KungFu BBQ a revolution in food and business

KungFu BBQ meals come straight from the smoker to customers plates. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
KungFu BBQ meals come straight from the smoker to customers plates. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed

In late 2020 Kristian and Nathaniel Lansangan cooked and fixed 20 meals and served them to friends in the restaurant industry with the understanding that if they liked the food, they should post on social media about it.

The father son duo were both working busy jobs and trying to balance family and work with the dream of starting a restaurant.

They started small, only cooking on Sundays and word spread quickly on social media.

“Who knew that any of this would work? We were excited when we got 50 people waiting and we hoped when we cooked for that 50 that we would get 50 more. We went from having 100 people on the wait to 500 overnight,” said Nathaniel.

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The list of local diners waiting for a KungFu BBQ meal now stands at 5,003.

It’s become so successful that much of the family is now involved, with the next generation learning the recipes, sauces, cooking techniques and smoking:

• Kristian Lansangan, 54 is the pit master

• Nathaniel Lansangan, 34, is the owner and operations sensei

• Janice Lansangan, 55, is the master of baked goods

• Joe Lansangan, 18, is the kitchen manager

• Christian Lansangan, 17, is the chicken master and dish ninja

• Isabelle Ramby, 18, is Prep and the master wielder of sharp objects

• Gabe Lombardo, 13, is a cook and Kung Fu disciple

Kristian Lansangan (left) is the Pit Master of KingFu BBQ, while his son, Nathaniel Lansangan, is the Owner and Operations Sensei. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Kristian Lansangan (left) is the Pit Master of KingFu BBQ, while his son, Nathaniel Lansangan, is the Owner and Operations Sensei. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The family clearly loves food, Kung Fu, smoking meat and the act of crafting their favorite dishes for others, paying tribute to the cultures they come from and serving up a wide variety of ethnic styles of food.

“My dad is Filipino and German. My mom grew up in Hawaii and is Japanese and German. They both brought different family recipes to the marriage,” said Nathaniel. “It happened informally; my father’s been smoking meat for 35 years. My mom and dad are fanatical about watching the Food Network and cooking at home. My dad had a genuine interest in food that he developed into a true talent.”

On May 5, 2021 they officially became a business with a food truck selling their food at set prices as opposed to asking for donations. It was an underground grassroots dream that locked on to the incredible power of social media and quickly blossomed based on the glowing word of mouth accolades and fantastic food they were serving up.

KungFu BBQ fried rice. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
KungFu BBQ fried rice. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“It is food that takes hard work, that is not your fancy food. It is family food ... it comes from who we are as people, it is authentic, it is grassroots,” said Nathaniel. “BBQ traditionally takes lesser cuts of meat, and through extremely hard work, care, detail, and love transforms it into something spectacular. That is the story of our family. We don’t come from much, but we have dedicated our lives to this.”

Having tried their food many times I have to say I’ve always been blown away. There’s not one thing they take a shortcut on and the flavor is next level from salads to sides.

The comments on their Facebook page (search KungFu BBQ Ltd - members only), which is the only way to currently order unless they are out and about with their truck, are positively gushing.

“I’m so in love with the brisket that I’m thinking of proposing to it.”

“Had to take the picture first!…Taco’s didn’t make it out of the parking lot!”

KungFu BBQ's meals are $20 each and can be ordered through their Facebook page. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
KungFu BBQ's meals are $20 each and can be ordered through their Facebook page. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

I don’t know that in my time writing about food I’ve ever seen customers so effusive and dedicated to meals they have to seek out, take out, wait on and drive back home to eat, but like so many on their social media thread, I can confirm it’s totally delicious and completely worth it. KungFu BBQ is its own phenomenon and one that I’m glad to have had a seat at the table to watch and enjoy over the last year.

There is no menu, they decide what to cook. Recent meals give a taste for what they offer:

• Pork belly burnt ends, peach moonshine quarters, drunken truffle hog mac and granny slaw

• Smoked pork belly adobo, smoked chicken inasal (a Filipino-style BBQ chicken flavored with vinegar, citrus, lemongrass and achiote) and garlic rice with purple pickled onions

• Wagyu tallow brisket, frijoles charros and rainbow slaw

• Kalua pork, Hawaiian fried rice and aloha salad

Just as unconventional as the founding of their business is the ordering.

“Days are announced as we are able to produce the best quality product with at least a days notice, we now only offer pick-up services and pop-up services by partnering with local Dayton businesses as a way to support our community,” said Nathaniel. “If you are next up on our wait you will be tagged in a cook post, and given the opportunity to comment on the post with the number of meals you would like to pick up. The location, time, and meal is included in the post. Then you just pick up your food and pay cash or card.”

To get put on the waitlist direct message the KungFu BBQ Ltd - Members Only group on Facebook and ask to be put on the waiting list. Another option is to check the Facebook page on days they are cooking and doing pick-up to see if folks can’t make it and get in on someone else’s cancellation. It’s a flat fee of $20 per meal.

All of this is about to change with the launch of a new app in about a month. The Lansangans will honor the 5,000 wait list orders, but from there it will be an organized calendar where folks can sign up for a specific day, meal and time to help streamline things both for customers and for back office business operations.

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“The reason we did it the way we did is because we both had full-time jobs. My dad has 10 kids. We didn’t have the money to open the business. On top of that COVID was happening. People weren’t going out, people didn’t know who we were; it was inconvenient to get and we didn’t have a menu. It was mysterious and we embraced it and ran with the underground aspect and exclusivity. We cook whatever we feel like and ask if people want some and they did and continue to be interested and supportive of what we are doing,” said Nathaniel. “All of the things we were doing were because of our personal obstacles and we looked at those obstacles and said how can we make this work and it became something special instead of an annoyance.”

They are at the food truck stage and are hoping to open a restaurant in the next two years to keep the dream going.

“At the root of it all is we see it as an opportunity to care for those around us authentically, and to make everyone’s day just a little bit better for having to come to see us by taking care of them during the moments we are privileged to share with them,” said Nathaniel. “We never in our wildest dreams thought that people would receive and support us in such an amazing way.”

The family is humble, grateful, caring, sweet and truly want to speak to their customers in a language we all can understand — food.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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