Ube Kitchen at a weekend food park in New York.
Ube in the heart of New York
Edu Jarque (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Revj “Vance” Consignado, a Filipino immigrant to the United States since 2015, has a mission to spread the love and taste of purple yam – ube to you and me – through plant-based dishes, pastries and desserts in chic and trendy food parks and sought-after dinners.Vance is the executive chef and co-founder of Ube Kitchen, together with his husband Nick Shippers.

Vance and Nick met while waiting in line at a Brooklyn restaurant and, in their own words, “their love of flavors began.”

Their goal is to bring customers closer to nature, utilizing dairy-free vegan choices in an offbeat yet healthy Filipino-inspired cuisine.

“I think my strongest asset is sharing my journey towards veganism,” Vance says.

For the summer months, Ube Kitchen finds its home at Smorgasbord, New York’s largest outdoor market with over 70 vendors that attracts over 10,000 visitors per day. During the wintertime, they host monthly Kamayan Feasts – the longest vegan bare-hands gathering in the city which serves over 60 in a boodle fight on banana leaves.

In addition, all throughout the year, they supply treats to selected restaurants. A quick stop at neighborhood cafés will present you with their classic grab-n-go overnight oat and chia cups.

“We love that ube’s flavor and color is a surprising and delightful cultural vessel. Via purple ice cream, we feel we have introduced our customers to a bit of our cuisine and a glimpse into our lifestyles,” Vance explains.

Another favorite is their all-time best seller halo-halo, made with shaved ice, drizzled with almond milk syrup, topped with coconut jelly, black tea jelly, coconut strings, rice krispies, dragon fruit, jackfruit, house-made coconut flan, coconut caramel curds, garnished with dehydrated pineapple garnish and – of course – ube ice cream.

Born and raised in the Philippines to a family of four, Vance was influenced by both his father and grandmother. As a child, he observed how to make dishes taste heartier and how to obtain the freshest vegetables and best fruits in the market.

“My most vivid memory was watching my grandmother wrap tulingan – a type of sardines – in banana leaves enhanced by various spices, simmered in coconut milk. I even remember being fascinated by her use of a clay pot over a coal flame,” he recalls.

His father and only brother taught him how to prepare adobo sa gata while sharing ginisang monggo as a family, admitting it was their favorite stress reliever food – up to this day.

Vance is a B.S. Culinary Arts graduate from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. He has had internships with and served as an apprentice at the 5-star luxury Gran Hotel La Florida in Barcelona, Spain; the Delano Boutique Hotel in Miami, Florida and the Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey.

He has worked at Kawi, a reflection of Korean fine dining, and the newest member of the Momofuku restaurant brands, most famous for its innovative take on ramen while supporting local produce.

“The internship and jobs across the globe taught me to be independent and inspired me to be an ideal boss. I wanted to create a kitchen culture without the stereotypical toxicity that viewers have seen on culinary reality shows. Being meticulous and disciplined with flavors were lessons that I carry til today,” he shares.

“I have learned to take risks – put yourself out there to get a reaction,” he adds, as he explains the “immersive dining experience” that is Ube Kitchen’s Kamayan Feast.

“Upon arrival, you’ll witness spread out across 10 tables recycled newspapers and the torching that preserves banana leaves. An attentive and caring crew of seven organizes over 20 dishes family-style. Before digging in, we bring out the stories of military men eating over banana leaves in a boodle fight, and we highlight the roots of kamayan as celebratory feasts among families,” he shares.

“We encourage enlightening conversations among our guests sitting together, partaking our fiesta of a once-traditional animal-based, now animal-free feast. I make certain to share stories, describing in detail the star dishes, the use of exotic mushrooms as an alternative to meat and why vinegar is so commonly used. Patrons get comfortable using their bare hands and appreciate the knowledge of plants or fungi that we have yet to incorporate in our diets. The majority non-vegans come with an open mind and leave with a greater understanding of how Filipino gatherings bring loved ones together,” he explains.

Vance confesses that travel is his main inspiration. “It’s my profound love to study different cultures and traditions of cooking. I believe one needs to visit more destinations in order to see the world differently,” he says.

His outlook in life and career is inspired by the late Anthony Bourdain. “His empathy towards ways of life has continuously moved me to be more mobile, with my eyes open to how food is prepared by local chefs.”

Vance recently attended a cooking class in Rome, where vegan pasta was showcased. He is currently looking into adopting the process. His journeys across Eastern Europe have led him to his new favorite – bread dumplings, a perfect partner for stews.

Spanish is his preferred international cuisine. “I love the many influences that permeate into their dishes and the variations you explore within the contrasting regions around the country.”

An avid user of Instagram, he has his own worldwide community who champion plant-based cuisine. However, he still prefers visiting towns and cities and tasting each concoction. He gives a nod to eatwith – think Uber or Airbnb, but for kitchen classes – where he has mingled with global culinary experts.

Exposed as he may be, he keeps coming back to our very own adobo, due to the complex flavors it possesses.

If given the chance, Vance dreams of collaborating with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, as the latter has recently taken an interest in plant-based dishes. “I would love to cook a potluck with him.”

On the other hand, the inventive Dominique Crenn would be his most-desired dinner guest at Ube Kitchen’s Kamayan Feasts.

As a chef who mainly – but not only – handles desserts, Vance simply cannot survive without his rubber spatula. “It just magically scrapes everything!” he exclaims. Meanwhile, acidic and citric ingredients are his favorites, for it can cut salinity, sweetness and fat – you name it, acid can handle it.

During his free time, the ube-advocate-of-a-chef enjoys spending time in vintage or consignment stores as he unearths inexpensive ways to express himself outside the kitchen. In an alternate timeline, he says he would have been an interior designer, mainly due to his fascination with home shows.

Vance goes by the motto “Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourself.” He encourages those who aspire to become a chef to listen to themselves.” You have to always put your heart into something you absolutely believe in and success, without fail, will follow,” he assures.


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