This is the third installment in a special series of conversations with fellow authors of the recently published cookbook and anthology, "The New Filipino Kitchen" (available on Amazon) that features Filipino cooks, writers, and thinkers all across the globe. We take a peek into how they view the world and their cuisine.
For this “Halfsies” edition (all 3 of us are of mixed heritage, me being Chinese-Filipino and Alexa and Dalena being half Caucasian), we feature:
Alexa Alfaro (for another round!), an Alaska-born Milwaukeean who, after a 10-week trip to the Philippines, was inspired to open her city’s first Filipino Food Truck “Meat on the Street” with her younger brother in 2014. This involved dropping out of her Engineering degree but weeks from graduation. Since then, the pair have opened a brick-and-mortar slinging their famous BBQ sticks and pork adobo to the masses.
Dalena Benavente, born and raised as one of the only Filipinas in the Southern state of Tennessee. She has worked as a recipe developer and product tester for Kraft, filmed with Paula Deen, and hosted numerous cooking segments on a variety of radio and TV channels. She is also an accomplished author with her memoir “Asian Girl in a Souther World”.
We talk about:
The realities of straddling racial and cultural lines and what it’s like to go “back home” to the Philippines.
The ways we balance being relatable to our many communities without diluting who we are.
Balancing the expansion of your business while serving your Home Team and your "Day Ones”.
Balancing affordability/access with charging what you think you’re worth.
Staying sane be it in the Food Truck business or trying to balance a day job with the side hustle.
There’s a lot of nuance in these conversations that I think often gets overlooked in favor of simpler narratives so if you’re also a Halfsie or find yourself straddling multiple worlds, “jobs”, and identities, give this episode a listen.
HIGHLIGHTS & LINKS
4:00 - How The New Filipino Kitchen found Dalena
6:45 - On Being a “Halfsies” and Identity
* Going “back home” to the Philippines // “You’re BIG” , “You seem famous”, and being “The Other”
20:15 - Balancing Relatability and Being True to Oneself
* Know your audience
* Focus on the story
27:45 - On Storytelling
* Self-publishing book
32:00 - The Hometown Advantage + Cultivating Word of Mouth
* “There’s nothing’s wrong with focusing on your home court”
* Creating a consistent product
40:00 - Building and Maintaining a Culture
* On Family and Ownership
42:15 - On Blind Faith and Consistency
45:30 - On Value and Accessibility // “Value is in the eyes of the beholder”
51:45 - On Staying Sane
* Separating “What I Do” vs. “What I Am”
* Support Systems, Workouts, etc.
* The Illusion of Binary Opposites and Distinct “Life Compartments”
Rapid Fire with Alexa and Dalena:
Most Influential People:
Alexa: Her Dad
Dalena: Her Mom
Best Tools Ever Purchased:
Alexa: Her Food Truck
Dalena: Cast Iron Skillet
3 Ingredients That Describe Them:
Alexa: Soy Sauce, Garlic, Vinegar
Dalena: Patis (Fish Sauce), Buttermilk, Black Pepper
Resources for the Common Person:
Alexa: The New Filipino Kitchen
Dalena: The Bible
If Their Life Stories was Written in One Sentence:
Alexa: “Always know where you came from, but never underestimate where you can go"
Dalena: “She was Born, she Believed, and she Did"
Lumpia - Chinese-Filipino Spring Roll
Balut - Southeast Asian delicacy of bird embryo eaten in its shell
Dinuguan - Meat stewed in Pig’s Blood
Celery as a Luxury Food
Wars for Black Pepper
CreateSpace - Platform for self-publishing books and other content