May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and we are proud to offer our platforms to our team members as they share their stories in their own unique voices. Today, we are pleased to feature chef Mariano Lalica, our Executive Chef at Humboldt State University.
“I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii with my three sisters. My father immigrated from the Philippines when he was in his 20s to help with the sugar plantation movement. Growing up, I loved the Hawaiian culture and how life is very simple. They have a saying, and it is to “Live Aloha,” which is the mindset of respecting the land, sea, and all people and cultures. I still practice this mindset in my daily life.
Truly, when I grew up, I wanted to be a professional basketball player. I played until college, and I think being able to apply the same work ethic in sports to my career has aided in my success. My teacher in high school wanted to help me pursue my culinary aspirations and flew me to San Francisco to look at the culinary program that I wanted to attend and am grateful to him for starting my now 30-year career journey. Right out of college, I began working for a hotel that had a chef opening. I learned under a great Italian chef and pushed myself to be well-rounded, which included working in fine-dining restaurants, banquets, and even private clubs. Now, I am grateful for the opportunity to work for Chartwells at Humboldt State University, where my daughter attends college.
In my free time, I enjoy taking walks with my wife, Felise, and our dog. We try to visit different trails throughout California, and our favorite is the Hammond Trail in McKinleyville. I also enjoy swimming in the ocean at Kaimana Beach near Diamond Head. It has a gentle current and there is a lot of tropical fish and turtles to see.
At home, some of our favorite dishes to prepare with family are influenced by my Filipino heritage and my Hawaiian upbringing. Ahi (tuna), Poke or Tako (octopus), Pancit, Yakisoba, Kalbi, braised pork adobo, Huli Huli Chicken, and Malasadas are all favorites. Cooking should always be fun and not stressful. Food should always be respected and prepared in a way to nourish our souls.”