Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge 2013

I had been bugging my brother, Nap, to join the Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge. This was something totally up his alley and he already had a product people have been raving about, even trying to get the recipe so they could try to recreate it at home. But alas, my brother can also be quite lazy and didn't make the deadline, no matter how much I nagged him to join. He ended up kicking himself in the nuts after I told him what the prize was.

Running on its second year and in partnership with Solane LPG and Mercato Centrale, the Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge hopes to provide opportunities to aspiring food entrepreneurs and help them start up their businesses through the exposure they will get and the prizes they will win from the contest. Up for grabs is a cash prize of P100,000 (tax free), a six month rent-free stall in Mercato or Soderno and a feature in both Entrepreneur and Yummy magazines.

I checked out the participants of this year's Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge with Jericho, taking notes on what the competition consisted of, what the usual food concepts were, how they presented their food, and overall just having a good time, trying my best to taste all sixty-five food products!

As it turns out, I'm a lightweight when it comes to food events like these and could only sample a few. Here are my favorites this year:

I initially gravitated towards Scmidt's Gourmet Hotdogs because of the sleek design of their booth (I'm a sucker for typography) and the name. The obnoxious Jewish PR person from New Girl came to mind - someone loud, anal about details, but overall just a fun guy to have around. Turns out I was right about the name, and by looking at the hotdog concept, pretty on point about the food, too. Schmidt's makes their own hotdogs, which is why it is a lot bigger than the ones you usually find at kiosks, and a lot meatier, so you get a nice balance between the wiener and the bun. There's that, and some of their wiener toppings are pretty ballsy, too.

I tried the Coney Island hotdog sampler, and it was pretty awesome. The hotdog is topped with ground beef, melted cheese, jalapeños, onions, sour cream, and ketchup. This is practically a meal in itself - it's so big and filling. I'd prefer mine with a bit of mustard though. An All American hotdog needs a bit of mustard.

Their Japanese-inspired hotdog, the Wagamama was interesting, topped with a cabbage slaw, nori strips, and Japanese mayo. I was hoping the mayo had wasabi, to give it a bit of heat, but it was just regular old Japanese mayonnaise. You get some interesting textures and flavors going on, with the spiced meat of the hotdog and the saltiness of the nori strips. This was Jericho's favorite.

I love my wieners (that's what she said)!

Schmidt's Gourmet Hotdogs
Lawerence See
+63 917 532 4831

Being a dessert comes first type of gal, it wasn't a surprise that I gravitated towards Chef In Heels' Dessert Shooters. I felt like I was at a buffet at a hotel, getting to try as many of the little things as humanly possible. The tagline being, "When just a small taste of something is good enough," is absolutely perfect for people on a diet who just want a taste of dessert, or people like me who want to try a lot without feeling too guilty about it.

Being a lover of all things tea, my favorite was definitely the Earl Grey Tea Mousse - a chocolate mousse with a strong Earl Grey aftertaste. I found the mousse to be just a little runny, nothing my cute little spoon couldn't help me with. That shot was marvelous - I wanted more!

Another best seller was the Choco Banana Peanut Butter Crunch shooter - rich chocolate banana slices and layers of crunchy peanut butter - which is a hit with the kids and kids-at-heart. Looking through the menu, I wished I could try the Lemon Posset, too, the tangy description reminded me of lemon curd. Yum!

Chef In Heels
Lady Badoy
+63 917 895 5239

I wish I could've gotten a picture of Cream of the Crop's ice cream, but it was so good I couldn't help but gobble it all up every time they'd have me taste something. Initially, I thought Cream of the Crop had something to do with corn - as that is what the expression pertains to. Surprisingly, it's ice cream made out of carabao's milk and made using purely locally sourced ingredients.

They had a Malaunggay-Langka flavor that Jericho tried. He said although it was quite refreshing, the langka didn't really come through. We both tried the Sulu Coffee with Muscavado which was pretty good - it reminded me of Selecta's Coffee Crumble in a way. My hands down favorite (and why I'm raving about it) is the Tablea Chocolate with Chili, which gave the cold treat a lot of heat! I think chili chocolate is an acquired taste, as I was the only one that seemed to really enjoy it. The heat from the chilies stay in your mouth, unlike other chili chocolate ice creams where the heat shows up as an aftertaste at the back of your tongue. Delicious, delicious stuff.

Cream of the Crop
Manjo Lamar
+63 917 553 75221

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive to be trying Savorolls - the presentation was fairly straightforward and looked like some sort of dry suman at first glance. Richard urged that I give it a go, so I did. Imagine Kapampangan longganisa enveloped in rice smothered with all sorts of goddies that make the Pinoy palette happy.

They have the original Savoroll Primero, simply Kapampangan Longganisa and melted cheese; Savoroll sa Pulang Itlog had your Kapampangan Longganisa with Salted Egg; Savoroll Sili is for people like me who want their Kapampangan Longganisa with a bit of spice; and there was Jericho's favorite, Savoroll Pimiento that was Kapampangan Longganisa with pimiento and melted cheese.

