This Filipina was a Finalist for the Oscars Of The Food World

The 2019 James Beard Award was concluded last May 6, 2019 at the Lyric Opera Of Chicago, Illinois and one Filipina made history as a nominee for the Book Awards under the International Category.  Nicole Ponseca’s cookbook “I AM A FILIPINO”, co-authored with Miguel Trinidad, was one of the three finalists.

The James Beard Awards are generally considered as the Oscars of the Food World in the United States. Since the foundation started in 1990, it has recognized outstanding chefs, restaurant owners, authors and journalists annually.  Notable past winners include Bobby Flay, Daniel Boulud, and Mario Batali.

Nicole Ponseca, a true-blue Filipina currently living in New York City, is a big advocate of promoting Filipino cuisine and making it mainstream. After years of working in advertising during the day and simultaneously gaining restaurant experience after office hours, she managed to penetrate the US restaurant market and now owns several famous Filipino restaurants: Jeepney, Maharlika, and Tita Baby Panciteria.

As a way of commemorating Nicole’s victory, I would like to share my very memorable dining experience at her restaurant Jeepney – Filipino Gastropub.

Upon entering the restaurant, my entire being was enveloped with so much pride as I saw mostly non-Filipinos eating and enjoying our local cuisine. This is a far cry from the sights I’ve seen in Hong Kong and Singapore where Filipino restaurants are mostly just a place where OFWs hang out. Nicole truly made her restaurants mainstream!

As soon as I was seated at the bar area, I ordered two of my favorite Filipino dishes and was so excited to find out what they would taste like in New York.

First was Lumpia[ng] Shanghai ($8 or around Php415). Her version is made of beef, pork, aromatic vegetables, rice paper, and sweet chili sauce.  The dish smells like our mother’s cooking, tastes really authentic, and is how all lumpias are: very addicting.

My next order was Adobo of the Day, which was Adobo sa Gata (Seasonal Price). Her version only has a hint of acidity perhaps from the vinegar, has big well-seared chicken cuts, and a salty creamy sauce. It’s the perfect partner for the steaming garlic rice!

Before I left the restaurant, I roamed around and checked out what other people ordered. I was dumbfounded when I chanced upon a big group of mostly non-Filipinos having Kamayan – a whole lechon, seafood, longganisa, and mountains of rice on banana leaves.

I later found out that this needs to be ordered in advance as it takes some time to prepare. It’s a real big hit with New Yorkers!

I still haven’t had the chance to purchase and read Nicole’s award-winning and critically-acclaimed cookbook. Also named by New York Times as the Best Cookbook of Fall 2018, I am planning to get a hold of one now that it is available at Fully Booked. Having tried her Jeepney restaurant, though, I somehow feel like I have already gotten a glimpse of that cookbook’s soul.

Thank you, Nicole, for giving Filipino cuisine its much-needed big break. Much gratitude for spearheading the campaign of promoting Filipino cuisine to the US and to the world. Congratulations on your well-deserved nomination. I truly admire your passion in promoting our culture and heritage through food.


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