We had the good fortune of connecting with Giovan Cuchapin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Giovan, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It wasn’t until my mid to late 20s when I got serious about my career. After about 2 1/2 years of attending the University of Texas in Austin, I found out that school wasn’t going to help me get to where I wanted to be career wise. Instead of moving back home with my parents in Houston, I decided to get a job in the restaurant industry as my passion was always around food, whether it was creating or eating it. After a couple of restaurants I got into management around 2006. Around 2008 is when I started seriously thinking about opening up my own restaurant. It was a no brainier that I wanted to open up a Filipino restaurant as I knew it was obviously delicious, eating home cooked meals growing up almost everyday from my moms kitchen. It just hit me one day….. why arent there any Filipino restaurants around that were accessible to all. The food is so good, but so many people don’t know about it. I got the opportunity to start my first business in 2011 when my business partner, Mark Pascual, asked me if I wanted to start a Filipino food truck.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Being a Filipino restaurant alone already sets us apart from restaurants in general as there are few. What sets us apart from other Filipino restaurants is that we offer traditional Filipino food in a space that’s accessible to all. It’s pretty typical, if you see a Filipino restaurant it’s either a mom & pop buffet that has a mini grocery store connected to it or it’s more of a tasting menu format where Filipino dishes are deconstructed…. In order to reach our main goal of introducing Filipino Food to the masses, we feel we need to introduce Traditional Filipino flavors in a space that’s accessible to all nationalities. Not to say the typical mom & pop or the fancy Filipino restaurants out there aren’t good (they are usually really good). We just feel to introduce Filipino flavors properly to the masses you need: 1. Traditional food 2. An inviting space that is intriguing to all, not just the Filipino population. I’m most proud & excited about being one of the restaurants that will help bring Filipino cuisine and culture to the masses. Introducing something new is always exciting, on top of that it’s my culture and cuisine, which makes it ridiculously exciting! This business presents a lot of opportunities…… another thing I’m excited is we are in the process of bottling our Spicy Banana Sauce. A sauce that I grew up eating and now my recipe is going to be bottled and sold! We’ve been in business since 2011 w/ the start of the food truck, but I feel we are just getting started as we are reaching a lot more people with the Brick and Mortar. Getting the business to where it is right now took a lot of blood, sweat, & sacrifices (financial & personal), but it felt easy because I love what I do, & had a lot of support from my family (especially my wife). I’m thankful that I can do what I love to do. Challenges: One of the bigger challenges we thought we would face would be the older generation of Filipinos not accepting the product we were putting out. Surprisingly I can only think of a handful of customers that have told me “that’s not how you do it” or “that’s not Filipino”, but they never complained that it didn’t taste good. Its just not how they are used to eating it. The Phillipines consist of about 7000 islands & with that there are many of ways to cook a dish. Traditional vs. Authentic: Something we learned on the way is that we had to put forward that we are a Traditional Filipino restaurant, not authentic. Customers would interchange the two, but there is a huge difference. Below is an excerpt from what we have in our training manual to help educate our staff…… We are NOT AUTHENTIC, we are TRADITIONAL. Authentic means there is a single way to recreate a dish and there exists an authority that deems a dish so. Our food is TRADITIONAL where the flavor and essence of the dishes have been consumed and passed down for generations. Variations in these dishes will vary by region, but all Filipinos will agree our Adobo is Adobo and our Pancit is Pancit. We may put a little twist to a dish, but we will not stray too far away from the flavors that define the dish. TRADITION: the passing on of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. (as in recipes that have been passed down from relatives) AUTHENTIC: of undisputed origin; genuine. (as in there is only one way) To claim we are not “Authentic” is incorrect as BMP uses traditional recipes that have been learned/passed down from family/friends.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Wanted to note that I haven’t lived in Houston since 2000….. so I’m limited to basically my childhood and the past year.
Must Eats: Asian food off Bellaire.
Les Baguette: the Lemon Grass Bone Marrow & the Beef Belly Banh Mi is ridiculously delicious!
Kata Robata: probably the best Sushi & Japanese tapas I’ve been to. Shipley doughnuts. The half pig head at Hay Merchant.
Cooking Girl: for some Szechuan food I grew up eating Pappasitos beef fajitas. Always a solid meal. I also worked for them for a year & always respect their efficient operations.
Cloud 10 ice cream: Toasted Rice Ice cream FTW!
Drinks: Casual craft cocktails: any of Bobby Heugel bars. Party mode drinking: Washington Strip – Lincoln Bar usually always packed.
Sites: The Astrodome & the former Astroworld site! Minute maid park: park walk around and grab some Seaside Poke! Best Poke in town IMO. The Galleria The Summit (aka Lakewood Church) Rice Village – eats & shopping
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I was fortunate that most of my family lived in Houston. My dad had 12 siblings and my mom had 7. I grew up going to family parties that felt like almost every other week which meant my family cooking traditional Filipino food and serving what seemed like endless amounts of food. Amidst all this food, I would have to say my Mom was my main inspiration as she put home cooked food on the table every single day as she worked full time as a registered nurse. I think that really inspired me to be in the hospitality business.
Rochelle Abante, Nilo Aranzamendez
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