Homesick Filipinos and curious foodies alike are well-acquainted with New York City’s Jeepney and Maharlika. The brainchild of the proud Pinay and resolute restaurateur Nicole Ponseca, Maharlika started out as a humble pop-up in 2011, introducing unsuspecting passersby to our rich cuisine, one balut and adobo at a time. Emboldened from the rousing success of her first-ever restaurant, she opened Jeepney a few blocks down the following year, venturing into the realm of fusion Filipino food. The closure of both establishments in 2019 and 2021 stirred sorrow through the community, as the gastronomic institutions were monumental to the international Filipino Food Movement. However, as those who know the headstrong personality can attest, Ponseca is not one to throw in the towel.
From her cookbook, I Am a Filipino: and This is How We Cook, a James Beard Award finalist, the reincarnation of Jeepney in Miami, and her many global appearances on and off-screen, Ponseca is one of Filipino cuisine’s staunchest advocates.
Her anthropologist sensibilities are palpable in the aforementioned title, an essential resource for home cooks, food geeks, and anyone in between. A spokeswoman for our diverse regional cuisines and the storied roots of our heritage dishes, Ponseca nearly bounced off the walls when asked about her favourite Philippine eats, never once running out of steam. Hear from the fervent foodie herself, below: