My three essentials in life is food, community, and creativity. Chef Yana Gilbuena’s Salo Series embodies all three! Salo Series is a Filipino Kamayan pop-up event that started three years ago. Yana has shared her culture through her food in all 50 States, South America, Mexico and Asia. Kamayan means to eat with your hands. This is something we’re used to with pizza and sandwiches, but not many outside of Filipino culture grew up as I did. Scooping heaping handfuls of rice and we crack open blue crabs and pick out the sweet morsels of meat, using the crab fat as topping. It was always my favorite thing to do because it was so messy, there wouldn’t be a day where I wouldn’t find pieces of rice stuck in my hair!
Salo in Tagalog means to catch (food) and to gather (people). Yana sources seasonal and local food, prepping a few days before each event. The tables are lined with banana leaves and communal food is lined down the middle. You eat with your dominant hand and serve yourself with the other. I love Yana’s approach to food. Salo feels familiar and comforting. For those not Filipino, Yana is introducing cuisine outside of the adobo, lumpia, and pancit you find at most Filipino gatherings. Instead it’s marinated meats with a fried egg and garlic fried rice (a typical breakfast), whole steamed fish, or sisig. Her meals are a flavor punch to the taste buds and filling your tummy to the brim with happiness.
Yana’s infectious laugh, curious spirit, and her deep passion are the highlights of the experience. She’s a nomad chef, without a permanent kitchen to hang her apron. Three years ago she was living in Brooklyn, until she decided to take that leap of faith and follow her dreams sleeping on couches after serving her meals anywhere and anywhere that will host Salo.
For my last day in the States before I pushing off for the Philippines, Jeepney Art Car teamed up with Parts and Labor Los Angeles, a Filipino-American creative hub comprised of Yana and Bryan Alano in an effort to raise money to introduce Salo Series to Burning Man. We hosted a fundraiser brunch and dinner to help bring her unique experience to our camp and serve those on the playa. The meal included a jeepney coloring contest to let their imaginations run wild and design their own jeepney. Burning Man has taught me if you can dream it, you can do it. Hopefully we helped start turning the wheels for our friends to think about what they could create as well.
This time I experienced Salo from Yana’s point of view, helping to prepare and serve the feast. The value of participation is one of the biggest points we are trying get across to communicate with our Jeepney project. Sitting down and taking in a meal is great, but serving others, putting smiles faces, and spreading a unique message is an experience so rewarding you really can’t explain. That’s why we are sharing this message at Burning Man and can’t wait to serve a Kamayan meal in the dust to travelers from all over the world!