Meet Chef Yana Gilbuena
About Chef Yana
What inspired you to become a chef / food biz owner?
I didn’t seek out to become a chef and a biz owner. It really started out as a side hustle for me but really I found my passion. And it was inspired by the need for representation and the quest to dispel the notions that Filipino food was just adobo, pancit, and lumpia. I really just wanted to share the taste of home and show that Filipino food is as diverse as the 7,615 islands that it is from.
Using the pop-up dining scene as a platform, I was able to create a unique dining experience for folks by introducing them to the art of kamayan dining. I wanted to push the boundaries and disrupt the constructs of what (western) dining is: if there are no plates, no utensils, is it still dining? Are we savages for having a direct and sensual relationship with our food?
Through kamayan, I was decolonizing not just the food/cuisine, but the mindset. Celebrating our heritage, who we are, is an act of rebellion and dissent against the trappings of colonialism and white supremacy. Even the smallest gesture of not using the colonizers’ imposed utensils, slowly breaks down their hold on us.
Why did you want to highlight the food you are creating?
It’s a mash-up of ancestral recipes: sinigang and kilaw, with a splash of hawaii, the last state I did my pop-up in my 50-state, 50 weeks tour. I wanted to highlight how ancestral Filipino dishes are diverse, vibrant and are the foundations of Filipino cuisine.
What is your favorite dish? Is there a story behind it?
My fave dish is chicken inasal. I’m from Bacolod City and Iloilo City, the two neighboring islands in Western Visayas that specialize in this ancestral dish.
What does courage mean to you?
Courage is having the grit to pursue your passion/dream even when you’re your only cheerleader and the road is uncharted and lonely. Courage is listening to your inner voice, your gut, your intuition. Courage is trusting yourself and the universe.
Where can we expect to see you in the next few years?
Launching a filipinx heritage food line featuring pili nuts and indigenous Filipino ingredients while living in Vermont, running an aquaponic/hydroponic farm with goats, sheep, ducks and quails with my husband and hosting farm dinners :)
Thank you so much Yana for sharing her story with us! Tuk Tuk Box is proud to exclusively feature Southeast Asian ingredients and include refugee, migrant, and generational stories in every box.
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