Chef Reina Montenegro rebrands with a clearer mission to deliver vegan Filipino food

chef reina montenegro rebrands with a clearer mission to deliver vegan filipino food

FOR small business owners, especially those in the restaurant industry, “pivot” was a buzzword of 2020 — whether it was making meal kits, embracing delivery services or offering online cooking classes — in order to survive during the ongoing pandemic.

In the Bay Area, Filipina American chef Reina Montenegro knows the immediacy of having to shift and has, in fact, embraced it.

Reina Montenegro | Photo by Mogli Maureal

“What I’ve learned is that if you don’t move with the times, you’re going to get left behind. You have to ride that wave anywhere it goes and be flexible,” Montenegro told the Asian Journal.

Since 2016, Montenegro has operated Nick’s Kitchen in Daly City, which was transformed into the first Filipino vegan restaurant in the Peninsula a year later, serving up plant-based versions of dishes that traditionally have meat as the central component.

The standout items include sisig using grilled mushrooms and tofu, palabok with mock shrimp and chicharron, and silogs featuring alternatives to pork and beef and vegan eggs.

The popular restaurant — garnering a PETA accolade as a cultural trailblazer and even praise and regular patronage from non-vegans — became a local micro chain with Nick’s on Grand in South San Francisco and Nick’s on Mission in the city’s Filipino cultural district, SOMA Pilipinas.

At Nick’s  Kitchen, chef Reina Montenegro transformed classic Filipino dishes like sisig, lumpia and caldereta into plant-based options.  | Photo by Albert Law

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