Our featured reader this week probably would be one of the best examples of Catriona Gray-s re-popularized silver lining saying. He is a Filipino international student taking up Commercial Cooking at the William Angliss Institute in Melbourne. Meet Ryan Sta. Maria. His inspiring story tells us how we can make something out of a seemingly bad situation.

Ryan hails from Malibago, Bontoc in Southern Leyte, Philippines. He has been in Australia for 3 years and everything seem to be going swimmingly when the pandemic hit. “When I realised (that) I didn’t qualify for any covid relief and losing my job in June I was faced with some of the effects this pandemic has had on us all, but I also believe the pandemic brought opportunity to me, it taught me to be more fruitful and be more resourceful in my every day,” explains Ryan who had to deal with the devastating results of the pandemic – aside from not qualifying for government support, he was laid off work because of the challenges of the restrictions.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Ryan continues. “As Churchill once said, ‘An optimist sees opportunity in every calamity.’ I chose to be that optimist, by using my time to start a small online business after losing my job, I have kept myself afloat and have already gained a great reputation within the Aust/Filo community.” This business is called Gourmet Tuyo – a specially prepared herring fillet which is a well-loved Filipino dish. Ryan’s interest in creating his own brand came after seeing the product on social media. This inspired him to put together his own concoction - initially taste testing with his friends and colleagues until he finally got his desired flavours.

The current state of affairs put the world on pause, but this pause gave me time to reflect on troubling matters. Time that so many others like me probably also desperately needed to heal without even knowing it. Sometimes it takes one’s world falling apart for the most beautiful mosaic to be built up from the broken pieces of wreckage,” says Ryan.

Now gaining its momentum in Victoria, Gourmet Tuyo not only has helped Ryan get out of his financial rut but it has also become a social enterprise. “I believe we can end global poverty in this lifetime, together. That's why I commit that part of the profit from my products to helping kids in need,” he explains.

From the simple herring delicacy, Ryan now has several products under his brand “SpiceofLifeGourmet” by Ryan. Aside from the original Gourmet Tuyo, he now also has the spicy variant and a Tinapa (smoked fish) version in garlic and olive oil along with other interesting and exotic products inspired by Filipino flavours.

“I operate like any for profit business, investing in all the things necessary to create great products and stay competitive. The main difference to other for-profit-business, is that I commit part of SpiceofLifeGourmet by Ryan’s profits to ending extreme poverty. This means I don't have any private shareholders (never have, never will). All of the distributions to SpiceofLifeGourmet by Ryan are paid out to my project partners to fund sustainable development projects to help end poverty in my community,” Ryan continues.

“Gourmet tuyo has done a great part in changing my life.  Besides being able to help the schools in the Philippines (Malbago and Banahao Multi Grade Elementary School)  I was also able to talk with other cousins and relatives with whom I was not close with before.  It also lifted my life’s status, financially (a little bit but not much coz sales is erratic) and emotionally. It is surprising how a simple gourmet tuyo can improve one’s life,” Ryan concludes.

Interested in experiencing Ryan’s Gourmet Tuyo and get to help children go to school and a better future? Message him through ryanstamaria2000@gmail.com or call him thru +61401530933.

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