To live well, one must eat well. As the founder and visionary behind Mesa ni Misis, Juana Yupangco believes in feeding mind, body and soul with only the good things. This holds especially true at a time when health—spiritual, mental and physical—is top priority. She shares, “These days, there is a clamor for healthy food and recipes. The last year and a half has been busy! My cookbook came out in October 2020 and I am grateful for its success and for putting vegetables back in the spotlight.” Just this year, the Mesa ni Misis cookbook was nominated for the Gourmand Awards for best in the World of 2021. She ponders, “I never thought I would make it to that level of worldwide recognition. That nomination encouraged me and confirmed that I am in the right place."
Whether she is cooking up a hearty and healthy dish, enjoying long walks outdoors or logging on to a Zoom event, color is an essential part of Juana’s style repertoire. Timeless dresses by Roland Mouret, statement shoes, and pearls are all key ingredients to a look that is effortless yet distinct to Juana Yupangco.
- What keeps you busy these days?
I am the founder of Mesa ni Misis, a non profit that promotes healthy eating using local Filipino vegetables. These days, there is a clamor for healthy food, recipes, so the last year and a half has been busy! My cookbook came out in October 2020 and I am grateful for its success and for putting vegetables back in the spotlight.
- How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?
I was in publishing for 12 years before Mesa ni Misis. I had always enjoyed cooking and sharing healthy recipes. In 2017, my family and I decided to go plant based, for health reasons. I soon found it expensive to eat lots of vegetables, mostly because we were buying veggies not native to the Philippines. I started experimenting with local vegetables—the type you take for granted like saluyot and alugbati. Soon I was creating recipes and wanting to share these with others. That's how Mesa ni Misis was born.
- What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?
I enjoy helping people. If I speak in front of 100 people and one person comes to me and makes changes to their lives and their health subsequently improves, I am happy. I like making a difference in the community and in people's lives, in however small possible way, I am glad I was able to help.
- What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”
Overcooking your vegetables? Hot oil? Joking aside, the 'worst' part of this job is having to cook and eat all the time! The pandemic has really stopped me from doing what I love, and that is going out to meet and talk to people.
- What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?
The Mesa ni Misis cookbook was nominated in the Gourmand Awards for Best in the World (for vegetarian cooking) of 2021. I never thought I would make it to that level of world wide recognition. That nomination has encouraged me and confirmed that I am in the right place.
- How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?
My kids love to cook with me, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My husband loves to eat what we make, so food is really a big part of our bonding.
- How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?
Guilty pleasure are K-Dramas. It turns my brain off after a long day. I love my parents' house, its an oasis in the city.
- How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials
Color is very important to me. I love pink, so that’s the first thing I look for. I don't like cuts that are overly frilly. I like defined shapes in clothing, almost sculptural. If it has a ruffle, it better be a big one!
I also love shoes, so I pick out shoes that are loud because they make the outfit. I think this comes from the fact that I could never buy shoes in Manila because I wear size 41. When my dad would travel when I was growing up, he would bring back at least 10 pairs of shoes. My dad has fantastic taste in shoes, so that really started my love for them.
- What for you makes for a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe.
If people have a little black dress, I have little pink dresses. I’ve been 'collecting' Roland Mouret dresses, for example. They are timeless, the silhouettes are so flattering and the colors are bright. My mom kept so many of her designer clothes from the 80s and 90s so well and they really stand the test of time, so I hope to be able to do the same with my clothes. I look for a good cut, good fabric, and pieces that are not overly trendy.
- What do pearls mean to you?
Pearls were the first real jewels I had growing up, and I always opened my mom’s jewelry box to play with them. To me, it shows sophistication, without trying hard.