Mia Orino and Carlo Gan have started a unique restaurant experience in Atlanta – the Kamayan pop up restaurant. Kamayan is a Filipino style of eating with your hands, sharing a large communal feast with your family and friends. They take over the restaurant space of Ba Bellies in Peachtree Corners, Georgia for their events. To find out when the next one will be and taste this delicious meal, follow them on social media HERE.
The Push to Move
Mia: Carlo and I were high school friends, and went to the same Catholic school in Manila. I started there in kindergarten. I got tired of Catholic school, uniforms and masses, and the rosaries we had to carry around. We had lots of uniforms and the one I hated the most, so much it made me move, was one that we wore to church. I couldn’t deal with that outfit! And we only got one type of sock, one type of shoe, one type of ribbon. You had to kneel to make sure the skirt was the correct length, our belt had to be really high-waisted, and nail polish wasn’t allowed. But I like to express myself with nail polishes. I was well-known in the high school AP class because I would wear nail polish anyways. One day our teacher was sick and the vice principal was going to be substituting instead, and another student came up running to me and said, “Give me your nails! She’s coming!” They started scraping away my polish because I was going to get in the biggest trouble!
So I came from Manila to the U.S. when I was 23 for graduate school, and never went back. My family had been in D.C. for years, and I was the last to come because I’m the youngest. My mom had said, “I’m not going to pay for your plane tickets back and forth anymore, as you gallivant from the Philippines to America.” So I came in the 1990s and stayed because all my family was here too.”
Kamayan Pop Up
Carlo: I have a very big family of 20+ people. We used to do kamayans in the Philippines for holidays and family birthdays when we were all together. We lay out banana leaves on the table and place the food on top. Things like rice, whole fried fish, longanisa, sisig, and sauces.
Mia: Last year I wanted to do something different for his birthday, rather than giving a gift. So I thought a kamayan would be perfect. We tried to go to a restaurant that did the kamayan style, but it didn’t work out.
Carlo: So my kids said, “Well dad you could just do it at the house and we will invite some friends.” Of course their friends posted photos of the kamayan on social media. People started seeing their photos and asking, “Oh what restaurant is that?” And they would say, “Oh it’s just my dad and Mia cooking.” And they said, “They should do that more!”
Mia: Starting the Kamayan pop-up restaurant was purely accidental. After his birthday, we decided to try to do another meal, and sold tickets. It sold out. Food bloggers had started following us already, even though it was just home cooking at first! In fact my hashtag was #newbiecook. I was a little embarrassed and had no confidence at all. But a bunch of bloggers supported us from day one and we clicked. If not for them, we wouldn’t continue doing it.
Carlo: Mia has a talent and a passion. Her mom is an amazing cook so she got the genes. If you were going to ask me her style of cooking, I would say, “OCD.” It needs to be perfect. Like every vegetable slice has to be the same size.
Mia: It’s been about 4 months since we started. Every time we do an event we open it up to more and more people. And we always sell out!
Mia and Carlo share about why there are so many flavors and variations in Filipino food.
Get a recipe for Pancit Palabok, Mia’s home made shrimp noodles.