Pepita’s Kitchen Story by The Lechon Diva (Making Lechon a Global Sensation!)
Watch in Youtube: 🔴 Pepita’s Kitchen by Lechon Diva: Making Lechon and Filipino Food a Global Sensation!

Key Learnings

✅ Be sincere and be humble as you continually build your connections throughout your career.

✅ Be known for one delicious dish and perfect it before expanding your offerings.

✅ Always acknowledge the people that helped you along the way. Be eternally grateful!

[00:00:00] Complete Transcript

Anton Diaz: Good morning.  Good evening, Nancy. Good evening, Lechon Diva, and good morning to everybody watching on the live stream and most specially watching on the replay. We have a  very special guest, The Lechon Diva, making Lechon and Filipino food, a global sensation.  Dedet is opening her stall in Resorts World Las Vegas.

So we’ll be talking about that journey with Nancy and if you have any questions, guys, please join us in this discussion.  This is the story of  Pepita’s Lechon in Las Vegas. My name is  Anton Diaz, Founder of Our Awesome Planet with Nancy Reyes Lumen known as the Adobo Queen and Dedet delaFuente of Lechon Diva.

(Awesome! LIVE Opening Billboard) 

Anton Diaz: Can you do an introduction of Pepita’s Lechon for those people who are not yet familiar with the Lechon Diva and your product? 

Lechon Diva: Okay. Hi everyone. I’m Dedet, they call me the Lechon Diva. I was very lucky to come up with  a modern lechon, that many people enjoy eating.  I’m not a chef. I did not have any formal training as with regards to cooking. So I just cook from my heart and I, I just enjoy eating. So I enjoy cooking. 

[00:01:38] Pepita’s Kitchen @ Resorts World Las Vegas

Anton Diaz: You are opening in Las Vegas, how did this came about? 

Lechon Diva:  Years ago I was invited by KF Seetoh in his World Street Food Congress in Singapore. And I met many people there. It’s really about connections. So I met many people there and one of them was  Chris Chang. And he tasted my Lechon together with so many other Singaporeans.  He did join the party of Seetoh when they went to Manila, invited them over. So  he knows my Lechon.  Fast forward just before the lockdown, I heard from Chris and I think he’s looking for a food that would best represent the Philippines in the Street Food Hall that Resorts World Las Vegas will be (launching during)  Summer of 2021. 

Of course, I was happy that he remembered my lechon and he tried many other lechons. He flew into town even before the lockdown. Wow. So he tried many Lechons. I’m just happy that they chose Pepita’s despite  not having a restaurant. That was the thing that I didn’t have that everyone else had. Everyone had the restaurant. I never, I don’t have one, but he said Dedet they just saying they want yours, but you don’t have a restaurant. But I said, you know you don’t need to have a restaurant.  When the big names come to the country, they always remember Pepita’s. So maybe you can tell them that because of course I want, I want them to choose me. 

Luckily I think  someone ordered from their mother company, I guess they ordered everything and yeah, they chose the truffle lechon of Pepita’s Lechon. So I’m happy. I’m very happy. 

Anton Diaz: Wow. We’re so proud of you. So when are you exactly opening and what are you offering in the store? 

Lechon Diva:  It opens on the 24th, 11:00 PM so I asked why so late?  I think they will have a party for their invited guests on the 24th. So open that’s just say 25th. Please come all the Filipinos in Las Vegas or near the area, or if you’ll be traveling, everyone now is traveling around the U S if you happen to pass by Las Vegas, please drop by Resorts World. Pepita’s Kitchen by the Lechon Diva will be offering the Truffle Lechon and our Sisig Paninis. 

Anton Diaz: Are there other Asian Cuisines that will be represented?

Lechon Diva:  I think there’s one dish from Taipei. I think Thailand, Japan, I think may Korea and I think two or three American booths.

Anton Diaz: So you’re presenting the Philippines?

Lechon Diva: Yesterday! OMG.

