Despite all the new restos popping up left and right, many of us still turn to fast food from time to time, one of the reasons for which is that there is something about it that many of us find really comforting. The fast food industry has been booming ever since, and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Earlier this year, we sat down with food enthusiast, vlogger, and restaurateur Erwan Heussaff at Niner Ichi Nana, a pub that he co-owns, where he gave his two cents' worth on fast food. "I actually think fast food is just misunderstood,” he says.
He adds that “There’s some fast food that’s fantastic like, for example, in the States they have to-go salads that’s fast food. The way I look at fast food is quick, convenient food but then everyone when they think of fast food they think of all these brands. I think there’s a time and place for it, I just don’t think it should be anyone’s diet. Maybe it should be seen as a treat and not necessarily as an everyday thing. Unfortunately in the Philippines, fast food is very cheap so people see that as a last resort 'Oh I don’t have money so I bought fast food so they bought a 35-peso burger but what people tend to forget is with 35 pesos you can buy a kilo of rice and feed yourself for three days. I’m always telling people 'Yeah okay you can find excuses but at the end of the day when you cook for yourself it's always cheaper and better so usually that’s the message I try to put out there.”
Erwan, known for coming up with stellar dishes both for his dining establishments and their Sunday family and barkada cookouts, and for being a fitness enthusiast himself, hasn't touched fast food for a very long time. He does have this interesting series of videos on his Youtube channel, though, where he, alongside vloggers Wil Dasovich, Janina Vela, and Nicole Anderson, blindly tried out some fast food dishes and tried to guess which restaurant chain they're from.
Round 1: Friend Chicken
Round 2: Pizza
Erwan's beginnings in the food industry. Many people also know him as Anne Curtis’ boyfriend and Solenn Heussaff’s brother, but there is so much more to Erwan than meets the eye. For years, he’s been spearheading the launch of a number of bars and pubs such as Hungry Hound and Niner Ichi Nana each offering something unique to its diners, thus carving a name for himself in the food and beverage industry along the way. It all started when he was just a mere teenager. “I’ve been in the business for 10 years now, ever since I was 16 I started working in it, I worked in a Japanese kitchen, that’s the first thing I did, then I worked as a waiter, as a dishwasher, I also worked as a busser, and I also worked as a maintenance guy then eventually I worked as a banquet supervisor then worked my way up as an F&B manager then I went to college to study International Business then after that I did a lot of corporate jobs in hotels and restaurants and bars. I left the Philippines when I was 17 then I came back when I was 24.”
The Fat Kid Inside. Erwan’s love and passion for food shines in his website thefatkidinside.com and Youtube channel where he normally uploads videos of him in the kitchen doing what he does best—cook and eat, with traveling on the side.
“I love cooking Filipino food but what I usually do is just apply techniques that I’ve picked up here and there from France, from Europe, from different places and just kind of apply that to Filipino flavors which is so good. Sometimes the only thing that’s lacking is the process. Here it’s a very one-pot recipe kind of thing, just back then the recipes were developed for quick cooking so all the chefs now, I’m not a chef, but all the chefs now that are doing Filipino food, what they’re doing is they’re all cleaning it up so they’re using the same flavors and keeping those strong flavors but just putting very well-defined cooking techniques.”
Here he is working on his version of Bicol Express alongside his sister Solenn.
Judging by its name, Ferrero French Toast, this one seems like heaven in a bite!
With all the new restaurants opening almost every day, the challenge is how you can stand out, otherwise you will get lost in the sea of restos that exist, thus coming up with a unique and fresh concept becomes crucial. Erwan says there are two main factors that he always puts into consideration.
1. Think of a good concept. “It’s usually a collaborative effort. Everyone just kinda sits down and see what we think is required, what we think is needed in terms of the Filipino food industry, what we personally love to do, what are we passionate about cooking and drinking or things like that, and from there we kind of finalize the concepts.”
2. Find the perfect location. “Well we opened a couple of restaurants last year one of them is called Sabao, a soup bar, and Baits, a seafood place, both very strong concepts but terrible location so those didn’t do very well so we shelved it for now, we closed the restaurants and keeping the concepts in the back burner. So for me, like in the Philippines, unfortunately we’d wanna say it’s all about creativity but at the end of the day it is very expensive to open a restaurant here, so the location is, for me, the one and only deciding factor because that determines your rent, that determines your food traffic, that determines everything because at the end of the day it’s still a business so it’s really important to look at the 'buyability' of the concept before going into it full-fledged.”
Currently, aside from the entire The Palace complex, Erwan has more or less 4-5 restaurants under his belt. Talking about what is the common denominator of all them, he says, "I think they’re all very now. They hit the needs of today, they all represent a part of me that I like to put forward and things that I saw that I want to have in the Philippines, and it just talks to not just a younger but a fresher generation. I think it’s a generation of collaborations, the millennials basically and we’re slowly the ones that are kind of coming out in the world."
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Banner photograph by Vyn Radovan. Inside photographs from Instagram.com/erwanheussaff. Videos from Youtube.com/thefatkidinside.