G/F San Antonio Plaza, McKinley Road, Makati City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) It’s harder and harder to sit down to a home-cooked meal nowadays. Unless one works from home, lives with their parents, or has a personal cook, most dinners will consist of something from a fast food joint or a nearby restaurant. This is fun, until it isn’t, and it can get not fun (and not healthy) quite fast.
This is where Gourmet Corner comes in.
The best way to describe Gourmet Corner is as an aggregator of local home chefs. The small shop is located in San Antonio Plaza in McKinley, that road that leads from Makati to BGC.
Gourmet Corner was inspired by Picard, a French supermarket chain that stocks only frozen food. “My sister and my best friend are married to Frenchmen. They entertain by buying food at Picard. They have 400 branches all over France. That’s a big chain. But what’s so impressive is the quality of the food. You know how the French are, they’re so strict. The quality of the food is still five-star,” owner Bettina Osmeña says. “That’s my vision—to be able to serve high quality frozen food that taste like it was just cooked an hour ago.”
Before opening the brick and mortar store, Osmeña was running a bustling home catering and frozen home cooked food business, also called Gourmet Corner. “It’s like my catering has slowed down and it’s my frozen food that really picked up. It’s been really good. My kitchen is very busy. I’m so happy that the turnover has been quite good,” she says. “Actually, none of the food here has been frozen for more than a week because everything has been moving, not only for me, but for the other chefs. And I’ve been working with about six home chefs who contribute here.”
Some of the products available are items from Corner Tree Cafe (“They’re branded. They’re known as the best vegetarian restaurant in Manila.”), Real Girl Toy Kitchen (“She has a following. Now, her customers can also pick up here. And she has a lot of vegetarian dishes too.”), Marco Rodriguez (“He’s a world traveler and he’s always experimenting with the food that he has tasted [overseas]. He’s also been giving me some of his frozen tubs.”), Tippi Tambunting (“I think Tippi’s so branded already as a chef. She has four dishes here—beef adobo; that makes it different because we’re always eating chicken and pork adobo, hers is short ribs.”), Michelle Dinglasan Tomacruz (“She specializes in Moroccan food. She supplies me with Moroccan meatballs and chicken with preserved lemons. To cure those lemons takes a month.”), and of course, Gourmet Corner’s in-house frozen dishes.
Most of the frozen dishes are packaged per serving, and cost an average of P350 each. Customers can also call in for party-sized orders, which can be picked up. They also have regional specialties. For example, they carry five kinds of longganisa—Vigan, Cabanatuan, chicken longganisa, and rekado longganisa by Baguio Country Club, and skinless longganisa. “90% of my products for the company are locally sourced,” Osmeña says. “I would really like to distribute and retail a lot of artisanal—I go to many bazaars and they taste so good and they really should have an outlet. That’s where I’d like to come in. That’s the gap that I’m filling.”
The shop also offers in-house dining. Customers can have soups or sauce-based dishes heated and have them served with an extra order of a baguette or rice. There is no ‘heating fee,’ though there is a 10% service charge. There are also drinks and cold sandwiches—egg salad, chicken salad, crab, smoked salmon. “Small selection but all good. The sides are potato chips but they’re homemade,” Osmeña says.
You can buy Cunanan ensaymada here, too.
Cinnamon Rolls from Sunny Bakeshop
Baby Pat ensaymada in Classic, Ube, Peanut Butter Chocnut, and Speculoos
A big factor that drives Gourmet Corner’s business is the combination of convenience and health. Everything in the store is artisanal, made in small batches in home kitchens. “I really believe in nutrition—in fact, blast freezing is the best way to preserve the nutrients of your food, so I don’t think I’m doing anything that’s not healthy,” Osmeña says. “And while a lot of these are in microwavable plastics, actually when people ask me ‘Can you microwave this?’ I tell them the truth: I’m not big on microwaving. These are saucy foods. Just heat them in a pan on your stovetop. Plan ahead. What do you want to eat tomorrow? Put it in the refrigerator. That’s the best way to thaw your food. But of course, if they want to microwave (the food), who am I? Customer is king, right?”
Even though Gourmet Corner just opened, the response to it has been encouraging, even overwhelming. “We’re here to really help everybody. You may have a full staff at home, you may have a cook, but sometimes, when you have parties, you can’t do it all. We have a lot of pica-picas here, so a lot of hostesses come here to buy pica-picas. We’re here to help the mommies. I’m also helping a lot of home-based chefs and budding entrepreneurs. I’ve been entertaining and meeting with a lot of young kids,” Osmeña says. “We have this hashtag, #gourmetcornerph that suddenly popped up on everybody’s timeline. They’re starting to hear about us. They’ve learned that we’re a consolidator of food offerings.”
Clearly, there is a demand for delicious home-cooked meals, so much so that Osmeña already has expansion plans underway. She’ll be selling a lot more dry goods and party platter during the holidays, for example. She’s also exploring a delivery service, as well as hoping to open branches in San Juan, Ortigas, and Rockwell. “I (want to) reach out to more people because the traffic is horrible,” she says. “I think that’s where I really came in—because of the traffic these days are so bad.”
She’s also constantly looking for new home-based chefs as suppliers. “We’re going to strive to be better and better. I’m constantly in search of new chefs, new talents who can contribute especially frozen dishes to us,” she says. “I just tell them to send me a sample. If I like it, they hear back from me.”
Gourmet Corner couldn’t have opened at a more perfect time. Now that more Filipinos are aware of the importance of nutrition and slow food, it’s good to know that there’s a conveniently located shop where they can drop by and stock up on delicious, nutritious food, no matter how busy they are.
Photos by Majoy Siason