I come from a family of excellent cooks, including my mother, her mother before her, and my four sisters. Cooking well has always been a skill that came naturally to me, a skill that was honed further after I started a family. It was also a skill that provided the path to a huge career change late in my life, after my early retirement in 2003 (at age 54) from the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.
My culinary life only began after I retired, when I attended my first cooking demo in 2004 by my namesake, Reggie Aspiras, during a trip to Manila. I was highly impressed, and it made me think that I could aspire to do exactly the same thing, and also have fun doing it! I have never looked back and, within a couple of months, I was at the Orlando Culinary Academy (OCA) in Florida, where I graduated from its Cordon Bleu Programme (summa cum laude) in 2006. I was 57. (I have always been a late bloomer.)
I looked into setting up my own culinary business, but none of my attempts panned out. Then, in 2012, several coincidences contributed to the birth of my cookbook, and it all began when I read Dr. Conrado Dayrit’s book,The Truth About Coconut Oil: The Drugstore in a Bottle. I was flabbergasted by how little I knew about the coconut and its countless health benefits, as outlined in the book’s science-backed information. I decided to do more research on the coconut and vowed to make it a regular part of my diet. Friends then took me to lunch at the Coconut House in Quezon City, where I met the owner who, once he heard about my background, asked if I would be interested in doing a cookbook for his restaurant. That first deal eventually fell through owing to financing problems, but I would later meet the two top honchos at Anvil Publishing at a culinary event, and both turned out to be advocates of the health benefits of the coconut. In the end, I landed a deal with Anvil to write a coconut cookbook.
I published my award-winning cookbook, “Coconut Kitchen,” in the Philippines in 2017. The awards:
- 2018: Gourmand World Cookbook Awards (Finalist in its Category)
- 2017: The 37th National Book Awards, National Book Development Board (Finalist in its Category)
- 2017: Included in Anvil Publishing’s “Best Books of 2017”
In February 2011, I founded and served as the first president of the Culinary Historians of the Philippines (CHOP), a Manila-based non-profit organization dedicated to the study, preservation, and promotion of the culinary heritage of the Philippines. CHOP is a sister organization of CHOWDC (Culinary Historians of Washington DC), of which I have been a long-standing member after graduation from the OCA.
While the pandemic raged all over the globe, I started a Facebook page, regeehomekitchen, where I share the recipes and dishes that I test in my home kitchen. I posted my 125th recipe in November 2021. I dream of creating a serious cooking website one day soon.
In all of my pursuits, I am blessed to have a wonderful and utterly supportive hubby, Ian Newport, the wind beneath my wings.
I divide my time between Manila and Washington, D.C.
My Personal Info in a capsule:
• Born May 5, 1949 in Quezon City, Philippines
• Married to Ian Newport [a World Bank retiree]
• 1970 -- Graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of the East
• 1967-1978 -- Work history/Philippines:
o Asian Development Bank
o Firestone Tire & Rubber Company of the Philippines
o University of the East
• 1978-2003 -- Work history/U.S.:
o IMF, Washington, D.C.
o UNICEF, New York
• February 2003 -- Early Retirement from the IMF
• April 2006 -- Graduated (summa cum laude), Cordon Bleu Program, Orlando Culinary Academy
• February 2011 -- Founded and served as first president of CHOP (Culinary Historians of the Phil.)
• November 2017 -- Published my cookbook, “Coconut Kitchen” in the Philippines, with Anvil Publishing
• May 2020 -- Created my Facebook page, regeehomekitchen, where I share my home-tested recipes