Lockdown charcutiers

Ready-to-serve hors d’oeuvre.

It all began with a heartbreak and at the onset of the pandemic at that. Naturally, a planned musical festival had to be canceled due to strict lockdown measures.

Benik Monterola, 29, felt lost but a chance meeting during his heyday of event management provided the catalyst when he needed it most. Enter Era Lorenzo Cruz, 25, a professional model and occasional actor. Monterola always dreamt of a pâté venture, and Cruz just happened to know how to concoct the desired dish from his culinary arts classes at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

Cruz would whip up fresh batches at his home kitchen and rush it off to the marketing whiz who, in turn, meticulously tasted and tested the products. He even belabored its potential packaging. After months of rigorous preparations and experiments amidst the lockdowns, The Charcutier Manila was born.

Ready-to-serve hors d’oeuvre.

Admittedly, it was a bold decision to dive into an industry that was among the most economically affected. However, with the quickly-converted-and-convinced loyal patrons, plus the publicity of the won-over influencers of value, their venture proved to be a hit. The secret to their success, they claimed, was the well-thought-out taste and texture, sans the usual bitterness clients are not too appreciative of.

From the initial lineup of chicken liver pâté and pesto cream cheese, truffle cheese spread was added, which eventually became their best-seller. To celebrate festive holidays and family milestones, specialty Grazing Boxes are popular. Other products — not just spreads — will soon be available, both Cruz and Monterola teased.

Here’s Cruz, the recipe developer of this gourmet spread on their adventure venture:

On his love for food:

“Though coming from a large family — fifth of seven siblings — I’m the only one actively engaged with food. I remember as a kid, I pretended to be an expert in the kitchen, as I tried to prepare the perfect egg fried rice.”

On their business name:

“At the College, French equivalencies to different kitchen terminologies caught our eyes. I had this fascination to be a charcutier. Since we wanted this to be the focus, my business partner and I agreed to adopt The Charcutier Manila.”

limited-edition premium wooden grazing box.

On the motivation to cook:

“While at the kitchen, I think on all the possibilities and probabilities. I take in everything as a learning experience. Part of a dream is to have a well-established restaurant.”

On challenges:

“We entertained the notion of bulk orders. When it happened, we were overwhelmed. The raw ingredients, packaging materials, together with equipment took up a lot of area, where production and storage space were at a premium. This didn’t stop us to accept the challenge. We were able to accomplish the order as promised — it was a test of our potential as a business.”

On future plans for The Charcutier Manila:

“We plan to expand in the gift giving and corporate giveaway markets. We wish to serve to hotels and high-end restaurants. We likewise plan to distribute to provincial capital cities. Our ultimate dream achievement: whenever someone thinks of gourmet spreads, the top of the mind is The Charcutier Manila.”

On lessons during travels:

“Whenever I traveled, I, without fail, have tried out the local dishes of every destination I visited. This helps me to broaden my understanding of food and flavors.”

On advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and chefs:

“Constantly remind yourself that failure is part of life. Instead, learn from your setbacks and do better. Occasionally, you may feel that progress is slow. But give yourself credit for all the small steps you achieve, little bits of accomplishments, for it all adds up towards success.”

To aspiring chefs, never fail to think outside the box. Be innovative. The culinary world continues to evolve — so should we.

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Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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