From serving Brunch to packing Lunch
Although he was not exactly raised with a pan in his hand as there was home help to rely on, Chef Pepin Ordoña’s passion for food was more than a flickering flame when he was young. “I loved watching cooking shows and what I really remember is Alton Brown of Good Eats. I liked how he combined food and the science behind it,” he recalls.
Another challenge for him was that the ingredients used in cooking shows were mostly unavailable in the Philippines. “I never really got to learn how to cook until the time we moved to Singapore where we didn’t have helpers,” Chef Pepin shares. Revealing the landmark for the start of his culinary journey, he adds: “Fortunately, I was given the chance to study whatever I wanted to. It was just a short, leisurely course, but I chose At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. That was when I fell in love with cooking and started experimenting at home. And then in 2012, I pursued culinary arts at Shatec (The International Hotel and Tourism School) Singapore.”
After having had his formal training and further honing his skills through various stints in various establishments, Chef Pepin and his family decided to come home. “Our objective was, if we wanted to go back to the Philippines, we had to put up our own business. Since we’re foodies, a restaurant seemed only natural,” he says.
“At the time, we saw a gap. Every time we’d come here for a visit, we’d look for a brunch place but couldn’t find any. In Singapore, it has been a culture for Filipino friends to meet up and catch up over brunch. So when we’re on holiday in the Philippines, we’d often find ourselves asking where we could eat that would give us the same sentiments, with good food and good coffee. If it’s coffee, the only ones available were commercial brands. Specialty coffee was starting to boom at the time in Singapore so I thought that’s what we don’t have here yet.” Hence the inception of Yolk Coffee and Breakfast in January 2015.
These days, Chef Pepin is all about leading a healthy lifestyle—from changing his diet to engaging in physical activities like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and running every Sunday. But it has not always been that way. “I loved drinking Coke back then, eating fast food because I’d get busy and it’s the convenient choice. I gained a lot of weight and that’s when I said it had to change.”
He has embraced this lifestyle change so much so that he started the “Eat Better Project,” a healthy meal delivery service which is still in its infancy. Customers can choose to have a lunch-only, or lunch and dinner five-day meal plan delivered to pre-approved areas in the city. “Right now, we’re focusing on making sure that what we’re offering is a balanced meal. We don’t serve white rice, but we do substitute it with unrefined carbs which are high in fiber, so you’ll feel fuller for a lot longer,” Chef Pepin explains. He also makes the salad dressings from scratch, and sells them by the bottle.
He hopes to find more unique offerings in Cebu’s food scene, and more healthful items on the menu. “This is the direction I want to take—educating people on how to make healthier choices on their own. And healthy does not have to be bland or expensive. There are a lot of spices and herbs that you can use for flavor, and a lot of local farmers who can supply produce for a lot less,” he says.