Jan Parker grew up in a military family and moved all over the world as a young girl. At 11, she discovered cooking as a hobby — inspired by her mother’s talent in cooking family meals from scratch and her father’s ability to make a fabulous meal from random ingredients. After a decade-long career in banking, Parker turned back to cooking in 2012, when her husband was deployed, and she never looked back. In October 2017, she opened Jan Parker Cookery, a mobile restaurant that serves fresh Filipino food at local markets and offers cooking classes. We caught up with Parker to ask her about her experience as a promoter of Filipino culture through food.
To Relax: Places by the water. Some of my favorites are Owen Beach, Dune Park, and Ruston Way. An ideal day of relaxing would be with my folding lounge chair; my French Bulldog, Olive; and the beach.
For Dinner: La Cà Bar is my go-to Vietnamese Restaurant. My favorites are Bún Bò Huê (vermicelli beef noodle soup with pork shanks and Vietnamese pork ham) and Gỏi Cuốn (fresh spring rolls with shrimp and pork).
To Grab a Drink: En Rama has on-point cocktails. Anything with bubbles!
To Be Inspired: People are inspiring, especially my chef friends here in the South Sound. I’ll go visit their restaurants and immediately make time to work on different projects with them. It’s a great opportunity to learn new things.
What are you reading? Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is on my nightstand.
What are you listening to? The Weekend.
Favorite app: Instagram. Staying connected with people all over the world is inspiring and important to see how they live to keep an open perspective.
Mantra you live by: Give, and give some more.
Best professional advice you’ve received: There is no luck involved in success. You have arrived to where you are through skill and perseverance. (Shout out to my business coach Jessica from Business Impact NW.)
Hobbies: Traveling the world and taking photos of food.
How does your Filipino culture — and your relationship with your parents — influence your work as a chef?
In the early stage of my culinary career, my focus was on classic European techniques. However, today my menu draws influence from the flavors of the Philippines. Being able to cook food from my heritage is the best food I’ve put out in my career. The act of cooking has so much more meaning. It’s truly from my heart. My position as a Filipina chef and representing my culture is a huge responsibility. Even though local ingredients are incorporated, it’s important for me to stay true to authentic Filipino flavors.
Where are the most notable places you lived when you were younger?
The most memorable place I lived as a child was in La Maddalena, Italy. It’s a town by the ocean in Northern Sardinia. My interest in food piqued in this Italian archipelago. It’s quite the food adventure for a child to be able to experience things made from scratch and seafood coming directly from the sea. We returned to the Pacific Northwest when I was 13 and lived in the Point Defiance area of Tacoma.
You’ve worked in a wide variety of settings, from teaching cooking courses for the military community in Germany to cooking for a Seattle hotel. What are some common elements of being a chef in these settings?
A common theme from my cooking experience in all these various positions is the ability to welcome flexibility and change. Teaching courses sharpened my communication and demonstration skills. This has contributed to being comfortable in large crowds and public speaking. Showing the basics of cooking requires patience and recognition of different learning levels.
Are there any particularly gratifying experiences that come to mind when you reflect back on your work as a chef?
Being a collaborator in the Kain Tayo! A Filipino Fiesta event, which had more than 300 guests. This event brought Filipinos and the Tacoma community together. It was a mix of artist and food booths. Being able to showcase Filipino culture was grand.