This Self-Taught Filipina Cook Just Won a James Beard Award

Leila Rosas owns and operates Oriental Mart in Seattle.

( We all love a solid success story—all the more when the hero (or heroine!) is plucky but down-to-earth. But for Leila Rosas, the restaurant she inherited from her mother at the Seattle Pike Place Market is “just a hole in the wall,” and a James Beard Award wasn’t on Ate Lei's radar.

PHOTO courtesy of the James Beard Foundation
PHOTO courtesy of The Seattle Times

And yet, there it is. If restaurants get Michelin stars, cooks get a James Beard—usually this accolade is given to establishments that “have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” Oriental Mart is a humble place with fewer than 20 seats and no social media presence (for now); they have the tiniest menu that’s ever been, with a maximum of seven items on any given day. It changes because, as Rosas says, “I cook what I want so I don’t get tired of cooking the same thing every day.” Mad respect!

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For non-Filipinos, even such a short menu can get confusing, so Rosas developed the Do You Trust Me Plate (U.S. $22, or approximately P1,125), good for two and brimming with whatever the cook thinks the diner will love.

Oriental Mart was established in 1971 and is best known in the community for the sinigang na salmon.

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