[00:04:37] The Origin Story of Pepita’s Lechon

Lechon Diva: Even me  I’m just so thankful and grateful because I never planned to make my cooking a business. It just fell on my lap. Growing up every summer, I would be sent to the Aldeguer sisters for the Hawaiian dance and in the afternoon cooking lessons with Sylvia Reynoso Gala.

So because, you know, Tita Sylvia’s very nice. As a child, you will enjoy cooking. She was just such a pleasant person.  Then my mom also loves to cook. So it was just something that was natural. Then every Sunday. I love going with our help to the palenge of Parañaque. I grew  up in Parañaque San Dionisio.

Sa palengke, I love going and  choosing the fish, so alam ko hindi ako nandidiri. I enjoyed yung hasang. I know all that, the pork, the gulay, the kakanins. Sundays were special because I wake up early and go with our help to the palengke. I never thought , when I’m a little older, this will be my profession.

Okay. I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook lechon. So maybe for three or four years, I just couldn’t find the school that will teach. Until finally Reggie Aspiras. So for them to have a class, you have to have at least six students. And they only had three. So me and yaya of my daughter, so that it will be five. I called on a Saturday, Sunday but no class still. But whoever was answering the phone of Reggie Aspiras said the class will push through (on a Monday). So the next day I went there and then she was teaching, she gave the contact number of the person where you can order the  pugon because that’s one of the secrets . So that’s Jerry Yu of Firebrick Oven.  

So I called him while the class was ongoing, sabi niya two months .  cause I’m very excited, I feel it’s really my destiny. Tapos sabi niya ay hindi puede dahil two months gawin. Alam mo meron akong isang order, pero nagkasakit yung nagorder, nahiya akong tawagan, so sige sayo na lang. Oh my God, the next day pinakuha ko. I experimented my first was binagoongang rice stuffed lechon. 

I had a group of friends who I call  my guinea pig friends, my Happy Gang. I asked them to taste it. They liked it. Then a few months after they pushed me. They said, join  the Ultimate Taste Test. Kaya ko ba yon? Join lang. Okay. You know I was taught by my parents and never to let an opportunity pass. Never even if you lose or what, at least it was there -go for it. So I said, okay, so ang daming tao pala and then you got to make the long story short.  I rank very high, the lechon rank very high.. Wow. So that’s started it people started writing about my Binagoongan Rice Stuffed Lechon but it was a slow take off. 

The next year sabi ko shocks Sisig Rice naman. So I had Sisig Rice and  Anton asked me to join again. So I was ranked high again. So slowly, it cannot be really quick.  And then  whenever we would eat out, they love ordering truffle risotto, Sabi ko omg, yun kaya ilagay ko sa Lechon? They ate it and nagustuhan nila so that was my next. And that’s when it took off because after that Pepita’s Truffle Rice Stuffed Lechon was awarded in London as Tastiest Dish in Asia by the Chowzter group. But yeah, I’m thankful and grateful. The journey has been so wonderful. I’ve been just so lucky and it’s the people that you meet. 

[00:09:38] Making Lechon a Global Sensation

Adobo Queen: Yeah, well, actually she’s not new to being global because she has been interviewed by so many Foreign TV personalities sino sino yon, Dedet? 

Lechon Diva: Papa Adam Rich man.

Adobo Queen: Naging parang-BFF pa kayo? 

Lechon Diva: He loves the Lechon of course, and also, super suman, he loved it. Pati Choc Nut pinakain ko ng Choc Nut sabi ko this is the best Philippine chocolate, try it. This is so good! Hindi niya alam, mani yon diba?.

He even posted it in his IG. So he did say actually I DM him last week and I asked him if he can come. He said, yes, I’m just not sure if he’s going on the 24th or on the big opening of the Resorts World Venue. 

Adobo Queen: When Pepita’s Lechon crossed the border from sisig and  global dimension kasi kilala nga nila and truffle. That was the step,  the leap,  you put your  one foot into the global gastronomy.

