It began as a birthday kamayan for Carlo Gan in 2017.
Gan said he and his partner Mia Orino just wanted to make Filipino dishes they couldn’t find in Georgia and share them with friends and family.
After five days, Gan said they did it again. "We sold out again. That’s literally how it began. And after four or five pop-ups, restaurants keep inviting us already," he shared.
Now, Gan and Orino, who first met when they were 12 years old in Manila are gearing up to open their own restaurant, Kamayan ATL, in the Peach State.
"I’m actually in healthcare. She’s actually in global studies. She graduated with a Ph.D. So cooking and restaurant business is totally a new thing for me and her. But it’s more of a passion, not like a job."
Gan, who until recently worked as a physician, told ABS-CBN News that they plan to serve similar dishes that had customers lining up at their pop-ups for the past four years.
"We don’t like to deviate on what we’re doing because we’re not that. We’re not people like that. We cook what we learned and tasted when we were growing up," he pointed out
What their cooking has caught the attention of the food industry’s highest honor. Back in February, Gan and Orino were named semifinalists in the annual award ceremony by the James Beard Foundation. Orino noted, "we were surprised for ourselves, but not for our food. We expected at some point, it would be nominated for something, not necessarily ourselves."
Although they did not get the top prize, the couple said being nominated already makes them feel like winners.
"It’s for every Filipino, and it’s for every Filipina over forty who is starting over, making a career change. You can do it, just go for it," Orino said.
Orino and gan also give credit to all the volunteers and customers who have supported them along the way.
"For me and Mia, it’s just like everything we serve, comes from the heart. It’s not like we did this to make money, no. It is just sharing," Gan said.
Part of that effort is donating hot meals to community pantries, a commitment the couple said they agreed on even before they laid out banana leaves at their first Kamayan event.