Restaurateur Nicole Ponseca of Jeepney - Biography

New York, NY

October 2018

Nicole Ponseca wanted to be the next Don Draper. After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a degree in advertising, Ponseca moved to New York in 1998 with $75 and the determination to get a job at a top firm. She landed at Saatchi & Saatchi as an account executive and continued climbing the ranks, but she noticed there were no Filipino restaurants for her to take her clients to with her expense account.

Interested in hospitality, she began her restaurant training by moonlighting as a dishwasher at Colors, the New York City restaurant run by 9/11 Windows on the World survivors. She later worked at Mermaid Inn with Peter Crippen, whom she considers her mentor. In 2007, Ponseca officially left her day job as a VP in advertising and joined the restaurant world full time as the general manager of Juliette in Brooklyn.

In 2011, she began experimenting with a pop-up restaurant serving Filipino cuisine. By the third weekend, there were three hour waits for a table and two month waits for a reservation. Ponseca opened Maharlika in the East Village later that year and opened the more casual and adventurous Jeepney nearby with Kamayan-style dining. Her most recent venture, Tita Baby Panciteria, is a fast-casual concept serving Filipino noodles and BBQ. I Am Filipino, her cookbook written with Chef and Partner Miguel Trinidad will be released by Artisan Books this fall.