(Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos and Video by JR Velasquez)
One bright idea, as the old adage goes, leads to another, and in the case of the Filipino food enthusiast, a family favorite recipe or an odd combination of ingredients scrounged up in the cupboard can perhaps lead to the next local food craze. Mercato owners, RJ Ledesma and Anton Diaz, made this a possibility by holding an annual competition for every budding food entrepreneur: The Next Big Food Entrepreneur.
Mercato Centrale, operating a popular chain of food markets all across Metro Manila, came as the battleground for the recently concluded competition, in which every aspirant was welcome to submit an application – in the hope of winning P100,000 as start-up capital along with a six-month free stay at Mercato.
For the past three years, The Next Big Food Entrepreneur has produced a slew of new food businesses coming from various places in the country, and this year’s batch of semifinalists is no different, if not more diverse. There were students who aspire to be full-fledged food entreps, an Indonesian food enthusiast, several individuals who luckily chanced up on the competition’s ads, and a Pinoy Masterchef winner.
“This year’s edition of The Next Big Food Entrepreneur offers a lot of diversity. A large number of creative savory meals were featured,” explains Abbie Sinjian, Experience and Event Manager of the Mercato group.
The food served by the participants ranged from flavorful Indonesian cuisine to the artfully stylized version of the local snack turon, much to the delight of Mercato’s owners as well as those who sampled the food from different booths during the competition’s awarding ceremony last Friday, December 19.
“We had a hard time selecting the winners, since everyone did a wonderful job and served really good food,” Sinjian added. True enough, each of the booths have the potential to make it big in the Philippines’ bustling food industry.
The 2014 TNBFE Winners
Being selected as a semifinalist in The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, which subjects participants to actual selling at a couple of food markets, is already considered a win for the budding entrepreneur. After all, booths get to showcase their wares to the buying public, observing how their products perform after making adjustments to both the food and the booth display. It’s the proverbial first step to establishing a food business.
A total of 14 participants made it to the contest’s semifinal round, all of which having dainty booths and serving noteworthy cuisines. The competition was expectedly stiff, and four came out as the big winners: Bakmi Nyonya, Bigorots, Turonne de Manila Café and Hunger Buster.
The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series: