Jan Parker Cooks
How much effort and preparation does it take to feed between 100 and 160 people in one evening? How if you feed them only fresh Filipino food, out of a 10x10 temporary, outdoor kitchen with an audience? The sheer scale what Jan Parker Cookery sets out to do at each Tacoma Night Market is enough to make even the most experienced chefs start to sweat, but Jan enjoys the challenge. She says cooking at the night market allows her to show the customers her cooking process, which gives them reassurance about the quality of her meals.
“Exhibition cooking really encourages connection without exactly communicating,” she said. “It's amusing to watch food being cooked then plated, the satisfaction and anticipation factor is higher. Our customers also realize we put out fresh and distinct Filipino food. They can smell and see the fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices being used. Today's consumer is really invested in seeing what goes into their food.”
While cooking for such a wide audience gives her the opportunity to introduce Filipino cuisine to a wide audience, she cherishes the connections with Filipino people who stop by her booth. “Quite frequently when we have people try our booth for the first time and they have grown up with Filipino cuisine, it’s such a compliment to hear our food reminds them of their mom’s or grandma’s cooking, she said. “Cooking is more than just selling food to our business. It’s also a way to celebrate people of the Philippines and sharing our heritage for people to remember.”
Jan believes a lot of the success of the night market is about the venue and the vendors. “Our first Tacoma Night Market was at Alma Mater and I’ve been a fan of the space, the coffee/food and the concept behind it before joining the night market,” she said. And as for the other vendors, it’s a sense of community that keeps them all coming back. “We have a good relationship with most of the vendors because they buy food from Jan Parker Cookery. It’s been so gratifying to earn the business of the vendors at the Tacoma Night Market. We open up early for the vendors so they can eat before they officially have to start selling. It makes me so happy that I’m their first stop.”