After being laid off, Wesley Altuna is now serving Filipino comfort food in Toronto

Published February 11, 2022, 3:34 PM

by John Legaspi

The former advertising professional goes back to his Filipino roots with his food business Bawang

It is an understatement to say that the pandemic has caused many challenges that are beyond one’s wellbeing. Apart from taking away lives and bringing nations to their knees due to economic problems, it has also put an end to people’s dreams. Losing a job during the pandemic is hard. And while it brought great struggles and put many lives in limbo, for some, it gave them enough courage to be their own leader and pursue other things that are close to their hearts.

That’s what happened to Wesley Altuna, a Filipino immigrant in Canada. After he was laid off from his job at an advertising agency, he began cooking Filipino food to make himself feel better. But what started as a hobby became the key to his new calling. Soon after, he started selling food on Instagram and established his delivery-only brand Bawang. And when the DMs came pouring in, he knew Torontonians are loving Filipino comfort food and, for the novice eaters, want to savor some.

Kamayan feast and Wesley Altuna (Photos from @bawang.to and Eater on Youtube)

“All these people were loving the food I grew up eating,” Altuna told CBC. “It was kind of surreal.”

Born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Altuna works on his dishes from14 to 16 hours a day and sends them for delivery on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. As his business grow, he shifted from cooking in his apartment in Parkdale to renting a commercial kitchen. What he whips up are versions of dishes he loved as a kid with his grandparents, bringing and sharing a piece of the Philippines in Toronto.

Enough to make anyone salivate is Bawang’s Instagram page that is filled with his culinary creations, from truly decadent leche flan with blueberries and quinoa and his take on street food like kwek-kwek served with king crab ginataan sauce to the fiesta favorite lechon, among others.

“I never really intended for Bawang to take off as a business; it was just about doing something I loved and sharing it with others—including a lot of people who have never had Filipino cuisine before,” he said to Toronto Life. “One of the things I like most about Filipino food is that it’s meant to be shared.”

“I don’t know what the world or restaurant scene will look like after COVID-19, or if I’ll be able to open my own brick-and-mortar business,” he added. “But no matter what happens, I plan to continue cooking and sharing Filipino food to keep my family’s traditions and recipes alive.”

Visit @bawang.to on Instagram to know more.

Watch Altuna in action in the kitchen with this video by Eater.

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