Food is in the genes for Ellie. Her chef-father didn’t hesitate to involve her in the tasks of the kitchen, coaching her at the oven range when she was still too small to stir a pot without a stepping stool. A family of farmers, the Tiglaos hail from Pampanga, a province of the Philippines best known for its contributions to Filipino culinary heritage. It’s in this background that Ellie roots the importance of food, less in food’s function as fuel, but more in its role in nurturance and cultural preservation.
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then it’s no surprise that when Ellie’s training as a neuroscientist brought her to Boston, the unexpected lack of Filipino food threw her own upbringing into sharp relief. Years of toiling under fluorescent light and a growing feeling that she couldn’t be the only one missing lutong pinoy were the perfect catalysts to her and her brother RJ’s first pop-up in 2014.
In addition to all things pop-up, Ellie is a worker-owner and founding member of Olio Culinary Collective, a community-focused cooperative dedicated to sustainable sourcing, workplace fairness and the celebration of food as culture.
Pamangan is a Filipino American dinner series, incorporating the flavors and cooking techniques of the Philippines into dishes that can range from highly traditional to loosely inspired. Ellie Tiglao works with her team to pop up all over Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, serving new, constantly evolving iterations of the meals and memories of her childhood and helping New England eaters to answer the question “What is Filipino food?”
Filipino food is itself highly idiosyncratic, a reflection of the history of colonization of the 7000-island archipelago. While fusion is no longer a la mode, one might be hard-pressed to find another word that succinctly describes a cuisine that is deeply influenced by Spanish, American, Chinese and Malay traditions. The result is bold, flavorful and unapologetic about its love of pork.