Kimi David
+63 927 505 7279

The concept from the fresh grads of San Beda was simple with a twist: Japanese pancakes with a chewy cookie center. and an optional sauce. Munchster Yum started as their thesis, and they ended up putting up the actual business and making it work. Good on them, I say!

I tried their best selling Red Velvet Munchster which was a red velvet pancake with a red velvet cookie center. I found the pancake to be a bit too salty. What mellowed down the sweetness was the white chocolate sauce that came with it - sweet and velvety, it coated my tongue for a much needed respite against all that salt.

Munchster Yum
Available at SM North EDSA Sky Garden between Gong Cha and Starbucks

I was stuffed silly and my britches were about to pop (that is, if I ever wore any) when I came across Flavor Avenue and their Bagnet Paella. I almost didn't get to taste it, I was so full, but I just couldn't resist two of my favorite things in one llanera. The slow cooked rice is stewed with Ilocos bagnet and Vigan longganisa, and topped with chicharon, slated eggs, and tomatoes, drizzled with a homemade bagoong aioli. The chicharon and crunchy bagnet gives you a lot of texture, with the spice from the Vigan longganisa surprising my taste buds every now and then. The addicting bagoong aioli rounds of the dish perfectly, and at the same time just makes you want more.

Now that I think about it, I should've gone back for seconds.

Flavor Avenue
Katrina Inocencio
+63 917 534 6080

I loved everything about Bad Decisions - the name, the food, and the owner! Al was really passionate about his food, sharing his concept of creating a burger joint that serves beer below zero. It sounds like the perfect man cave if you ask me. I hope they do Ladies' Night.

Al had me try The Patriot - a revolution to the classic American Cheeseburger loaded with  a 7 oz. beef patty, sweet caramelized onions and cheese in a soft brioche bun. All I'm missing are my pickles. The beef patty itself was pretty thick, I'd say half an inch thick, and nicely seasoned. Luckily, I was blessed with a very big mouth (that's what he said). I suggest eating it right away while it's fresh off the grill as the chuck will dry out and all you'll be left with is a very dry patty.

Bad Decisions also has a few other awesome sounding burgers that use 7 oz. imported beef patties, like the The Cartel, which is filled with Spicy Colombian Pink Sauce, shoestring potato chips, and cheese; The Kamikaze, an Asian invasion in your mouth with Japanese wasabi mayonnaise, tempura vegetables, and cheese; and The Real Cancun that comes with sunny side up egg, garlic sauce, and cheese.

These folks were so nice as to even give me a whole burger to take home and share. Thank you, Al!

Bad Decisions Premium Burgers & Drinks Joint
Al Echavez
+63 917 321 1925

Drawn to the pretty stands and cupcake merry-go-round, Pastry-Rific got me at spicy chocolate cupcakes. Spicy chocolate seems to be a trend at this year's Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge, but for self-proclaimed spicy chocolate connoisseurs like me, it all boils down to execution.

After trying their Spicy Chocolate Cupcake, I was left a bit disappointed. Here I was waiting for that spice to kick in after I bit into the cupcake, but all I got was an afterthought of spice, a whisper when it should've been a growing heat that settled at the back of your tongue, waiting for you to take the next bite. It tasted more like an ordinary chocolate cupcake to me. I was left with a hole in my heart that needed it's spicy chocolate fix. I made a beeline for more of Cream of the Crop's Chocolate with Chili ice cream right after.

The Salami-Peppermint Cupcake was the last thing I tasted, and well, I'm up in the air on this one. I don't know whether or not to like it or hate it. It's kind of like a breakfast cupcake in December - the flavors of the salami and pepper flakes really come through, and you get bits of what tastes like beef jerky in the actual cupcake. The peppermint frosting throws you for a loop and makes you go, "Why in the world is there peppermint on my savory cupcake?!" Points for innovation, and although I wouldn't say the cupcake was non-palatable, I don't think I'd want to have this again. It's just way too weird, even for me.

These guys are onto something. I like that they take a lot of risks when it comes to flavor combinations and the like, and I'm looking forward to trying their other creations. The more out-of-the-box, the better!

Angel Mallorca
+63 921 965 3011

I like these guys for their food, their story, and the passion the owners have for their products. A couple of other favorites that I liked, but failed to take a picture of was Bryan Ko's The Bucket List, that served simple pub grub (think fried oysters and shrimp!) with simple sides and Jay Pagdanganan's Fun-due and Frozen Fruits, which (surprise!) also had a chili chocolate dip as well as a dark, almost fudge-like chocolate dip that made me one very happy camper.

Congratulations to the finalists of the Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge! It was amazing to see the turnout and just how many passionate foodies are out there. Kudos to the guys who put it all together as well, the event was a smash! So when you find yourself mucking around Manila with a unique food idea, keep it under your hat for the next Next Big Food Entrepreneur Challenge, and you may just be the next winner!

Just mucking around Manila,
Follow @_muckingaround on Twitter and Instagram.
Like the Mucking Around Manila fan page.

Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila