Lifestyle, Cebu – The territorial row between China and the Philippines should not affect our eating preferences one bit. Dispute or not, we love how the Chinese cook food. We want to eat crossover menus between Chinese and Filipino inspired dishes.
This unique mix is one of the many reasons why many members of the Filipino-Chinese community continue to stay and prosper in this country. In a logical sense, we share the same value of love for glorious food.
One should not wonder, then, how an electronics and computer engineer like Alfredo Uy ended up cooking meals for a living. “Our family loves to eat good Filipino and Chinese food”, says Alfred. “It’s a family tradition to cook and eat at home in much the same way that all Filipinos are accustomed to. So, other than the fact that we found it expensive to eat our favorite dishes at sassy restaurants, we sort of naturally gravitated into the restaurant business”, he added.
“Xiamen is a name of a Province in China where food is great”, said Uy. So his family decided to adopt it together with food preparation techniques famous in that part of the country. “But the most exciting thing about owning a restaurant is that you can cook your favorite food and earn from it too”, Uy muses with youthful enthusiasm.
But ‘Sir Alfred’, as his staff respectfully calls him, admitted he did not have a single idea how to cook when he first opened up Xiamen Cuisine back in February 14, 2008. “But I taught myself”, he quipped. “In this business you have to know everything that happens in the kitchen. And it means everything, including knowing how the food is prepared by the kitchen staff for your customers”, he insisted.
“Part of what the patrons pay for is the precise quality of the food they want to eat”, Uy explains.
But how did he choose what menu to serve? “Well, at first, we cooked only food unique to the Chinese, but realized not all of them were moving. So we started to cook food that Filipinos loved to eat, like seafood, although these were prepared the Chinese way”, Uy said.
This process brought him to what he has now in terms of variations in dishes. “Customers decide what we retain in the menu. I think it’s a ‘secret’ in successful restaurant-management that they cook no longer the food which takes lesser orders”, he said.
At Xiamen Cuisine if you are a health buff, a vegetarian, or have a special medical condition like a particular food allergy, you can tell the waiter in-charge. They will inform the kitchen about it and prepare your food accordingly. “The service must be smooth and good so that the customer will feel that he gets the value of what he is paying for: great food, good ambience and good service“.
Asked how a restaurant can be gauged in terms of the quality of their dishes, Alfred Uy has this to say: Start by trying their home specialty and best-sellers. Then try the same variety in another restaurant for your next stop. “In our case, we adapt to the needs of customers. Whatever they want in the way that their food is prepared, we follow. This is true with vegetarians and health conscious customers alike”, Uy said. But he was quick to add: “just make it tasty and healthy”.
Uy said he is not keen about opening a franchise for Xiamen Cuisine in any other area, even in Cebu. “It is difficult to make sure that the same food, quality and taste will actually be served” according to him.
“Cooking in our kitchen is a matter of feeling, taste and technique. It may be easy to say that this can be done for a franchise. But, I don’t see how. To me, what is being cooked here in our kitchen will never really be replicated. Each food preparation is just so unique”, he explained.
But for those who want to enter into the food business, Alfred Uy has this to say: “Be hands-on. There is no better alternative to the owner’s presence”, he assures. “There are lots of things to consider when you operate a business like a restaurant no matter how small it may be”, he says.
“Being the owner, you have to sort things out yourself. From dealing with suppliers and the inventory, to training of staff and maintenance of cleanliness. The list just goes on and on”, he counsels.
In short, you have to be physically present. If you cannot do it, then do not even think of owning a restaurant. It will just give you a sore headache”, Uy concluded.
Xiamen Cuisine is located at the ground floor of One Mango Building along Mango Avenue (Maxilom) in Cebu City.