Friends with Benefits : Benefits of Working with Friends

CDP – An idea that
started with friendship and wine.

I
can’t remember exactly when the idea to put up a restaurant together happened
but I know there was wine around (maybe that’s why I don’t remember). My BFF
and constant partner in crime Malou and I toyed with the idea for years before
we decided to go for it because we were scared to risk our friendship by
opening a business together. Eventually, we felt that the project was to good
not to do and it would be a waste not to collaborate because before Malou and I
worked on the menu together, we were already working together on some of the
recipes that we would bring out in our respective restaurants. You would think
that 2 creative people would clash with their ideas but Malou and I couldn’t be
more complementary. It didn’t seem complete to do a project without Kristine
who completes our trio of mischief and mayhem – coincidentally, the name of one
of our favorite bottles of Chablis – so we dragged her into it too.

image

A favorite photo of the 3 of us, way before CDP was even an idea. (Kristine del Gallego-Locsin, Malou Fores and me)

The
restaurant project gave us an excuse to travel to the US. The only thing I
regret about the “research” trip Malou and I took to New York and California
was that Kristine and our husbands Marco and Oye couldn’t join us. Kristine was
getting married within a month and she had to stay for the preparations. We
chose to go to New York because it was always advance in the restaurant scene.
The initial idea for the restaurant was to do a French “tapas” place. We went
to New York to see New Yorkers’ interpretation of a French concept, something
we felt would be more acceptable to the Filipino market.

Then
we did a side trip to California to visit Malou’s relatives. For me, the restaurants
we went to in San Francisco and wine-centric establishments we visited in
Sonoma added another dimension of inspiration that we applied in CDP. Not to
mention the antique flea market we went to in L.A. where we bought a lot of the
silver that we are using now.

Research and
Inspiration are excuses to travel with your best friend – and in between lunch
and dinner, we make time for hotdogs in New York.

Anyone
who would say that CDP is tight should visit Buvette in New York, the biggest
restaurant inspiration for us. We already knew that our restaurant space was
small. Seeing Buvette in action wired us to believe that we can serve most
things we wanted, in the style we wanted in such a small space and that it
would be the defining charm of the place. Small tables, small plates, tight bar
where ingredients are just as decorative as they are functional – a concept
that evolved from high rates of prime real estate space in gastronomical
capitals like New York and Paris.

NYC restaurants take on small plates.

It’s not all fun and
games…most of the time.

We
came back to Manila refreshed, rewired and ready to get to work. It can be
overwhelming to get started on a passion project. It’s good to have Kristine,
Oye and Marco to pinch Malou and I back to reality when our ideas get too
crazy. So we began the journey of restaurant start up:

·     
collate our ideas

·     
narrow down which to pursue

·     
meet with the architect

·     
hire the chef

·     
start looking for the manager

·     
supplier/ingredient checks

·     
wine taste way too early

·     
brainstorm some more.

We
spent countless hours talking about what we wanted to do but we get
side-tracked by kwentos when we are all together so the productivity of some
most of our 12-hour days is highly questionable. A couple of months deep in
concept-forming, I found out I was pregnant.

It’s
a blessing that I had a relatively easy pregnancy. For the most part, I was
very active all throughout my pregnancy. But there were days when I had to
cancel because I wasn’t feeling well and on those days Malou really stepped in and
covered some of the work that should have been mine. During the year-long
preparation of CDP, Marco and I were pregnant and eventually gave birth,
Kristine had just gotten married and moved to Canlubang while Malou and Oye
were simultaneously working on the expansion of RF and Blue Kitchen. We were
camped in Malou and Oye’s house which later on became the training ground for
all our chefs and dining team. It also warehoused advance purchases.

Our biggest critic, Oye – Malou’s husband, tastes the day’s work. When we have nothing to show for, we distract him with wine.

With
everything happening and construction delays, the opening of CDP landed on the
day after I gave birth. Malou, Kristine and Oye opened the restaurant for
lunch, visited us in the afternoon and went back to the restaurant for dinner.

The
most obvious benefit of working with friends is that it makes everything more
fun. Restaurant work involves long hours. As cliché as it sounds, when you love
what you do and the people you work with, you look forward to going to work.
With my recent experience with CDP though, the biggest benefit of working with
friends is that they supported me when it was impossible to go to work and
that’s priceless. Now if we can only figure out how to divide our tasks instead
of doing everything together.

Join the Partie. Left to right: Kristine, Oye, Malou, me, Marco.

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