Anton Diaz: I remember yung Ultimate  Taste Test na yon. That was the first time si Dedet talaga hindi pa sure, but ang sarap talaga ng food niya. And then I can remember NBC tent pa yon people were raving all around. And we’re proud of that.

Lechon Diva:  Martha Stewart. Okay. Okay. I’m also thankful to Berna she remembered my Lechon. She just called me and said, Dedet, what’s your best Lechon? Sabi ko, bata ba or matanda? dahil may variations yan. Matanda. Pinoy ba or Foreigner?, Foreigner. Siguro, truffle? Oh sige, truffle.

So on that day,  we were  in a table, a small table lang. Tapos kumuha siya, tapos kumain siya, nag-round two siya, so omg, nagustuhan niya.

Tapos nun, nag eye to eye contact kami . Oo, kasi, we had two persons between  us lang si Emil Yap, and Berna, then Martha. Sabi niya, your food is so good. You’re so good.

Anong sagot ni  Lechon Diva? Well, my mom said it’s the Best Lechon in the Universe so tawanan sila  because shocks I was so flattered and wow parang you know, that it was real, then she really liked it and naka dalawang serving.. So, yeah Martha was one of them. 

And then oh,si Bourdain. When he flew to the country, di ba Anton, omg,

Sabi ni Anton, Dedet magdala ka ng Lechon bukas para kay Bourdain. Sabi ko, hindi naman ako invited.  I remember what you said Anton. pagpinalagpas mo ito, baka hindi niya na matikman.

Kasi siyempre diba, oh sige, pagdating namin may x-ray machine. Hawak hawak ko pa yung lechon di ba, sabi ko, anak anak yung sa hotel? Pakihawak nga, ma’m ano po ito? Lechon para kay Bourdain. So hawak niya na dahil security eh. So isasara na yung room where the meeting will be held, naka-tingin lang yung bantay. But I was able to enter the  lechon was there, sitting there. So I was watching him sabi ko  shocks this is it. And then after his talk and the question and answer,  sabi nila, dahil mo sa media room. So dinala sa media room, nanduon si Ces Drilon , sinabihan kami bawal magpicture.So I made sure that my phone will be on the cabinet.

So nagshoot sila while he was eating it. And he said, thanks for bringing this. It’s good, pero quiet lang siya.  okay. So ang daming tao eh. So that was it. I made him Lechon with tendon and bone marrow. Pamatay pero masarap.

After the press I met Seetoh, Dedet bring a lechon later in Mega mall, they had a store there a restaurant. I think he said four o’clock. I said, can it be 5: 30?  Well, if you can’t send it at that time, I just look for someone else’s lechon. Sure. It’s okay. I’ll make sure it’s there.  Thankful ako kay Chef JP, because he was there.

I couldn’t go because it was my daughter’s sophomore night, my youngest daughter, my older daughter sent off to her university and my dad was in the clinic having a checkup. So it was such a busy day. Sabi ni Chef JP, si bourdain had his eyes were only focused on the lechon. So siyempre kinamay niya no. Tapos may isang staff ako nanduon to the serve .After yung natira, binulong ni Bourdain duon sa  staff niya to bring home  to take home. So kilig na kilig ako.. And then on the evening that he was leaving Manila, his IG story, the last in his IG story was my Lechon yung dahan dahan sabi ko wow parang ang swerte. Ang swerte that, I guess three icons were able to taste my lechon

[00:17:16] The Lechonera Difference

Adobo Queen: I want to say something kasi ang Lechon, traditionally lalaki ang gumagawa kaya sinasabi nila lechonero but si Dedet  has crossed again, another border na lechonera na bida pa at nag-succeed because  usually kailangan lalaki kasi buong baboy tapos hindi madaling lutuin. Tapos matagal, kailangan correct.

I was telling, Anton you know, it’s not easy to cook Lechon kasi isang buo it’s not like one kilo of pork, na magkamali ka puede mong palitan. This one is one whole and being a lechonera  became a, naalis yung gender of the cooking lechon, right? 

