By Bjorn Biel M. BeltranSpecial Features Writer

Filipino cuisine is known the world over and to many, it is one of the key pillars of being Filipino. In recent years, the country has seen increasing attention as a gastronomic destination from the recommendations of internationally renowned chefs and food critics, and from the efforts of the Philippines’ own rising star chefs.

An interesting fact about Filipino cuisine, however, is that despite its increasing popularity, it has managed to retain a certain definitiveness to it. At its core, Filipino cuisine hearkens back to the country’s agricultural past, when food was farmed organically and the farmers themselves prepared them.

The Nuezca family saw an opportunity. Seeking to spearhead a new wave of organic food and bring the trend of healthy eating to Filipino cuisine, they had a vision of a restaurant serving home-style Pinoy comfort food with an organic edge. A vision where they can break the norms of unhealthy eating and manufactured, preservative-rich food.

“The goal is to serve the new generation with delicious and yet healthy food that can take you home with every bite without using shortcuts,” Matthew Paul R. Nuezca, chef and owner of Nuezca Café along Maginhawa, Quezon City, said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“It all came together when the family’s own organic farm aligned with me graduating from a culinary school. Fusing together the culinary basics and fitness knowledge to enhance the health value of a dish without sacrificing its taste, in 2013, our passion for food and health awareness brought about the fruition of this family-oriented restaurant,” he shared.

It was not easy. There were challenges aplenty with regards to establishing a new name and unique signature, especially in a place like Maginhawa.

“As we all know, the competition in the food industry is quite steep and if you are not able to present your distinct style to people, expect a hard time rising up to ranks,” Mr. Nuezca said.

“Not to mention the location of your establishment, does it match your idea? Your menu? Especially the target market people. All of those we put into consideration in order for us to stand out and create our very own name.”

Ultimately, Mr. Nuezca believed that Nuezca Café should make its food speak for itself.

“After we made our healthy food known to our guests and making them realize that food can be made superbly delicious without using shortcuts, it quickly led into a word of mouth,” he said, noting that being the only organic restaurant in the area distinguished Nuezca Café for health-conscious foodies seeking the market for a restaurant that serves organic, healthy food.

Opening a restaurant in today’s competitive environment requires much more than good food, it seems. Behind the success of Nuezca Café, not a small part of it is thanks to the unique values that it offers and introduces to Filipinos.

“As a representative of a healthy restaurant myself, I suggest that you not only focus on the profit that you can make out of the brand you are creating in the community but also think of a way that your very own style would positively impact and contribute to the lives of your clients,” Mr. Nuezca said.

Creating a big enough impact, he added, can net your food its own fans, benefitting the business side of things in the long run.

In time, Mr. Nuezca plans to bring his family’s vision to a wider audience. “We plan to expand more to reach the new generations today not only with healthy food, but also with the proper knowledge of the kind of things we put inside of us,” he said.

“Enlightening people with the saying, ‘You are what you eat’.”