The COO behind restaurants like Mesa and Sunnies Café has spent quarantine experimenting with new recipes and flavors
Photos courtesy of ERIC THOMAS DEE
Foodee Global Concepts is behind brands Mesa and Sunnies Café, as well as the local franchises of Michelin-rated restaurants Tim Ho Wan, FOO’D by David Oldani, Tsuta, Kam’s Roast, and Hawker Chan, among others.
While restaurants have been closed for the most part during quarantine, Foodee COO Eric Thomas Dee has kept busy.
Early in the quarantine, he was one of the first restaurateurs to serve and deliver warm meals to frontliners. As quarantine went on, the Foodee team adapted their business model to take-out services. When their restaurants were allowed to re-open, they worked tirelessly to create an environment where people would be comfortable, safe, and healthy as they enjoyed their food.
And still, behind the scenes, the self-taught cook has found the time to experiment with new recipes and feed his family with grand, Insta-worthy food spreads.
“I come from a food-centric family. Everything happens around food or with food,” Eric says.
The son of Foodee founder Rikki Dee and his wife, Foodlink co-founder Beng Dee, it was only natural that Eric gravitated toward the kitchen. Although Eric has no educational culinary background, whenever they open a restaurant, he trains with the chefs and restaurant owners directly for two months, giving him an edge in his cooking.
“I used to only cook for me and my wife until I got confident enough to start serving my ever so critical family,” he adds with a laugh. “We are who we are and because of the business we are in we become so very critical over food to the point of obsession.”
For Eric and his family, food is not a business. It is a lifestyle that they wish to share with the Filipino. While we wish we could get a taste of the scrumptious looking home meals, we live vicariously through the images and the interview we had with the young restaurateur.
What has quarantine been like for you and your family?
Quarantine has been tough, to be honest. The food industry has been hard hit during this pandemic and we have been working extra hard to survive this crisis. But we try to make the best of it.
Looking at the flip side, I wouldn’t have been able to spend this much quality time with my family. Prior to the crisis, we had mandatory lunches and dinners together as we have our own busy days ahead of us. We find time to be with the family and reconnect.
During this crisis, the negatives outweigh the positives. But as we were given an unprecedented event, we were also given unprecedented quality time with our families that might otherwise not have been possible. For me, that is priceless. I just hope we can move on already and look back at 2020 with a smile knowing we made it through.
When did you decide to use the quarantine time to start experimenting with food and creating these meals for your family?
I have been cooking all this time, but quarantine has really given me time to focus on improving my cooking. The quarantine has also forced a lot of the “hidden” suppliers to go online as part of their pivot. Now we have a plethora of choices to order items and experiment with ingredients.
What has been your favorite meal during quarantine?
Everyone is going crazy over one thing nowadays: K-dramas. The girls in the family would often request for Korean night. It is always good in my books so I would gladly oblige to prepare it.
We also miss traveling to Los Angeles where we would go to a place in K-town called Soon Dong Nam. It’s a 24-hour restaurant that serves only one thing: spicy galbi stew. I replicated the dish, a Korean spicy galbi stew with all the banchans! Everyone loved it. We may even think of selling it, who knows?
Do you have any tips of words of advice for Filipinos who are trying to create special meals for their family?
First, it’s not about the food… it’s about the company. Our family, or #FamiDee, has always been at our core. We draw strength from each other. Everything we do revolves around the dining table. Fried galunggong with kamatis, sibuyas, and itlog na maalat with sawasan of toyo and calamansi with loved ones will beat any three Michelin stars meal with someone you don’t like.
It might sound cheesy, but cook with the heart. I think the meals I feed my family has always been an outlet of my passion for food. And I always cook when I’m in a good mood as it reflects in the dishes I create.
Finally, you always hear chefs say, “Use good ingredients and you don’t have to do so much.” I totally agree with this.