Carissa Ortega - Ninong's Pastries
Carissa Ortega never dreamt she would be running a restaurant, but family, necessity, and a love for sharing Filipino food brought Ninong’s Pastries into the world. Her passion for sharing and community is so beautiful and can be seen in Ninong’s and through the food. Ninong’s Pastries is a restaurant celebrating their 10 year anniversary this month and they serve breakfast, lunch, and amazing Filipino pastries in Northridge, CA.
How did you create your career path? And how did Ninong’s Pastries come into fruition?
Ninong’s happened out of necessity. In 2007, members of my family were laid off and lost their jobs due to the economy and decided to take a chance on themselves. From there Ninong’s was born. My aunt is our head baker and had been taking orders from her home for many years and my mom had a passion for cooking. Originally we set out to just be a pastry shop/cafe, no food. But the business we bought out in Granada Hills served breakfast plates, lunch, and bagels so we decided to keep a few things and add a few things of our own! I officially came on full time in 2013, and had been working part time at the shop since we opened in 2008. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be running a restaurant!
What are you most passionate about?
I realized through this journey that I’m very passionate about sharing my experiences with others - whether it be through food, my culture, mentorship, or business. I love seeing others venture off into their own businesses.
Have you always wanted to work with Filipino food?
We knew that when we were going to open that Filipino food and culture would be our main focus. Our goal was always to share daily food and culture with the world, not just Filipinos but other cultures. We believe in our roots of genuine hospitality, good food, and family.
What do you love about the work you do?
There are so many! But the main thing is seeing people of other cultures walking into our restaurant, seeing people enjoy my family’s recipes, and mentoring my team.
What are your favorite Filipino dishes? What items are your favorite on Ninong’s menu?
This is a really tough one! To be honest I don’t have much of a sweet tooth lol! I love my mom’s cooking, anything she cooked was so yummy! I wish I appreciated it more when she was alive. She taught me a lot of her recipes, some of my favorites to make are Pancit Palabok, Lengua, and her version of Beef Stroganoff. I always have a rotating favorite on our menu, but right now my faves are the 3 Generation Wings. It was inspired by my Lola’s fried chicken made with soy and garlic, my Mom’s curry, and my ginataan recipe.
What is your favorite part about the creative process of creating a menu?
Being able to push our creativity with creating new dishes while keeping familiar flavors at the forefront. I’m a firm believer that our responsibility is to keep the integrity of our Filipino flavor profile but also not be afraid to have fun with it.
How do you feel about the Fil Am chef/food community? It seems like such a good community to be part of and uplifting.
I love our community so so much! I love that we’re all cheering each other on, have respect for each other, and can just be ourselves. I’ve ben other people while in business for 10 years and there was so much animosity, this overwhelming feeling of competition, and negativity. Either that, or they just want to get to know you because they want something out of you. But our community is nothing like that! I love that we can get together, ask for advice, talk about hard stuff, laugh together, and support each other. It’s the absolute best!
Where are your favorite places to eat?
There are so many, I’m a huge foodie and I love trying new things. I’ll just say that if there was 1 food that I could eat for the rest of my life it would be seafood.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
Always! lol! Ninong’s is celebrating our 10 year anniversary this October and we’re kicking off something fun to celebrate. More details to come ;)