PA ProStart Blog
Name: Kiki Aranita
Occupation: Co-owner/operator of Poi Dog (restaurant, food truck, and catering)
Kiki Aranita and Chris Vacca opened their food truck, Poi Dog Philly, six years ago, cooking up Hawaiian-style food with influences from Filipio, Japanese, and Portugese cuisines. Since then, Poi Dog has expanded into catering as well as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse neighborhood. We asked Kiki a few questions to learn more about her career.
1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
There truly are no typical days, especially in summer which is the busy season on all three fronts of our business. In these last two weeks, I’ve been in 6 different cities, each day doing something different: serving poke to 400 people at the I Love Poke Festival in San Diego, speaking on panels at industry talks, picking up product in NYC for a Gotham Grove (specialty vinegar, soy sauce and salt company) collaboration dinner at Poi Dog next week, traveling to Washington DC to attend events and lobbying for No Kid Hungry (particularly closing the summer meal gap) on the Hill, meeting with Senators from Pennsylvania and then coming back to Philly for a collaboration dinner to raise money for the ACLU for abortion rights. In between all of this, I’m cooking on the food truck, overseeing catering that goes out of the restaurant, helping out if the restaurant gets slammed at lunch hour, ordering products, paying bills, etc.
2. Why did you choose this career/industry?
It chose me. Chris Vacca and I started a business that has just kept growing.
3. What was your first job in the industry?
It was industry-adjacent. I worked liquor promotions and special events in the NYC metro area for Jagermeister and all brands that fell under the Sidney Frank umbrella when I was in grad school.
4. Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.
Chris and I started a food truck shortly after leaving grad school, quickly got into catering and then opened a restaurant and expanded our catering business.
5. What is your favorite part of your job?
Working out logistics for challenging events and working alongside my friends in the industry.
6. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Working out logistics for our participation in challenging events (that take place in unusual places like barns or faraway places like most recently Toronto, San Diego and in the past, Honolulu, Miami and Manila)
7. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a culinary career?
Ask for opportunities.
8. What achievement are you most proud of?
Creating a culture based equally on aloha and levelheadedness in the restaurant.
9. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Watch spy movies with my dog Coconut.
10. Favorite thing to make (or eat)?
Favorite thing to eat: a homecooked meal made by someone else.
PA ProStart Blog
The PA ProStart Blog is for Pennsylvania students and teachers of the ProStart Program- a nationwide, two-level high school career and technical education program that teaches culinary arts and restaurant fundamentals.