The daughter of first-generation immigrants, Ponseca grew up in a Filipino community in San Diego where she learned to love the pungent, sour, salty, sweet, “confidently funky” flavors of her heritage. That included tangy and garlicky chicken adobo, sugar cane vinegar-marinated beef skewers, and her dad’s specialty: kare kare, a comforting stew of oxtails, peanut butter and the fermented seafood paste bagoong. She began to ponder why, even though Filipinos are the second-largest Asian-American population in the U.S. after Chinese, its cuisine was virtually unknown outside homes and humble steam-table joints called turo-turos. Her quest to find answers led her to pursue a new dream: “to give Filipino food a seat at the culinary table.”
Over the next decade, she immersed herself in the restaurant business, made research trips to the Philippines, and connected with Miguel Trinidad, a Dominican chef who would become her business partner. Today they run Maharlika and Jeepney, two critically acclaimed new-school Filipino restaurants in New York credited with fueling a Filipino food movement that’s gotten a lot of buzz lately, though it has yet to reach Atlanta.