A Filipino James Beard Award Recipient's Success Story

Lulu Ranta exemplifies the American Dream with her tale of triumph in the food industry.

They say the hands of a person tell their story. Each callus, burn mark, and cut is a battle scar that contains a lived memory. Usually, beat-up hands are signs of hard work, perseverance, and resilience. For some, their hands turn their aspirations from dreams to reality.

READ ALSO: Culinary Triumph: Modern Filipino Bakery Receives James Beard Award

In the case of Marilou “Lulu” Ranta, her magical hands preparing mouth-watering food were the reason for realizing her dreams. From humble beginnings to being a James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality recipient, Ranta’s palms were laid out to serve good food and excellent customer service. Deeming the highest accolade in the food industry, Ranta and four other Filipinos, namely Erwan Heausaff, Margarita Manzke, Tim Flores, and Genie Kwon, have received the prestigious award. 

Lulu Ranta with her James Beard award
Lulu Ranta with her award/Photo via The Quarry Facebook page

Hands of a maker

In an interview with CBS Mornings a few months ago, Ranta told the tale of her success. Before becoming a successful chef, Ranta started her journey as a domestic worker in the Philippines. In the turn of events, she married a US serviceman who brought her to the States—they eventually divorced, then her journey led her to the small town of Monson, Maine. 

She said in the interview that she only had two dreams; to own her restaurant and a car from the movie Knight Rider. Little did she know that one of those dreams would come true. Her chance to run her kitchen did not easily come by. She struggled with fitting into a new environment. “Maybe they didn’t believe in me,” Ranta recalled as she reminisced about her early days in the community. 

Chef Lulu Ranta
Chef Lulu with her customers/Photo via Instagram @thequarrymonson

Her perseverance led her to work in The Quarry, a then fine dining restaurant in the area. Ranta is not like other kitchen generals—she rules her kitchen not with an iron fist but with a warm heart. Her kindness towards her staff extends to the people she feeds. “I wanna see my customers,” she said. It is often seen that Ranta sits down with her customers and talks to them—filling their tummies and minds. 

Warm gratitude

In her speech, Ranta mentioned that even though the town’s population is only 670, she is still happily serving them. “Absolutely speechless. There aren’t enough words to thank everyone for all of their kind words, and support. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you to everyone who cheered for us. Thank you to my amazing crew in the kitchen and out. Monson, we’re coming home,” she captioned

Chef Lulu Ranta with her
Lulu Ranta with her family/Photo via The Quarry Facebook page

Before she descends the stage, she leaves a warm message of encouragement. “Don’t stop believing and keep on working,” she exclaimed. Indeed her story is an inspiration—she is a model of perseverance and an icon who rose above all adversities. 

Banner photo via The Quarry Facebook page.

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