In the latest episode of my docuseries about entrepreneurs in New York, "Maker's Lane," I featured Nicole Ponseca, award-winning restaurateur of two East Village favorites, Jeepney & Maharlika.
"The mission has always been to be the ambassador for Filipino food and culture," said Ponseca. "I want to make Filipinos proud and introduce the food to non-Filipinos."
Growing up, Ponseca expressed being ashamed and embarrassed of eating Filipino food in the school cafeteria amongst her predominantly white classmates. The sentiment resonated with a scene in ABC's new prime time show, "Fresh Off The Boat," where 11-year old Eddie Huang (chef and owner of BaoHaus in the East Village), is taunted by white classmates when he cracks open Chinese food for lunch.
From being alienated in the school cafeteria to appreciated in the spotlight, Ponseca's and Huang's stories remind us to always celebrate your roots and be true to who you are.
Today, Ponseca proudly uses her culture as a source of inspiration for building two successful businesses. Instead of shunning the things that made her different, she finds creative ways to showcase her culture so that more people can appreciate it, in addition to helping younger Filipino Americans build self-esteem.
Watch the whole episode above to learn more about Nicole Ponseca's path to becoming a restaurateur.