to myself,” Woodward says. “Ella said tonight, ‘mommy, don’t get mad but, Cristina is the best cook ever! She’s better than you!’ I agreed.”

Ryan and Rossy Ruppe agree too. They recently took a family trip celebrating a couple of birthdays, and coming home to Cristina’s cooking was the icing on the cake.

“Every time we order, the food is delicious and feeds the whole family,” Rupee says. “We don’t have to worry about what we’re eating because our allergies are taken into consideration. It’s awesome that we’re supporting a local family and getting incredible home-cooked meals.”

The menu includes Lumpia, Adobo, Lechon Kawali and an assortment of desserts made by her husband. They both cook with gloves, masks and hairnets to avoid cross-contamination during the process, along with 15-minute pick-up increments that follow COVID-19 distancing precautions. Bottomless Pit Kid is currently offering curbside pick-up and takes orders through its Facebook page.