Born in the Philippines and raised in the Baltimore area, Fr. Leo actually developed his love for cooking while attending the seminary at the North American College in Rome. There, he became friendly with several Italian restaurant owners and would often invite them back to the student kitchen to trade cooking secrets. They would teach him about rigatoni and lasagna; he would show them how to make hamburgers and ribs. Today, he is a skilled cook who still enjoys learning how to make new dishes, and loves the process of preparing a meal, as much as he does sharing it with a table full of friends.
Fr. Leo was ordained in 1999 and served as a parish priest for five years at St. John’s Church in Westminster, Maryland. He was often invited to his parishioners’ homes for dinner. To their surprise, he would turn the table and cook for them, using these opportunities to build friendships and engage in relaxed conversations in the kitchen. Those memorable and unstructured times spent making a meal together provided the inspiration for Fr. Leo’s first book, Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life. Then came the television cooking including his appearances on the CatholicTV Network's Blink. He has hosted four segments with Father Robert Reed "Rectory Cooking 101", "201", "301", and "401".
Currently, he is a member of the faculty at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary where he directs the Pastoral Field Education Program for future priests.
Before becoming a priest, Fr. Leo pursued degrees in writing and political science with the intention of studying law and journalism at the University of Maryland. He also taught high school speech, debate and drama. Along with his brother, he founded a martial arts school in 1988.
Fr. Leo studied philosophy at Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, DC. He holds advanced theological degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University and Pontifical Maranium Institute in Rome.
A popular conference speaker with a growing national reputation for his ability to connect with teens and their parents, Fr. Leo has appeared at events across the United States and Canada. His enthusiasm has frequently earned him invitations to return and speak about topics like the theology of beauty, teen spirituality, spiritual combat and praying as a family.
Along with cooking, Fr. Leo’s hobbies include writing, singing and jogging. He especially enjoys traveling, viewing it as an opportunity to broaden his multilingual talents. He holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has won a national competition in Arniz, a form of full-contact stick fighting.
He also enjoys working with students in youth groups and on college campuses, as well as actively participating in prison ministry work.