Filipino ice cream in Belgium? Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle makes it happen

Published January 22, 2022, 10:27 AM

by John Legaspi

Couple Jelle Bories and Kamille Rodriguez Bories are serving them through a kariton

Mamang sorbetero is going global! After being seen in the New York food scene, the “dirty ice cream” movement is now happening in Belgium through the home-based food business, Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle.

Jelle Bories and Kamille Rodriguez Bories

Led by couple Jelle Bories and his Filipino wife Kamille Rodriguez Bories, pastry chef and a nurse, respectively, Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle started as a hobby, like many food businesses that sprang during the pandemic. With Kamille missing her childhood favorite treat, her husband created a micro creamery in their space in July 2020 and bought an ice cream machine a year after.

After people tried their products, the word about their cool creations spotlighting Filipino flavors spread, earning them thumbs up from kababayan in Belgium, even expanding their clientele with customers from Luxembourg and Germany.

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Kamille shares more about Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle, what goes into its products, their Filipino-style ice cream cart, and the importance of letting the world know about the beauty and delight that come distinct Filipino flavors.

Hello, Kamille! First off, how did you two meet each other?

I was hired around 2013 by a hospital here in Belgium. After eight months of living here, I met Jelle. We have been together for almost eight years, married for five years already, and we have two children now named Sebastian and Isabelle.

How was it operating during the pandemic? What were the challenges your brand encountered?

Our business strategy is to deliver the ice cream door-to-door as we don’t have funds (yet) to establish an ice cream shop. As of the moment, our production is still at our converted kitchen in our home. This strategy worked for our business. We started during the pandemic, if I’m not mistaken Belgium was still in soft lockdown during that period. So people can’t just go out or are afraid to go outside. It is pretty convenient for our clients to just receive their sorbetes delivered at their doorstep. That’s one of the reasons why people order.

One of the challenges is to have our first paying customer. It took me around three weeks of posting online until someone (non-friend/family) ordered. After that, the rest was history. Another challenge is looking for raw ingredients. It took us a while in finding the right distributor to order.

What did you keep in mind in crafting your sorbetes flavors? Where do you source your ingredients and who creates them?

For us, quality is our main priority. We make everything from scratch (no premixes) and we only use high-quality ingredients with real food/fruit products. That means we use real fruits like Filipino mango, ube halaya, avocado, etc.

As much as possible, we try to integrate a “Filipino touch” into our products. One example is we use a Negros brand rum with our Rum Raisin Sorbetes and we once used Davao-farmed chocolate for our Chocolate Rocky Road flavor. Aside from our Filipino flavored ones, we also offer some classic flavors for the locals who are still hesitant to try something new. People are surprised to know that the Philippines have a lot to offer as those two sorbetes flavors got a lot of positive feedback already. In fact, the Rum Raisin is our best-seller for our non-Filipino clients.

We started sourcing out at the local tindahan and Asian shop in Belgium for ingredients. But it got to a point that most of the products that we need are sold out and we have to cancel orders. So now we order directly from the distributors of those shops and we buy now in bulk. In some cases, some ingredients/fruits are not available there but we got a few helpful clients/kababayan who assist us find the products.

Jelle makes all the ice cream and talks to other businesses and logistics (shopping and delivery). While I brainstormed about the flavors inspired by my childhood and culture. Most of my task is administrative, which includes bookkeeping and web design, marketing (photo and video shoot), talking to clients, press, etc., in combination with our daytime (now part-time) jobs.

Chocnut Sorbetes and Frisco Bars

How did people respond to your sorbetes?

At first, we need to rely on the feedback of the clients. Based on their response, we adjusted our recipe until we were confident enough to say “this is the real deal.”

Filipinos here are definitely ecstatic to know that Filipino-flavored sorbetes are already available in Belgium. We are proud to say that we are the first manufacturer here in Belgium. We always use the tagline “We can bring you back to the Islands.” I, myself, haven’t been back to the Philippines for two years already and for sure most of the kababayan here in Europe haven’t been home for a long time. So we are happy to bring the flavors of the Philippines to their doorstep

For the non-Filipino clients, most of them are curious about what we offer. My husband is normally not a social person but I think he is enjoying now the small talks he makes with clients. Ube and durian are definitely hot topics.

Currently, we are supplying to five restaurants here in Belgium. Two are Filipino restaurants (Goodphil and Mayon), one Belgian-Filipino fusion (Humpreys), and two Belgian food spots (Fishheads and Wulder).

Halo-halo Sorbetes Cake and Frozen Ube Brazo de Mercedes

Do you have other products apart from the sorbetes?

We do. We also offer ice cream cakes. We have been offering Frozen Ube Brazo de Mercedes, Halo Halo Sorbetes Cake, Mango Tres Leches. We also have Ice Cream bars and Cookie Sandwiches. And we’re still planning to release more.

What makes Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle stand out there? Can you tell us something about the kariton?

Our products are handcrafted. As much as possible we try to make everything from scratch, which also includes the toppings. Less air and full of flavors. We were never stingy with our recipes. Always generous.

We also offer non-traditional flavors here in Belgium which are difficult to buy. We like playing with our recipes. We try to accommodate everyone. As of now, we offer vegan and sugar-free ones too.

Jelle and his kariton-inspire ice cream bike and an ice cream sandwich

Our ice cream bike is kariton-inspired. I let our friend do the design and we are happy with it. It really does remind me of the cart roaming around in the streets of Manila when I was younger. We are excited for the winter to be over. From March, we are already booked for some events already. The initial plan for the kariton bike is to sell ice cream around our local area until we get known.

What’s your goal in establishing Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle?

Our main goal is to introduce Filipino culture through our sorbetes. Filipino cuisine is often taken for granted and I think that we have a lot to offer too like our neighboring countries. If you come to visit Belgium, you’ll notice that we are already saturated with Thai, Japanese, Chinese restaurants. The second is to have our self-sustaining business.

What’s next for Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle?

For this year 2022, we will still try to sell with our kariton bike and do deliveries. Hopefully, we get more local clients too so in a few years we can establish our own ice cream shop and more sorbetes and pastries here in our area (or maybe in a bigger city) where both Filipino and non-Filipino clients are welcome. Another goal is to export our ice cream to the bordering countries.

Discover more of Sorbetes ni Manong Jelle on Instagram.

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