SEATTLE — When famed chef Melissa Miranda opened the restaurant Musang in early 2020, she brought a strong vision for what kind of place it would be.
She wanted it to be less chef driven and more about the community. And that includes empowering members of her team through mentorship and opportunities.
Since the pandemic, she relaunched one of her signature programs, a monthly pop-up event that allows each team member an opportunity to bring their stories to the table for a ticketed pop-up dinner experience at the Musang restaurant.
"The biggest part is to be able to see, if you had your own space what would it be like? How would you curate it? How would you want people to feel welcomed when you come in?" Miranda explained.
In November, Musang cook and recipe developer Kyle "KiKi" Ronquillo hosted a pop up that put a Filipino spin on food with roots in the deep American south.
He called it Filipino Soul Food. Some of the menu items included a hushpuppy made with mung bean, a legume popular in the Philippines.
His collard greens featured a Liang sauce, which is made up of coconut milk, fish sauce, and other Filipino inspired flavors.
His passion for soul food came from his childhood, partly spent on a military base.
"Most of my friends are African-American. It's so funny how like inviting the culture is, always feeding you and stuff. That's the same with Filipinos. Every time you go to a Filipino home, we're feeding you. I don't care if you're hungry or not," Ronquillo joked.
Ronquillo's pop up event sold out quickly and he feels grateful for the opportunity and the support.
This is part of Miranda's larger vision to help revolutionize the restaurant industry.
Something she talked about in a TEDX Seattle presentation.
"This wasn't about me having my name on a menu. It was about giving them an opportunity to tell their stories. Everyone on my team has an opportunity to develop their own palette, which is completely different from the traditional chef culture where you keep your head down and ask questions," Miranda shared. "There's not a whole lot of mentorship. What does our future generation look like in terms of how we support them? Because you know, they need to grow!"
Kiki and the Musang team are definitely doing just that.
And that arguably makes for food that not only tastes richer but feels good too.
The next pop-up event at Musang is Dec. 18th.