“ALL WE WANT IS FOR GUESTS TO WALK AWAY WITH A DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT A RESTAURANT CAN BE”
What do you do in the food world and what do you love about it?
I tell stories and cultivate the conditions that help guests connect and share their own. I'm an introvert but I'm endlessly fascinated by the stories people bring to the literal table.
You describe Tanám as narrative cuisine, what does this mean to you and what do you hope guests of Tanám will take away from their narrative dining experience?
The restaurant is less about the commodity of food (though of course, we attach a price in order to pay our staff and producers fairly) and more about the role it plays in facilitating conversation. For us, all we want is for guests to walk away with a different understanding of what a restaurant can be. This can look any number of ways, but oftentimes can look like the way the restaurant is designed to turn people's attention towards each other and in the level of engagement we as creators and storytellers, chefs and bartenders, have with guests.
Can you talk about the choice to make Tanám a worker-cooperative? What does it mean for the business and how does it impact how you function as a team day to day?
There was never any question that we wanted to be a worker-cooperative. For us, our values are first and foundational and though worker-cooperatives are not inherently better than any other model, it allows us to accomplish our goals of workplace democracy and gives us a framework of how a business can fit into a bigger cultural and economic ecosystem. Decision making is slower and more deliberate and conversation and consensus is at the heart of how we move day to day. We expect more of each other and give more to each other in a way that's not about extraction and getting mine, but about lifting each other up and explicit power sharing.
What are your personal favorite components of the kamayan meal you serve every Wednesday?
The pineapple. You'll know what I mean when you come to eat with us!
How do you resist the patriarchy?
In the hospitality industry, I see and understand that survival looks like playing the game better than the chef bros, but don't see upholding those values as the way we'll find the world we want to live in. As one of Tanám's business owners, I have the privilege of voice in setting the tone and for us, collective power, cooperation and space for vulnerability all exist in stark contrast to the ways in which restaurants generally operate. I'm also not afraid of the power of others who do or want the same thing and believe our businesses succeed (and more like us can open) when we all support one another.
Ellie Tiglao, photographed by Sarah Hummel