Founder: Christy Innouvong-Thornton
Cofounder: Beatriz Aurelio-Saguin
Tuk Tuk Box is my “vehicle” of learning about my family’s deep history and diving into my questions growing up: who am I? Where is my family from? What did my ancestors eat, experience, and how did they live?
Tuk Tuk Box to me is for all the Southeast Asians out there who have felt underrepresented this whole time. I want people to look at the stories we share, the food we create together, and the love we put into the brand and see themselves and also be inspired to talk about their culture, foods, and identities.
Growing up, my family always instilled in me their values through food. I learned to cook at an early age and was alway eager to learn new things. With much pleading to learn if I wanted to go into the culinary world, a family friend graciously let me learn the ins & outs of a small town restaurant kitchen when I was young enough to get a workers permit in high school (& to this day when I need food lessons). Stories were always a part of the kitchen experience and with every meal - my grandparents, family members, and parents always had an emotional connection to it. One of my first memories is eating rice, under the serving table, out of my uncles storefront’s rice cooker in the Philippines when we visited them.
I am a daughter of immigrants whose family hails from Jakarta, Pangasinan, and the Visayan Islands in the Philippines. My parents migrated to the Southern United States and I was born in Florida. I grew up in an interesting intersection of the Bay Area in a town where Napa meets the North Bay Area. I went to undergrad at California State University, Sacramento and lived in the Sacramento food scene for almost a decade then went to graduate school at the University of San Francisco for my Masters in Public Health. I am completing my Masters degree in Global Health. Currently, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As I navigated my way through the nuances of being a first generation Southeast Asian American in school I developed a strong connection and passion for knowing what made my community what it was and finding out how it shaped me. I went to school and studied history, but my community’s history was never told. Going through school and college, I learned early on our community was not represented greatly in all topics- especially that of health.
During my undergraduate college years, I helped in the development of specific Southeast Asian focused health programs where I worked on both Capitol Hill and the CA state Senate, and often lectured on the detrimental effects of model minority myth, wage gap, and war trauma in this country to anyone who would listen. I found that my passions lied in uplifting the Southeast Asian community, making sure we were not forgotten. In 2018, I graduated with a Masters of Public Health focused on policy, advocacy, and leadership and went on to pursue a Masters in Global Health, as well as work for a Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community serving organization where I focused on helping develop and implement (API) health policy and initiatives. With my goals and passion in my heart and mind, I was able to present on topics like Nutrition deficiencies in infants in Cambodia for the Consortium on Universities for Global Health, attend both the University of Peace of the United Nations in Costa Rica and La Salud Pública de Havana Cuba, and work with students from The Courageous Kitchen. Through my travels and global health experience, I still found a big gap and question I kept asking- why was there a lack of Southeast Asian focus in addressing health disparities? Why weren’t we at the tables being a part of these discussions?
Fast forward to 2020- Christy and I had been talking for years about a “vehicle” for addressing social change on a grander scale. We always found ourselves asking- How can we bring our community voices and uplift them together? What can we do to bring Southeast Asians to the table? One question I always asked is - if people don’t know our food, how would they even know who we are?