Yana Gilbuena is the founder and creative director of SALO Project. SALO is a moveable Filpino pop-up dinner. Salo, derived from “Salu-salo” which means a dinner party, is designed as a gathering of the curious ones, adventuring for deeper understanding of native feasts. She is traveling the United States, producing one dinner each week in another state.
BS: Yana, what do you do for a living and what led you there?
YG: I’m a gypsy chef, traveling the 50 states doing underground Filipino pop-up dinners via kamayan style: set on banana leaves and no utensils, no dishware, communal setting. My hobby of cooking regional-focused dishes as an underground dinner series became my life. I was working in the interior design field for 7 years, became well-versed not only from the design perspective but also the business perspective. I was working as a PR and Marketing Director before I got laid off, but coincidentally I was already thinking of making my dinner series bi-coastal. So I took it as a sign that I was on the right path and took a leap of faith. On top of that, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Visayas region where I’m from, and I took it as an opportunity to make 50-state project raising awareness about Filipino cuisine to add another layer of philanthropy and raise money for this organization called ARK: Advancement for Rural Kids (www.ruralkids.org). They build schools that have a farming and feeding program, which empowers children to be a producer and no longer be just a consumer.
BS: You have to re-create a support system of collaborators and co-conspirators every week. What is that like?
YG: It’s exciting. It’s energizing. It’s a gamble. There’s always no guarantee, but I roll with positivity. I believe in the law of attraction — positivity begets positivity. You put it out the universe and you get answers. 🙂 It’s crazy because it’s a blank state. Monday is my reset button. Now it’s all about moving forward and riding on the wave of good food, good people, and good vibes.
BS: How do you keep your creative spirit alive?
YG: I challenge myself with the dishes I make, how to creatively problem-solve challenges I encounter in each city/state, and also being inspired by the energy of the city/state I’m in. I try to connect with the locals, get the feel of the city and through my collaborations with people, the creative spirit gets fueled.
BS: What do you carry with you every day?
YG: As a traveler: my phone, laptop, notebook and running shoes. As a chef: my knives, my nomiku (sous vide) and my immersion blender 🙂
BS: What surprises you?
YG: Each state/city is a beautiful surprise. I’ve been a coastal girl in my 10 years in America, and it surprises me how there are so many beautiful places to see, little towns with such creative vibes and like-minded people everywhere. How the movement for good food, “be sustainable” is a nationwide mantra, and it’s growing. I’m surprised how beautiful my interactions with people have been. it has been nothing but positivity. They’re all very good surprises. <3!
Check out The SALO Project.
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