“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” This James Beard quote is a favorite of Jan Parker Cookery. From meatloaf of the Philippines stuffed with boiled eggs to kabocha squash fried rice, Tacoma chef Jan Parker brings her passion for authentic Filipino food to eager local palates. Jan can be found at local markets, private events and offering cooking classes, “translating the history of the land” of the Philippines and all the nuances of its cuisine into hearty, mouth-watering dishes. Once you taste Jan Parker Cookery’s masterful creations, you’ll be hooked.
Jan’s cooking comes from the heart. “Cooking is the best way to learn about other cultures if you are not able to physically travel,” she says. “It’s also a great way to connect with people on a personal level. When customers tell me my food reminds them of home in the Philippines or their grandma’s or mom’s cooking, it’s the highest compliment to receive. Cooking allows me to express myself and convey how I’m feeling and at the moment. When you have my food, I’m sending a message. It’s just like a painting where no words are necessary to communicate. The process of recipe creation and sourcing ingredients satisfies my curiosity with food and serves as a great release of expression. Cooking is also a grand gesture of love. It is a very involved process from the shopping, pulling up a recipe and hands-on work time to get to a dish/meal takes time and energy. When I eat out or when my family or friends cook, I take a moment to reflect on their hard work.”
Jan is an accomplished chef and teacher. The wife of an army retiree, Jan created and taught at the culinary program at the USO-Rein Main in Germany and graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle with a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management and an associate’s degree in baking and pastry. She grew up with Filipino parents, learning to speak Tagalog and found a passion for sharing her family’s culture through cooking. Over the years, she has mentored high school students, cooked at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, catered on private yachts and contributed to The Food Network’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival and PBS show “Nick Stellino’s Cooking with Friends” among other accomplishments. Yet she remains down-to-earth. She enjoys teaching cooking for all levels and cooks everything from scratch.
When asked about her favorite dish to create, Jan admits it’s hard to pick just one. “It’s winter time, so you can find a line-up of comforting filling dishes at Jan Parker Cookery,” she says. “Currently, we serve a vegan ginataan kabocha squash soup with a healthy dose of ginger and garlic. Ginataan means anything with coconut milk. It’s a great soup for the season, because it is so flavorful from the garlic and ginger and it’s very warm, so it’s like giving your tummy hug from the inside. We started offering vegan dishes at the Proctor Farmer’s Market and found our customers really enjoy this part of our menu.”
“For people who enjoy meat, our most popular item is the pork belly brushed with banana ketchup served with Calrose rice and seasonal greens tossed from our urban farmer in central Tacoma Share the Wealth Organics. The sugar in the ketchup, mixed with the soy creates a nice sweet and salty glaze on the crispy pork belly. The pure high quality sesame oil and sea salt used for our greens is simple, but it creates a wonderful balance.”
Jan has been an active part of Tacoma’s growing market scene, bringing her creations to diverse venues. When asked about a favorite here, she notes, “The events I’m involved in are so different. Each venue has its own special thing. The farmers markets are amazing because of the farmers and all the seasonal produce. If you have never been to a farmers market, I highly recommend it. The fruits and vegetables are at their peak. It’s also a great way to talk to food producers and gain knowledge about food we consume. It’s also a great way to put money back into local businesses. As a vendor, I enjoy the market because I’ve gained relationships with other vendors and have made friends.”
“Tacoma Night Market is full of creative energy from all the local artist and food vendors,” adds Jan. “There’s a DJ, local makers and drinks. All these things combined makes for a memorable, fun and exciting evening.”
Eager to try a taste of Jan Parker Cookery? You can currently find her at the Proctor Farmer’s Market Winter Service, Tacoma Night Market, Museum of Glass and Honey at Alma Mater on select dates. She has also been a hit at Tacoma Striezelmarkt in the past. In the coming year, you’ll likely find Jan Parker Cookery back at the Proctor and Broadway Farmer’s Markets for a new season.
What’s next for this dynamic chef? Says Jan, “We are thinking of expanding so we can be at simultaneous markets in Tacoma.”
As more and more satiated tummies seem to be finding and enjoying her creations, she says, “Our customers have been very curious about a brick and mortar. We will continue to work on building our customer base. When the time comes, we will turn to our ever so supportive Tacoma and beyond community to help build our brick and mortar through pledges via an established on-line service.”