When Filipino chef restaurateur Charles Montanez wanted to set up in Singapore he couldn’t be on site. He tells Maida Pineda how appointing local consultant and FCSI Associate Ben Ho gave him peace of mind
When Filipino chef restaurateur Charles Montanez wanted to set up in Singapore he couldn’t be on site. He tells Maida Pineda how appointing local consultant and FCSI Associate Ben Ho, managing director of Eminent Foodservice Design Consultancy, gave him complete peace of mind and a successful new restaurant because we’re running a 44-seater restaurant.”
Having a Parrilla grill is just one of the challenges the foodservice consultants faced in executing this project. The 1,850 sq ft (172 sq m) space was previously a showroom for a Japanese lighting firm. Coming on board after the site was secured, FCSI Associate Ho had to work with the existing conditions of the space. “First, the kitchen was not gas lined. We had to slot in an induction cooker,” he explains. “This kitchen basically runs with an open wood-fired grill and an electric induction, combi oven and fryer.”
Ho weighed the pros and cons for installing a gas supply, the level of investment and level of works to be done. It meant asking Montanez if he could achieve what he wants by running most of the things on electricity and the open grill as the main source of open heat.
The second problem; there was no existing exhaust provision. “To compound the problem, we have an open-fire grill.” says Ho. “That alarms our fire safety department. It’s not a simple extraction system. It has to be a complex system that meets local fire regulations. That causes stress to the client because of the investment involved. Due to the nature of the stove, an intricate exhaust system had to be created.”
Third, the restaurant is located in an old shop house, with strict conservation regulations. As Ho explains, “there are certain limitations to what the constructors cannot touch such as exterior design and the façade.”
Ideas and experience
Not being an F&B location, there was a lack of plumbing. There was only one floor trap right by the bar in front, so plumbing lines had to be laid from scratch. Electrical loading had to be increased. Exhaust tapping had to be reconstructed. A massive amount of work had to be executed for a small restaurant. But in the end, they successfully delivered.
Ho enjoyed the challenge of converting a small shop space into an operational F&B outlet. Reflecting on this project he says: “I think as consultants we’re too privileged sometimes by designing hotels, commissary kitchens, and projects with massive amounts of space. By coming back to basics, where people interact intimately, we have to work with very tight spaces. It’s like returning to where we began. This is a different animal. This is not big. It’s not a school kitchen. It’s not a massive central kitchen where we have space – more than we can use. In this restaurant, we maximized every inch of space.”
Montanez and Ho complement each other. The ideas come from Montanez, with Ho’s experience and knowledge providing viable options to execute his vision. It is a solid collaboration where they lean on each other’s strengths to succeed.
Despite being away from Singapore during the build, Montanez is very happy with the results. “It’s beyond my expectations actually,” he says. “It was not just fast, but it was more efficient. Working with these guys gives me the luxury of diverting my time and my attention to other aspects of the business, because I know this part of the project is already settled.”
Expansion is underway with two more Alegria outlets opening in the Philippines and plans for an outlet in Dubai. Montanez has already brought Eminent on board to make it happen. That is clear proof of one happy client.