June 17, 2024


Travel Adventure

‘Ciao House: Season 2’ on Food Network features WA chef Jan Parker

4 min read

Tacoma chef Jan Parker went from cooking at a farmers market under a canopy to creating cuisine in an Italian villa on Food Network’s “Ciao House” (8 p.m. May 19), which filmed in southern Italy’s Puglia last summer.

This series marks Parker’s second Food Network appearance after she competed last fall on an episode of “Chopped,” placing third out of four contestants.

Parker’s Jan Parker Cookery makes regular appearances at Tacoma’s Proctor Farmers’ Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, at North Proctor Street and North 27th Street, as well as at events around Tacoma.

“Chopped” casting producers recruited Parker, 46, via her social media accounts and reached out again for “Ciao House.”

Both of Parker’s parents were born in the Philippines and she describes her cooking style as “distinct Filipino food.” Her father immigrated to the United States and joined the U.S. Navy. As a result, the family moved often to his different posts, including a stint in La Maddalena, Italy, when Jan Parker was 10.

That formative experience combined with an apprenticeship with Seattle chef Mike Easton, where she learned how to make pasta while studying at The Art Institute of Seattle’s culinary program from 2011 to 2014, helped prepare her for “Ciao House.”

But Parker still did deep research on Italian food.

“I definitely looked into what the regional specialties are, just very specific things to Italian cuisine, but also tapping into my culture, making sure I can somehow combine them and still have a stamp on the way that I prepare food because I didn’t want to just cook Italian food,” she says. “I definitely wanted to still have my point of view be part of the presentation.”

It helped that Parker found commonalities between her Filipino dishes and Italian cooking, which played into her appreciation of fusion cuisine.

“For my process, combining them both was very natural,” she says. “Italian food uses a lot of pasta. Filipino cuisine has a lot of cultural influence from Spain, China and Malaysia, so the Chinese part of it is the noodles. I studied a lot of noodles from the Philippines and also the noodle dishes within Italy.”

Parker also tested out recipes in advance of her trip to Italy to film the show.

“And it worked,” she says. “I did integrate some of the recipes I had envisioned into the show.”

In addition, Parker got tips from her market circuit friend Fabio Carratelli, who makes pizza in a traveling Italian brick oven.

“He’s legitimate from Italy and he taught me some of the basics before I left, just a refresher course,” she says.

Parker notes it was her parents’ love of food that encouraged her own career.

“My mom came from a family that cooked — my grandma cooked all the Filipino food — and my dad was a supervisor for a cafeteria in the Navy,” Parker says. “Watching my parents cook — that’s the foundation of my cooking.”

For “Ciao House,” 12 cheftestants face off as teams and individuals while living in that 16th-century Italian villa, cooking using regional ingredients. Each episode players vie to be “capo” — “boss” of the house.

“The location — the fact that we shot in Puglia — is the main thing that sets us apart from other [cooking competition] shows,” Parker says. “We were actually on location, getting to know the community and living together in a villa. There are definitely a lot of twists in the show, and what makes it especially interesting is we have to judge each other’s work and we have to decide who is going to stay.”

Parker says the opportunity to film and cook in Italy with fresh ingredients was a highlight.

“The villa had fresh fruit trees and fresh herbs we could use and it’s by the water,” Parker says. “What made ‘Ciao House’ similar to ‘Chopped’ was you don’t know what the competition or challenges are going to be, so you’re always having to pull from your culinary Rolodex, the database you have that you work off of, and then it’s just about being ready and working under a time crunch. The decision-making would have to be done in one to two minutes. It’s that quick and then you have to produce something.”

Parker says she found her competitors to be highly skilled with extensive hands-on cooking experience.

“The bar was very high,” Parker says. “There were 11 other people going through the same thing I was within the competition. The camaraderie we built was pretty strong and we continue to talk to each other after the show. That was the best part of it.”

Parker says her goal for the future of Jan Parker Cookery is to create a brick-and-mortar location.

“We’re looking for space in Tacoma to continue the work we’ve already done,” she says. “We’ve been awarded and recognized for cooking restaurant-quality food at a farmers market under a canopy. It’s gonna be amazing the work we can do if we have a solid foundation.”

“Ciao House”

The new season premieres at 8 p.m. May 19 on Food Network.


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