Get to know Chef David


Chef David in the Salkind Center kitchen on Wednesday, September 22. Photo credit: Tulin Chang-Maltepe.

As Urban kicked off its 2021 fall term, students rushed to the Oak Street Campus awaiting servings of Flik food in a line that winded all the way through the Salkind Center Gym. Chef David Laboa and the Flik staff greeted the student body with their typical cheer and enthusiasm. After over a year’s hiatus of quarantining, social distancing and lunches off campus, the Urban community could once again get a daily taste of Chef David’s cooking.
Since his start at the Urban School, Chef David has been an integral part of the Urban community—uniting everyone together under a culinary umbrella.
“My dad’s half Filipino and half Greek and my mom was Irish,” Chef David said. “The Filipino [and] Greek side of the family was about food. It was about family. When the family was together, we ate. So [my love for food] started from a young age and then carried through high school.”
This love for food led Chef David to train at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles to study under Chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo. “[Dongo] was this amazing immigrant from the Ivory Coast in Africa,” Chef David said. “[He had] no education, no culinary school, just an amazing mind for food. [He] took me under his wing and mentored me.”
After his culinary training, Chef David spent 13 years cooking for a malpractice insurance company. “I cooked for adults for a long time in corporate surroundings where it was really serious and kind of uptight,” Chef David said. “There was a certain level of stress that I just didn’t like.” Chef David didn’t cook for eight months after that job and then “Urban presented itself.” Ever since he began working at Urban, “it’s been like this love affair,” Chef David said. “Urban connected with me and I connected with Urban. It’s been a good journey.”
In regards to the demands of a customer service job, Chef David admits that, “it takes a certain type of person to do the job well and enjoy it.” Regardless of the demands, “I want you to come to me to be nourished and to be hydrated and to be caffeinated,” Chef David said regarding Urban students. “And I want to give you information and knowledge about food.”
Additionally, Chef David finds support and encouragement in his engagement with students. “Being around these young minds and people that appreciate you is really an amazing thing. If you can have a job where you’re truly appreciated, you wouldn’t believe how far that goes.”
Chef David hopes to maintain this symbiotic relationship between himself and the Urban community. After a lack of interpersonal connections during the COVID-19 pandemic, a revival of appreciation and support is what Chef David is looking for. “I tell everybody it doesn’t matter when we’re open and when we close,” Chef David said. “If you need anything, if I can do anything for you, we’re here.”