DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Filipino restaurateurs, who all together operate 18 restaurants, have vowed to take “Pinoy cuisine diplomacy” to the next level through an event coinciding with this year’s Philippine Independence Day celebrations.
Plans are also afoot to organize a city-wide food festival happening after summer and joining in major culinary events.
This, bearing in mind that Dubai, being an international city that is second home to people from over 200 countries, has also transformed into a culinary wonderland, where expats bring with them comfort foods they grew up with back home for other nationals to indulge in.
“One of the reasons we wanted to come up with a restaurant group was to ensure that Philippine cuisine diplomacy efforts have an institution, even if very informal, to serve as foundation,” Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes, head of the Philippine mission in Dubai and the neighboring northern emirates, said.
“By forming such an association,” he added, “we have an informal grouping of Filipino business people involved in food and Filipino cuisine that is able to share best practices not only when it comes to management of their resources but also in the marketing of the Filipino flavor.”
Gina Valbuena, chair of the group named League of Food and Beverage Entrepreneurs (LFBE), said “the opportunities will be limitless in terms of celebrating and showcasing our food offerings on occasions most suitable.” She noted major events like the annual government-held Dubai Food Festival (DFF), which usually runs for a month and participated in by dining venues across the city.
Other than DFF, similar food events include the Thai Food Festival hosted by the Thai Consulate General in Dubai; and the Taste of Dubai participated in by major dining destinations across the city. Just recently, Malaysia also held a week-long coffee festival.
“We are planning something interesting in the pipeline for Independence Day. The food fest may happen during the cooler months,” Valbuena said.
“I would assume that a Filipino Food Festival will also definitely be in the pipeline in coordination with relevant government agencies, partners and external parties,” she added.
Cortes, meantime, lamented that funding needed to launch such an event can be a concern. “We all know that marketing entails money and heavy advertising, and budgeting relative to our cuisine diplomacy efforts are very much lacking; which is why most of our endeavors need to be out of the box, and this is where the restaurant association could be very, very useful,” he said.
“Thailand and Korea are success stories because of their heavy and intense pouring of resources, both financial and human, into these diplomacy efforts,” Cortes added.
Cortes further explained that budget “has always been an issue in many of our marketing efforts and clearly it is a resource that remains very difficult to procure.”
This, “especially so when we have social services priorities (back home) and our priority on assisting Filipino nationals in Dubai and the northern emirates,” Cortes said, referring to help – legal and financial, among others – provided to distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The LFBE was officially formed last month under the auspices of the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai and in collaboration with the Philippine Business Council – Dubai & Northern Emirates (PBC-DNE), following a meeting organized by the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) attended by 22 Filipino restaurateurs.
The LFBE, a sub-committee of PBC-DNE, “aims to promote and sustain the development of Filipino-owned restaurants and be the resource for industry information to its members,” said Valbuena.
It also seeks to make available value-added member services, suitable training, education and business support needed by Filipino entrepreneurs for growth and sustainability.
“For the LFBE to achieve its objectives, it is definitely part of the plan to open active engagements and seek support with and from appropriate UAE and Philippine government agencies and groups,” said Valbuena, who has taken a break from her job in the corporate world to form her own restaurant, Kubyertos Cuisine.
As of press time, she added, elected officers were facilitating the membership process of the food and beverage (F&B) entrepreneurs into the sub-committee; after which, a group discussion of initial projects will be scheduled in due time.
Officers and members
Meantime, other members of the LFBE executive board are Rolly Brucales (vice president), who runs Off the Hook Seafood Restaurant, which counts nine branches across the UAE; and Divina Jimenez (Secretary), who operates the flourishing Joy Bubble Coffee Shop that she and her husband opened a few weeks before last year’s covid-19 quarantine measures.
Treasurer is Christine Galang, restaurant manager at the authentic Japanese restaurant, Zutto Suki Ramen; and Albert Opena of OunceDXB and is in charged with memberships.
Among restaurants in the group are D’Original Pares Mami and Grill House, Paluto Restaurant, Sisig Express, Panadero Pastry Shop.
Other restaurants which have yet to be registered for membership are Timplang Ala Eh, Bulalugaw, La Paz Batchoy and El Batangueno Restaurant.