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Meet Monique Santua, Founder of Gastromonique in Austin, TX

Meet Monique Santua, Founder of Gastromonique in Austin, TX

“So there are two ways to get out of the Philippines. One is to be a sailor and the other is to be a nurse or a doctor. But nurses are more prevalent. And the biggest medical center in the world is in Houston. So there is a huge Filipino presence there.”

Meet Monique Santua, Founder of Gastromonique in Austin, TX

Monique Santua was born in the Philippines, and moved to Hempstead, Texas when she was five. At seven, her family made the move from there to Houston, where she spent her childhood. While her mother paved the way for the Santua family here as a nurse, Monique has had the opportunity to feel out a couple of different career options before launching Gastromonique this year as a way to share her love of cooking with the people of Austin.

This Spring, I spent a few hours rolling lumpia and turon with Monique Santua, and learning a little bit about her journey to running a meal prep/catering business here in Austin.

I started when I was five- or six-years-old, first going into the kitchen and washing dishes. And lumpia is one of the very first things that I learned. Cooking is so communal –– all of the aunts and uncles in the kitchen, just talking and cooking and so many times I found myself at the kitchen table, rolling Lumpia. It’s therapeutic.
 Photos of Monique Santua by  Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Photos of Monique Santua by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Over a table-full of spring roll wrappers, and pork and beef lumpia filling sourced from local farms, Monique explained that there was a point in the past few years that she worked three jobs to get Gastromonique up and running. Restaurants, both the front and back of the house, and an IT job in customer service that eventually allowed her to be able to make the transition to full-time food.

Filipino Style Eggrolls, or Lumpia
 How to Roll Lumpia

Her meal prep services are geared towards using what is in season and local, but she has a passion for cooking Filipino food and sharing it with big crowds of people.

This past May, Monique hosted a “Smoke Sessions: A Lechon Boodle Fight” in her vast backyard in North Austin where over 40 people dined over whole roasted hog, grilled squid, chicken, fish, all served over a table lined with banana leaves, covered in rice, mangos, sawsawayan, Filipino dipping sauces.

 Images of Monique's Boodle Fight Courtesy of  B&L Creative

“Some people say that Filipino families don’t cook that much, and I guess my dad’s side doesn’t cook that much, but my grandma worked as a cook for a while in the Philippines when she was younger, and she kind of passed that down to everybody. Her brother was here from the Philippines, a sailor, and he loved cooking, so our family always went to his house in Houston for Filipino feasts."

On August 11th, Monique, along with Filipino Food Memoirs, a collective of Austin-based Filipino chefs, hosted Luz vi Minda, a night devoted to exploring the Philippines through a regionally inspired and locally sourced six-course dinner. Tickets sold out for this event, but Monique and FFM are aiming to present this as a monthly series.

When she isn’t providing meal prep services and hosting dinner parties, Monique works with the Texas Farmers Market at Lakeline and Mueller to promote weekly events. Working closely with the farmers and vendors at the market helps her keep a finger on the pulse of the freshest ingredients available in the Austin area, so everything she is offering her clients is in season and local.

I asked Monique if she is aiming to open a restaurant here in Austin one day, and she sort of shrugged and said “Sure, I’ve thought about it. I mean, that’s the dream, right? To open a restaurant serving elevated Filipino food.”

After sampling the food she was prepping for the boodle fight in May, I can say that Monique’s talent in the kitchen will carry her as far as she wants to go with her culinary endeavors.

I have a spot on my calendar carved out for the next popup on September 15th. Who’s with me?

Special thanks to B&L Creative for sharing their gorgeous images of the Smoke Sessions Pig Roast in May! Follow their work on instagram at @b_and_lcreative.m

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