Filipino restaurant Kaya receives Florida’s first Michelin Green Star for sustainable gastronomy

Kaya’s chef Lordfer Lalicon receiving the restaurant’s Michelin Green Star Award. Photo from Instagram/@kaya.orlando

KAYA, a Filipino restaurant in Orlando received Florida’s first Michelin Green Star Award last Thursday, April 18 for its outstanding commitment to sustainable and eco-conscious dining.

Awarded by the Michelin Guide, the Green Star designation is a testament to a restaurant’s exceptional commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. To earn this coveted recognition, restaurants must not only tantalize taste buds with their culinary masterpieces but also demonstrate a profound dedication to minimizing their environmental impact.

The distinction holds special significance for Chef Lordfer Lalicon and Jamilyn Bailey, the founders of Kaya as it reflects one of their guiding values – utang na loob.

By prioritizing sourcing ingredients from local Florida farms and with over 90% of their produce originating locally, Kaya exemplifies their commitment to sustainability. Lalicon highlighted their focus on “bayanihan” in building strong ties with the local community, artisans, and farmers, further reinforcing their dedication to supporting local initiatives.

“We center our work around the Filipino value bayanihan, a spirit of communal support,” Lalicon said in a quote by Michelin Guide. “We have built Kaya with the intention to improve the local restaurant-farmer-community ecosystem.”

This means that every aspect of their operations, from team development to partnerships with local artisans and sourcing of produce and seafood, is geared towards enhancing this ecosystem as they prioritize minimizing waste through innovative utilization of byproducts.

In an Instagram post, Bailey said, “Utang na loob or inner debt, or as my mom would say, “the debt you can never repay.” while most often we think of this in terms of personal relationships and reciprocity with others, we intentionally extend this principle to the land and the abundance of resources it provides us. we have a responsibility.”

“Culinary trends like low waste, snout to tail, and farm to table are seen not just as modern concepts but as ancestral technology deeply ingrained in Philippine cuisine,” Bailey further explained, “(our people have been doing this for generations… there’s a reason vinegar is such a central component to philippine cuisine!)”

Situated in the Mills 50 district in Orlando, Kaya occupies a charming bungalow-style building that exudes a quirky allure. Guests are greeted with captivating views of the open kitchen, adding to the restaurant’s inviting ambiance.

According to the Michelin Guide, “the menu changes often, but you may enjoy kare, a rectangle of braised fork-tender oxtail resting in the classic and flavorful peanut stew/sauce, along with various vegetables. It’s served with their pitch-perfect garlic rice, served classic or with a luxe update with King crab.” Photos courtesy of Michelin Guide

The dining experience at Kaya revolves around a meticulously curated tasting menu, featuring multiple courses, some comprising more than one element.

“Expect a modern spin on classic Filipino dishes with local seafood and central Florida produce taking center stage. Kinilaw na isada (sic), a ceviche-style dish with madai and finely diced fruit in a vinegar sauce is a stunning dish that wakes up the palate for a strong start,” according to the Michelin Guide writeup.

“Then, the menu changes often, but you may enjoy kare, a rectangle of braised fork-tender oxtail resting in the classic and flavorful peanut stew/sauce, along with various vegetables. It’s served with their pitch-perfect garlic rice, served classic or with a luxe update with King crab.”

With the Michelin Green Star distinction, Kaya joins an esteemed group of restaurants renowned for their commitment to sustainability, including Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York; Dirt Candy in New York City; Providence and Osteria Mozza, both in Los Angeles; and The French Laundry in Yountville. n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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