Anton Diaz: Okay,  because the Adobo Queen and Lechon Diva are here, we wanted to make Lechon and Filipino Food a global sensation, what that’s it really take? .

Lechon Diva: What does it take? I think, okay. I’m not a planner. I don’t plan things. I just go with the heart. Yeah. So what does it take? I believe for one to succeed, one has to siyempre, believe in himself and do not be afraid to be different. I always say, do not be afraid to stand out, be afraid to blend in.

Now is the time,  you want the world to accept everything Filipino. You can work from that and experiment because Filipino Food needs to evolve  for it to be appreciated and loved by everyone else. And I believe that if given the right vehicle opportunity, Filipino food will also be as well known as all the other, all the other cuisines.

Adobo Queen: That’s true. Yes.

Lechon Diva: Oh my gosh. Do something  your own style. 

Anton Diaz: Before getting ready for the stage for  your opening of Resorts World, what did you do?  Anything different that you have to do for the opening of Las Vegas?

Lechon Diva:  Well,  for the Sisig Panini we need to make some changes.  I think the VP for their food wanted instead of egg, cheese, shocks, cheese. Then I thought of it, tama rin, we need for them  to have a little familiarity because sisig already in itself kind of weird tasting. So if they put cheese, baka maglasang Sisig burger, something like that,  we adjusted a few things  for the two dishes that we will be serving.

Anton Diaz: In terms of branding naman? 

Lechon Diva: My daughters would always tell me, mom, can you please make  a nice, a better logo because it will be global now. So I  asked  Olive the owner of Distelleria Limquaco, and asked her who makes your packaging, etc. Then they gave me the contact of Mark.  So matagal din nagawa, there were some changes and I think I’m very happy with the final new look and logo of The Lechon Diva, Pepita’s Kitchen para lang may touch off being Filipino. Because if you will see the old logos, parang pa-cute lang.

I want my logo to have  a lady na naglelechon tapos hindi puede payat, and pinataba na yan. If you notice, the shoes it’s my favorite Adidas ultra boost, rubber shoes. So, yeah pati yung paypay (fan), I wanted to have a water bottle beside her and instead  of the paypay dapat yung in battery operated fan. Yeah. And of course I, we wanted it there – a proud product of the Philippines so that wherever, whoever goes and passes  by the booth in Las Vegas, they will see a Philippines. Then at least they know we’re there. Our food is there. It’s being represented in the Pepita’s Kitchen Booth. 

Adobo Queen: Ano ang outfit mo on that day? 

Lechon Diva: My friend si Rajo created a new look, a new jacket for the Lechon Diva. Okay. Yeah. 

Anton Diaz: Let’s talk about the Lechon, are there other things we can do with the lechon? How can we elevate it? 

Adobo Queen: For foreigners, what is  the wine pairing that you can suggest, and isa pa what drink that you can suggest to counter the ” “cholesterol”?

Lechon Diva: I’ll be honest. I don’t drink.  I don’t know your yung mga wine na yan, naku hindi ko alam yan, but I love this  calamansi liquer would work well with that. Yeah. And meron din silang Mango liquer. I todo natin na puro Philippine products ang nanduon.  

Anton Diaz: Ako, I like drinking it with Gin.  So we actually have like a few premium gins na Filipino would probably pair with it. That’s true. 

Adobo Queen: Beer! San Miguel na malamig!

Lechon Diva: Okay. Yeah. 

Anton Diaz:  Yung IG posts niya San Miguel beer at Lechon sa posts. Oh man.

Lechon Diva: Ang wagi diyan hindi lang naman Pepita’s lahat ng naglelechon di ba? Aling Lydia,  Zubuchon, lahat yan magkakaibigan naman kami. Ang importanted ang word na Lechon ay makilala nila. 

Adobo Queen: All right, OK yon. But is there a certain size that is ideal?

