We had the good fortune of connecting with Nina Canete and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nina, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Hi I’m Nina of Aleng Nina’s. I’ve been in the Hospitality industry for almost 7 years now, unfortunately I got laid off due to pandemic, but a great thing came out of it and started my small business. My fiance, Ralph Fonte (Co-founder and owner of Aleng Nina’s) helped and motivated me to start something of my own. The main goal of our business is to bring forth the Filipino food movement here to Houston. As a new generation we want to create food and pastry with a modern twist that is still based on traditional food in the Philippines. We want to share with the locals our culture through the food that we make and also to make people feel at home and to have that nostalgic feeling from our food.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I studied Culinary Arts as my major back in the Philippines. I started working professionally in different hotel kitchens around Houston. Throughout my career, it’s never been easy. I started as line cook and made my way up to be an Assistant sous chef. As a young woman in the industry, there are a lot of challenges that I faced. People doubted me that I wouldn’t survive working in the industry. However, here I am today, loving every minute I work in the kitchen and now I started my small business. I learned that, you have to love what you do to be successful and happy. There will be always a competitor, but use it as your motivation and focus on your journey. You’ll never get to where you want to be when you’re too busy comparing or focusing on your competitors. As I stared my business, I was scared and feel unmotivated because I keep comparing myself to other chefs, that I will never be good as them. I’m so glad I have people around me that made me believe what’s already in me. I just did what I know and what I love to do. I’m proud to be a Filipino and I want it to present to the world. I think the sets me apart from other bakery is that it’s not just about cooking, I’m here for the community to share my culture, build a community that love food, share stories and I want to make people feel at home. The reason I am also focused on representing where I’m from because I miss home. I want to give a taste of home. It’s a new generation, people are adventurous and open minded to explore new things. I’m glad that I have found what I love to do and share it to everyone.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love to eat and discover new flavors, and that’s what I love about Houston you’ll never run out of options for amazing food! I will bring them to some of my favorite local places like in Montrose or heights, Nobies or Nancy’s hustle! Happy hour drinks and oysters at State of Grace, and bring them to breweries, to Chinatown and eat Viet-cajun crawfish. Then we can go to farmers market and pop up shops in the weekends to support our local small businesses. Do bar hopping at Washington and midtown and eat yoyo’s hotdog after drinking. Then have brunch at Snooze A.M or Squable. After all the food adventure, time to hit the museum district and ride bike at downtown, check out all the mural artwork and chill at Discovery Green or Memorial Park. We can also watch movie at a Drive-in movie theater and eat Whataburger while watching. Drive around and stop by Galveston to watch the sunset. And of course, I’m here to cook for them all day all night.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This journey of starting my Aleng Nina’s has been amazing and still growing and learning. This won’t be possible without the help of my family and friends and all the people I met along this journey. I’m so thankful for my fiance Ralph Fonte for being the person who push me to be the best and the one that always believe in me and my number one fan. To my family, my mom (Jo Ann), my sister (Tin), my Titas (Ninang Joy, Tita Jing), my Fiance’s family (Fonte Family); people that support me no matter what and guide me through to do what’s good and right. My friends Ina and Eunice for the one’s that help me when I just started and give their time to help me push my business. To Nicu, one of the person I met during pop up events and became my business partner. Thank you for trusting us and choosing us to be one of your partners! To Yana Gilbuena, Tom Cunanan, Nicole Ponseca; Filipino chefs & business owners that I look up to and I admire for pushing the Filipino food movement. To all the people that supported my business and go to our pop-ups, to all who order and believe in our product, y’all are amazing and my success is not possible without all of you.
Chris Kennedy (photoghraper)