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  • INJECTION Magazine

Running A Pop-up Kitchen In Tokyo’s Underground Scene

An Interview with Tokyo based Keem de Peralta.

Keem introduces us to “Las Cruzadas”, his conceptual pop-up kitchen in the underground event scene of Tokyo. Besides his love for cooking and eating delicious food after a crazy party, the concept is built around giving something tangible back to his friends, artists and all people that are part of the creative community he is involved in. Keem is originally from LA/ Hawaii and has moved to Tokyo 3 years ago. He tells us about his main inspiration, how it all started and what he has planned for the future of Las Cruzadas.

You are running an underground kitchen collective, tell us about it?

Las Cruzadas is a concept kitchen built around the community. As food is always seen together with culture, Las Cruzadas is seen together with the culture I'm living in harmony with. We collaborate and celebrate with homies and family who some, are artists and the like. We specially curate a 1/1 menu for each of these collaborators as we see them as very unique individuals. Our menus cannot be recreated. Thus, Las Cruzadas is an experience. It is basically for me to just cook and have a good time with the homies! 

I started probably a year ago through a friend’s party. It all started through my homie Kalin’s party “Tokyo Lovehotels”. Shout out to Kalin and Tokyo Lovehotels! So during the earlier days of their party, Kalin invited me to do a pop up since she knows I cook and shit like that. 

What inspired you to start Las Cruzadas?

As I said Las Cruzadas is built around the community, so whoever wants to be part of it is a part of it. Basically just me and some of my homies and whoever wants to do something together.

I started Las Cruzadas because of my love of eating after parties, and maybe before too, but mainly because I felt that I want to do something to give back to the community I'm involved in. I’ve met so many amazing artists and people in Tokyo that it inspired me to do something creative. They were the reason why I started it, and it happens to be that I love food and I can cook well so I decided to start it. I started/wanted to incorporate food in the culture that I'm a part of. May it be my homies from fashion or music or art or whatever, I wanted food to be a part of it as food is very important.  So I can feed my homies a good meal while we are all having a good time.

Is the kitchen collective your main profession? 

No. Being in the kitchen is not my main profession. People often mistaken me as a chef who actually works in a kitchen but no, I actually work in the preschool education field. I conceptualize schools and build schools while I run onsite activities and manage a studio as well - but i’ve always cooked! I used to own a restaurant and always cooked for homies and family. I was also trained under a fermentation lab so I've been cooking for a really long time.

In what kind of events do you take part?

Mainly I take part in some of my homies’ events. I DJ sometimes so most of my friends just invite me to play. I know a bunch of people doing different things so the events that I go to have a really wide range. I just love supporting my friends and all the artistic people or musicians or designers that I think are moving in a way to push the community/ scene forward. So yeah, you’ll always see me at their events.

What’s your craziest experience with the pop-up kitchen?

Craziest story? Well during the first ever pop-up kitchen in Tokyo, I was planning to put Bao buns on the menu since I loved Bao buns in LA. So as my first ever menu I wanted to include something that's really close to my heart. But the problem is/ was I’m bad at baking and making bread or pastries. Therefore, I contacted my homie who owns a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama, and thought maybe I could just buy the dough and steam it on my own during the event. So I might be straight, and I knew they have Bao bun dough cause this homie of mine keeps on bragging to me about it right, so I was like ok cool, ima try to ask this dude.

I asked my homie and fortunately he said yes! I was like fire, picked up the thing and went all the way to Yohohama. I bounced back to the crib but when I got back home, I was like fuck! my fridge is hella small, and this fuckin thing expands. I was like fuck it, I’ll try to store it in my fridge since the event is like the next day. Then I took a nap and when I checked my fridge, the fucking dough expanded already so I was like fuckkkkkk. Long story short, I spoiled the dough and I wasted money but I can’t backout no more so I was fucked, right? 

I contacted my homie who's a professional chef in one of the top hotels in Tokyo. He decided to help me and I can clearly remember me and him kneading and forming doughs in my tiny ass apartment, putting the finished utensils on top of my surfboard and shit. My house was a total mess and also, that time my friend from Singapore was staying with me. It was such a mess! So after finishing the dough, we decided to run test batches. We started steaming it but then the texture was not right so we fucked up the dough again! Imagine this was basically hours before the event. Then, we decided fuck it, let’s just do the dough tomorrow and if we fuck it up again, then we gonna have to scrap it. 

The time came, we went to the spot early and asked a few more homies to help out. We started preparing, then again we had to prepare the dough for the Bao Bun, I prepped that dough man, then covered it up, waited for it to rise, together with a lot of prayers and crossed fingers. Luckily, after a few hours... BOOM it was perfect. The Bun was fluffy and sweet and super smooth on the outside and went super well with the meat that I made. It was beautiful. We ended up selling out all the food and the actual highlight was when we gave all the remaining food to the people for free! And they were just munching on that bitch like whoaaaaa!!! So that was ill!! We got hella smacked after that lol.

What kind of food do you serve?

I serve all kinds of food! From Filipino, to Hawaiian to French to Mexican to Thai!!! Challenge me, I can do it.

What do you have planned for the future of Las Cruzadas?

Future for Las Cruzadas? Hmmm... probably more collaborations with homies, maybe a more stable setup in the future. I'm planning to run this lounge bar with a friend, and also planning to do a bunch of cooking shows with my homies. This year I'm planning to release a recipe book as well! I'm just hoping all of it will come together!

© Photography by Las Cruzadas and Homies

Instagram: @keemjongillest @lascruzadas


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