Sort-of Secret: Kumain Kitchen, a Filipino street food pop-up from twin brother chefs
Part of our series spotlighting the city’s edible hidden gems
The sort-of secret: Kumain Kitchen, a Filipino pop-up from twin brothers
You may have heard of it if: You’ve come across their booth at Mississauga’s Square One
But you probably haven’t tried it because: Their Toronto pop-ups are usually announced via their Instagram account and website
For twin brothers and chefs Ryan and Jason Buising, a love of food courses through their family’s veins. When they were kids growing up in Mississauga, their lola Vicky—their mother’s mom—owned a Filipino food delivery business called Little Quiapo. Vicky was pivotal in paving the twins’ culinary career path: the boys loved to watch as she effortlessly made their favourite Filipino comfort food. “Our favourites were siopao, which are steamed buns with savoury fillings; pinoy, which is charcoal barbecue; and pandesal, which are sweet buns,” says Ryan.
Their passion only grew when they attended St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, where their hospitality and tourism teacher, Ramil Andaya, encouraged them to take part in cooking competitions. One such competition in 2017, called Master Chef Gonzaga, saw Ryan take home first place, Jason second. They were often each other’s fiercest competition.
They credit Andaya for their success because he believed in them. After high school, the brothers enrolled in George Brown College’s hospitality and culinary arts program. Since graduating in 2019, they’ve worked in restaurants from Port Carling to Toronto, including Estia, Enoteca Sociale and Gusto 501.
Right before the pandemic hit, the brothers booked a trip that took them to the Philippines, Vancouver and New York. It was this adventure that inspired them to start their own business. “We were so inspired by all of the chefs we met and the flavours they created,” says Ryan. “Especially when we tasted Filipino food in our homeland—we fell in love with it.”
In November of 2020, during yet another lockdown, the Buisings channelled their creativity into Kumain Kitchen, at first operating out of their parents’ home kitchen and delivering orders using their own vehicles. They specialize in Filipino fare with flair—a Spanish twist here, a Korean or Italian tweak there. “In Tagalog, the word kumain means ‘to eat,’ which is perfect because we love to eat.”
In the beginning, they focused on savoury bowls featuring things like chicken adobo and tortang talong (eggplant omelette); jarred goods like pickled atchara, a condiment made with papaya, daikon and bell pepper and typically served with fried dishes; and Filipino desserts including bomboloni stuffed with ube halaya (purple yam jam), yema (a custard-like confection made with egg yolks and condensed milk) and ube pandesal, fluffy buns amped up with smoked gouda and more of that purple yam jam. Offering both savoury and sweet treats provides the perfect balance for the duo: Ryan prefers to cook while Jason is bigger on baking.
Since opening Kumain Kitchen, they’ve appeared at various outdoor events (Stackt Market, the Junction farmers’ market, Street Eats in Scarborough), and to this day, they’re still holding down a residency at Square One’s Food District, a fancy food court of sorts.
Today, their fans can find them going back and forth between Mississauga and Toronto, cooking up charcoal-grilled street eats like inihaw na tenga baboy (crispy pig’s ears finished with banana ketchup), crackly lechon kawali (slow-braised pork belly) and liemposilog (pork belly marinated in sweet soy, calamansi, garlic and brown sugar, grilled and served with rice). And—because Jason has a sweet tooth—customers can finish their meal with ube karioka (deep-fried sweet sticky rice balls finished with an ube drizzle) and refreshing buko pandan (sweet cold tea with fruit salad, pandan jelly, coconut strands, coconut water and condensed milk). Through it all, their food aims to give their guests a sense of comfort. “We want them to have a feeling of going home,” says Ryan.