Photos by Jamie Alexander
Owensboro’s newest social media star is a Filipino cook who has over 13,000 followers on her Instagram account, where she showcases dishes inspired by her home.
Esther Ellis moved to Owensboro almost 15 years ago from the Philippines after marrying a man from Owensboro. She said that when she first moved, she was scared of the woods and distances between houses, because she came from a busy and crowded city.
Ellis became a widow at 33 with 3 children, so she learned to cook simple foods for her three children.
“My kids were the first that discovered my cooking is the best,” she said. “When I moved here and started cooking, my husband enjoyed it.”
Ellis said there are around 150 Filipino people living in Owensboro, and they used to get together weekly to cook different ethnic menus, but her cooking is not limited to the fare of her home country.
“I can cook any menu that pops up in my head,” she said. “But my specialties are friend lumpi (spring rolls), pancit (noodles cooked with chicken, veggies, shrimp or pork), chicken adobo or paella.”
Ellis began her Instagram page during Covid. She had traveled back to the Philippines to visit her children and five grandkids and was in lockdown while there for six months. When she arrived back in Owensboro, she realized she couldn’t return to work, so she decided to create the account just for something to do.
At first, she didn’t expect to get likes and comments, but then her followers kept increasing and she now tries to post daily to her 13,000 followers.
Ellis said that although she makes her featured dishes with a recipe in mind, she still likes to create them her own way.
“I cook from scratch, I don’t measure. I trust my hand to do it – and my tongue to taste it,” she said. “Real cooking is more about following your heart than following recipes.”
Ellis, who also holds another job, said that she works to stay caught up with her account.
“I try to film before I go to work and also after work,” she said of the items she posts.
She also tries to respond to engagements in her likes and comments and to post to her followers, as well, because she believes they are there to grow together.
“I really enjoy it,” she said of her Instagram account and followers. “It’s just another place for me to see friends and family and people from all over the world.” Ellis continued, “It’s really fun seeing different kinds of food and styles of cooking and their food art and fantastic plating.”
Ellis also enjoys gardening, shopping, dining outside and attending church on Sundays at Owensboro Christian Church. She has a church family, she said, and also a circle of friends.
Ellis’ family is still in the Philippines, but she talks to them every day on messenger, although she is sad to watch them grow on a screen.
“I haven’t seen them for two years now,” she said.
Ellis said many people from Owensboro already know her and her love for cooking, which she enjoys.
“I love Owensboro to live,” she said. “I like the Owensboro people – they are friendly, they can follow me.”
To find Esther Ellis, go to
@esther.starsky_2_homecook on Instagram, or Esther Ellis on Facebook, TikTok or YouTube.