Noralyn “Mama Nors” Pua
Cooking with love and passion
Noralyn “Mama Nors” Pua in her kitchen at 642 Leila Avenue in Winnipeg (Mask lowered for photo.)
by Lucille Nolasco Garrido
We have all done it – we buy cooked food or ulam because we are pressed for time or we treat ourselves to good food cooked outside of our homes.
For Winnipeggers living in the Garden City area, you can depend on Mama Nors Kitchen to provide a variety of tasty food, any day.
Noralyn Pua, or “Mama Nors” from Cavite, serves as the main chef of this small enterprise along Leila Avenue. Helping her with the day-to-day running of the business is her husband, David, and children, Vanessa, Valerie, and Vincent.
Pilipino Express talked to Mama Nors, who told us about the challenges and rewards of running their family business.
Mama Nors & Papa Dave
PE: Tell us about your restaurant business.
Noralyn Pua (NP): Mama Nors Kitchen is a Filipino take out & catering restaurant owned by me and my husband, David. I have been cooking since I came to Winnipeg in early 1991 but finally opened my own place in 2016.
It was difficult and easy to start Mama Nors Kitchen. It was difficult because it was only me and my family managing the restaurant – from cooking, administration to customer service. We had to learn everything and had to be really patient and persevering. There was a lot of sacrifice involved. It’s really not easy. It becomes easy because we love doing what we do. We all come from many educational backgrounds and experiences that helped the execution of Mama Nors Kitchen. I am thankful for my family, current staff, and loyal customers. They are the reason why Mama Nors Kitchen exists.
PE: Any particular reason why you chose to do the food business? Does Mama Nors Kitchen have any specialties?
NP: The food business is important to me. I have always loved cooking different cuisines and experimenting with recipes. Food is what brings friends and family together. In the beginning, I first started cooking kakanin and Filipino desserts that Filipino families always expect at birthday parties or any gatherings. Then we introduced an everyday special at Mama Nors Kitchen, but it is more of a surprise dish on what I am craving! I love cooking fish. To name a few of my fish dishes: Paksiw na Pompano, Ginataang Tanigue, Sinaing na Tulingan. All of these became part of our daily menu. I like it when my customers from the Philippines tell me they miss a particular ulam and it feels like home when they get to taste it again.
PE: Were there any challenges that you have faced, or you are still facing in running the business?
NP: We have faced many challenges, especially in the year of the pandemic. It is what comes with any business. Among the challenges we face is manpower to accommodate every menu item and customers. We have different tastes. We are a small location and a small local business. Our ideal day is to have many staff members to assist with everyone’s needs. With the increasing support of Winnipeggers for local business, some days we wish for infinite energy and hands to prepare and execute at the level of a top restaurant. Our patient customers make every day worth it despite the demand on time and space.
PE: How are you doing during this pandemic? Did you have to close shop or were you able to keep the business open?
NP: During the pandemic, we had to close our doors to the public once we entered code red. It was not safe for us to serve Winnipeg during a global pandemic. It was hard on our part because this is my passion and work, but we had to do it for our customers and family to stay healthy. We were able to keep the business open during the summer of 2020 through delivery services and contactless service. That was hard but we made it by the grace of God. As they say, “keep the faith.”
PE: How is the division of labour in the business? For example, do you do all the cooking while other family members take care of the other sides of business, etc.
NP: We all help one another here in the kitchen. My employees and family have designated areas based on their skills and liking but if there is a job to be done, everyone is good at working together.
For the main duties, I am the only Chef in the kitchen and my husband is in charge of the front line. Papa Dave assists with all our suppliers, delivery services, customer service and in/out of anyone in our kitchen. I am in charge of my kitchen team – the preparation, the ingredients, the execution of my food. My kids come during the weekend when they don’t have work and they help wherever they can.
PE: Are there any plans of expanding? Or venturing into other businesses?
NP: It is nice to think of expanding as a restaurant but for now, we love our Garden City community and serving our kababayans and other nationalities here in Winnipeg. I think my small kitchen is okay until I run out of space to put all my ulam!
PE: What do you do in your spare time? Do you still have time to relax?
NP: Mama Nors Kitchen turned out to be a 24/7 job of mine. When I am at home, I am thinking of the kitchen. I think I love it too much. My only “day off” is Sunday to spend time with my family, for God, and to take a rest. Even though this is my admin day, I always enjoy this side of the business.
My relaxation time is during early mornings with my husband. This is the time where it is peaceful. We can communicate during this time and just enjoy each other’s company before our days start.
For my spare time, my family and I love exploring restaurants in the city. We love discovering new cuisines and Winnipeg’s food industry is one of the best with many talented chefs. I also spend time with our two dogs and relaxing with my family at home or around Winnipeg. We love travelling when we can and spending time at our cabin.
PE: Any life lessons you would like to share with our readers?
NP: If you love something, go for it. Do not be discouraged. Be a supporter of anyone who loves what they are doing. Say no to crab mentality. If you can help someone, help them. For those wanting to start, my advice is to not be afraid. They need to take their first step. Keep doing what you love but make sure you do it unto the Lord. Without the Lord, none of this would exist. Be thankful, be humble and enjoy life. Life is too short to not do what you love.
Pinays Manitoba Corner is a project of Pinays Manitoba in cooperation with the Pilipino Express News Magazine. It features Filipino women in Manitoba who are persevering and committed in pursuing their goals in life.
In this issue, Pinays Manitoba Corner features Noralyn "Mama Nors" Pua, an inspiring model for women who are interested in setting up and operating their own small business. Let us know if you are aware of other Filipino women whose life story can inspire our readers, please e-mail Pinays Manitoba at email@example.com.