Owners of Orlando’s Kaya mix fun, fine dining and traditional Filipino meals

Jamilyn Bailey, Lordfer “Lo” Lalicon run Michelin recognized restaurant in Orlando’s Mills 50 neighborhood

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jamilyn Bailey and Lordfer “Lo” Lalicon, the owners of Kaya, know that Filipino food is not normally associated with “fine dining,” but they are looking to change that perception.

“I think everybody and not just our parents, even our friends are doubtful, like ‘You’re opening a Filipino restaurant? Casual fine-dining Filipino restaurant? Are you crazy? You can make Filipino food fine dining.’” Lalicon said. “And one of the misconceptions too is that Filipino food is ugly and no, it doesn’t have to be.”

The duo likes to describe Kaya as offering “casual fine dining.” They want people to feel comfortable in the space but offer food with close attention to quality and detail.

“We do karaoke on Wednesdays. We have these festivals and farmers’ markets,” Bailey said.

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The pair opened Kaya at the start of 2023 but in that short amount of time, they have managed to get some prestigious accolades including recognition from the Michelin Restaurant Guide.

“I sometimes sit back and just like realize how great that is for the community and for a restaurant,” Lalicon said. “And it’s cool to see that they’re paying attention to a small restaurant like us who’s doing a very unique thing and Filipino food.”

The name Kaya means “capable,” which has become a mantra for the “small restaurant.”

“It’s like saying, since we were one of the few Filipino restaurants in Central Florida, we’re saying that Filipino food is good enough. It’s flavorful enough. We can live our dreams and do what we want to do,” Lalicon said.

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In addition to the food, the pair want Kaya to be a space to build and support their community.

“We actually just had a ‘know your farmers market’ yesterday. We invited our farm partners to come and talk to the community about how they can also source their vegetables more locally and support the local ecosystem,” Bailey said. “It takes a lot for a meal to come together on your table and we want folks that be a little bit more connected to that process of eating.”

The support of the community has been a big motivator for the pair.

“It’s really amazing. I’m so proud. Like, I get emotional sometimes just looking around,” Bailey said. “You really can’t put a finger on what our guests are. I mean, every kind of ethnicity, background — it is just really amazing to see that and to share that.”

On the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Bailey and Lalicon talk about how they first met in college and how they built their partnership after reconnecting years later. They also talk about how the restaurant has evolved since it opened and how they hope to expand the business moving forward.

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Florida Foodie is a podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Candace Campos joined the News 6 weather team in 2015.