New-Gen Filipino Entrepreneurs is a feature series that will spotlight young Filipino-Canadian entrepreneurs, and their respective businesses in Toronto. Explore and be inspired by these Filipino go-getters in our community! Get to know Diona Joyce and her experience on how she made a success story from the food we all love.
WRITTEN BY RINA ESPIRITU
We've been doing cartwheels since Tita Flips moved into the neighbourhood.
It’s safe to say that there was a general sigh of joyful relief (in the form of happy dances and high fives) throughout Kapisanan when Kanto by Tita Flips opened up around the corner from our Kensington Market home. And how fitting that “Kanto” is tagalog for “corner”! On the southeast side of Dundas and Bathurst, Scadding Court welcomed Filipino cuisine to its Live Local Marketplace and instantly sparked a food buzz among bloggers in the downtown area. Owned and operated by the ever-enthusiastic Diona Joyce, Kanto's rotating menu of Filipino street food has people quickly trading in their pad thai lunches for palabok.
How long have you lived in Canada?
Ten years. I came here in June of 2001.
Were you always interested in culinary arts? Tell us a little bit about how you got started?
Yes, since I was little. I always watched my mom cook and she’s in the food business as well, back in the Philippines. So when I came here to Canada, I loved to cook because there are so many different ingredients that I didn’t have access to when I was in the Philippines. I started to cook at parties, just socially. Soon after, friends would start requesting food and ordering party trays. Then I started catering to birthdays and weddings!
Most recently, I was given the opportunity to have a space at the Scadding Court Community to represent Filipino cuisine.
Who is Tita Flips?
In Filipino culture, we don’t call our elders by their first names. Most common is “Tita” for an older Filipino woman, usually an aunt. And “Flips” is basically just a nickname for Filipinos.
How have people responded to the food (Filipinos and non-Filipinos)?
So far, it has been really well-received. It’s so amazing to introduce a lot of Filipino food first-timers to these dishes and to see that they really like it! Our palabok (rice noodles, shrimp, pork, egg, chives) has become a favourite by almost everyone.
Food can tell a story about a culture. What do you think makes Filipino food so distinct?
One will notice that Filipino cuisine is made up of sweet and savory components in of its most dishes. The Filipino culture has so many influences. Our food is inspired by many different origins. It is made most distinct by using local ingredients. Like, coconut flavors for example. We also use calamansi. It has a different acidity from palm vinegar and is not a common citrus like say a regular lemon.
What are some other menus items you would like to introduce?
Sisig (a sizzling plate of chopped pork, chili, liver, onion and seasoned with calamansi and vinegar) and Ukoy (shrimp fritter). I would also like to add more “silogs” (garlic rice topped with a fried egg and selected meats).
How do you want to grow the business?
More locations, perhaps? Most likely!