Lechon Diva: The ideal size is whatever you can consume?  That’s what I would always say when I was starting, walang sauce?  Then I will really explain to them. Ganito po yan, ako mahilig ako nun sa sauce ng lechon. Ang lakas ko niyan.kasi nga, wala namang lasa yung meat. Kasi po makapal pero yung lechon na niluluto ko de Leche. Pagnilagyan ng sauce, sayang naman yung binabayaran niyo na tender matitikman niyong masarap tapos may stuffing  lalagyan niyo pa ng sauce. Yung sauce po, pagwalang lasa. So ngayon wala nang nagtatanong ng sauce, 

Kung ano yung size. Okay. Dapat may kaunting taba rin, the skin stays crispy longer. When my clients ask that’s the perfect order for you.  Pick it up at the right time. Eat it right away because your skin will not stay crispy for long. 

Good for ilan yan? Mahirap sagutin yan. Paano kung eight lang sila pero puro lalaki? Eh di ubos yon because I had one client sabi akala ko ba good for ten? Oo pero ayan lang ba ulam niyo? Oo eh. So kasama rin yon,depende sa takaw at may iba pa bang ulam? Kaya takot ako sa question na good for ilan?. I answered them usually, depende sa takaw he he he .Ang daldal ko ha ha ha

[00:26:27] 10 Years in the Making

Anton Diaz: What are you thinking now? It’s one week before the opening what are you excited about what would people think like the Americans? What do you want them to do, or even the Filipinos?  What goes on in your head right now?

Lechon Diva: Actually I’m excited. Kasi parang bahala na si Batman. It was not even in my dreams, although for a few times I did want to have a commercial stall in Manila ,it never pushed through, but this one. Wow. I didn’t think it would happen until here I am. So sabi ko, wow. 

I texted Chris. I said, Chris, I guess it’s really happening. As he said, yes, mama. So, what’s going on in my mind, actually, I’m excited. And I always tell my good friends and  my daughters that how fortunate I am and that it’s, again, it’s really the connections. And of course, a good product, but it’s really the connections. 

Now when we open on the 24th, I want people  to enjoy it, to say, wow, so this is what Filipino food is about. Then I will say, no,  we’re more than this. We have so many more cuisines that we can offer, but I hope that this will be a start to many more opportunities. 

Actually, someone called me recently after we posted that we’re opening in Las Vegas. He wants to open in Australia. Let me finish Las Vegas first. But I guess where Filipinos are, they must be homesick also because always naman there’s lechon di ba, but maybe because of the modern style of Lechon, maybe it makes them more excited. 

Anton Diaz: May question this is relevant to what we’re discussing. Henry asked, I understand  that the secret of a good Lechon is its main ingredient, the native pig where do you source your naturally raised piglet.  So I’m not sure if you wanted to answer that, but you know, you’re bringing this in the US, how would you do it?

Lechon Diva: Okay. Well, it has to be native because si babe, you know, the white pig sorry, babe or not as good as the native piglets. Native piglets are more expensive, but they taste better. The skin is and everything is better with a native lechon. 

Now here, like as in like diba I brought my lechon to Hong Kong, New York kay Amy and Romy Dorotan in Purple  Yam, and Singapore. Of course we cannot bring our local Lechon. So what’s available in that location, in that country is what we will use after all the people who live there are used to the taste of that Lechon like  Hong Kong’s Lechon is so good. Parang milky, ang sarap!. So each country has its different Lechon.

Adobo Queen: So hindi mo madadala si JerryYu Oven everywhere you go. 

Lechon Diva: I don’t think so. Kasi ang bigat eh. How I wish I could.

Adobo Queen: So you’ll; have to find other ways and adjust them to the country you’ll be doing.

Lechon Diva:  Yes. Yes. Yes. As much as we want to stay 100% the same hindi eh basically impossible.

Anton Diaz: But that is OK because it would  open up food tourism going to Manila to taste the original parang tayo rin diba we  also want to travel to other countries to taste the original. Yes.

