JOSE Miggy Moreno, born in Jolo, Sulu but raised in Zamboanga City, became a restaurateur as he was inspired by the local food he enjoyed growing up in his town. He felt that Mindanaoan cuisine is just waiting to be discovered, so he introduced it in the metro.
Moreno, who owns the Palm Grill restaurant, said he grew up in a very peaceful community where he enjoyed the food, culture and heritage, among others. However, he said people don’t get to experience southern Mindanao because of security concerns.
“My grandmother, an educator-turned-politician, has introduced to us this kind of cuisine as she always cooks it at home,” he said. “Being two years in the business, my constant struggle is to continuously educate people about the cuisine as they don’t know much about it.”
He said raising awareness on Mindanaoan cuisine is challenging as many are afraid to try it, yet it is exciting as it takes them to a whole new gastronomical journey.
“People must know that the Mindanaoan cuisine is coconut-based,” Moreno said, adding it supports the farm-to-table concept as the locals plant coconuts in their backyard.
“We have a small commissary in Zamboanga that produces all the ingredients for us – green chicken, pamapa (a mixture of seven spices with toasted coconut grind),” he said.
These are freshly packed and shipped to his restaurant.
Moreno said Mindanaoan cuisine is medicinal and healthy. “Offering this kind of local cuisine which is not usually being cooked in one’s kitchen… is what makes our restaurant extra special.”
In putting up the Palm Grill, Moreno said he commissioned an agency which did the feasibility studies with him before he started the restaurant. Moreno and his mom worked together to conceptualize the bill of fare.
“While we have tweaked the dishes, we took inspirations from the traditional southern Mindanaoan cuisine,” he said.
While it caters to customers in Quezon City, Palm Grill also has guests from the south. Expect it to be packed during the weekends.
This year, Palm Grill is tapping a franchise company to create a business model for the restaurant. The franchise company believes in its products as it is the only one which offers authentic pyanggang manok in the metro.
“We considered the franchising as many people come to us and ask about it. For me, I want people to come to us because they believe in the products we offer,” Moreno said, noting the franchise will have to keep the dishes authentic, with the ingredients coming from Palm Grill’s main commissary.
“What is good about Filipino restaurants is that we will forever be here because at the end of the day, we are all Filipinos who will go back to our comfort food,” he added.