Lechon Diva: And then maybe maybe by late this year, we will start in our simple cooking school  for the foreigners who may want to learn how to cook simple Filipino dishes

[00:30:59] Final Diva Thoughts

Adobo Queen: Dedet said she’s not a chef. And that’s cool, but you know, for me, the very basic characteristic of a foodie who has the chef quality, like Dedet, like my Lola and many others is instinct. They’re naturally instinctive, and he got the aroma, she got the look, she had the texture, she had the people who influenced her. Name five top of your mind, people who influenced you into your being an instinctive chef.

Lechon Diva: Oh, siyempre, my mom, number one. Number two, Daddy ko is a meat eater. My mom was a seafood lover, and Daddy ko meron yang how to cut up potatoes, para sa potchero. He’s from Bulacan. So yung food niya masasarap na pagkain ng Bulacan., my mom and dad.

And then Sylvia Reynoso Gala. Really hats off to her cause ang galing galing niyang maturo. Her son and the daughter (run the cooking school). So may my daughters went to her cooking school and they enjoy their time, there. So now Lileya, my other daughter, she cooks for herself, grabe ang galing pero puro vegetables. Yeah. Very good siya pati itong bunso ko.

And then fourth, I would think it would be Reggie Aspiras ang galing magturo at masarap.

And then fifth, sino kaya ang fifth? I would say, yung yaya. I grew up in my mom’s family they had Nana Ray. She’s like the yaya, no. So when I was young ang sarap niyang magluto that’s what they call Pancit Parañaque. I remember the taste, that’s why I offered it to the Michelin star chefs when I cooked for them and they enjoyed it. All from the past, I guess all from the past. In the end, you will remember the food that you had, and then if you want to re live it and maybe yeah, just relive it. So, yeah.

Anton Diaz: I think a lot of people are watching this discussion will be inspired. Now, during this pandemic, there are a lot of people who became home-based entrepreneurs. And I know you started just that way a couple of years ago. Any advice to them?

Lechon Diva: The best thing that I can recommend, actually, someone before the lockdown asked me suddenly, can I meet you? Meet kami tapos sabi niya because, you know, I want to open a restaurant.

This is the best advice. I think you should have one, just one very good dish that you will be known for. Cannot be yung ang dami dami mo kahit sabihin mong masarap lahat but people will not remember because that’s just too many. One muna and then once you’ve perfected it, once people already know that you make the best mechado, the best adobo then slowly you can add. I think that’s the most important thing. Not to have too many, so people will remember you .

And then people make mistakes. Just always say, sorry. I mean, they’re wala namang perfect eh. If you’re home-based, siyempre you’re starting pa lang you’re bound to make mistakes and that’s okay. That’s forgivable. So just apologize when you make a mistake and then learn from it.

And then don’t be afraid to make something so different. You dont’ want to be just someone who, who makes what all the others are doing.

Anton Diaz: Any advice on building connections, working with influencers, how do you choose or do you just build that network over time?

Lechon Diva: Alam mo ako, because it was never planned. So I guess this is the best thing. Be nice to everyone. Be nice to everyone because at one point or another, you can help them and they can help you. And being nice, always has an edge. I think that’s the only thing. You don’t know. I mean, see, Anton became my friend.

Why? Because I joined a travel writing, photography workshop.

Of course I’m nice ka naman sa friends mo. And then, for me, it’s not good if you’re nice only because I’m influential. Then parang you lose the real soul. In the end, people will see it. So be nice because if you’re not nice, there’s karma.

Adobo Queen: Dedet, I think beyond the word nice, it would really be sincere.

Lechon Diva:Yes, sincere.

Adobo Queen:I want to add to what Dedet said, she might not have realized it, but she’s always wanting to learn. In other words, you know, you’re an open book. You’re open that’s why you did truffle. I mean, where would you connect truffle with lechon? But, you know, she was an open book. She accepted ideas. She was always learning, going to cooking school, going through your class. And then that’s where the connection comes when you’re sincere and you’re open,not when you are close-minded. To be global is to be open. You have to be really, your mind has to be explosive and that’s Dedet. That is her.

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