It’s strange how life pushes us to meet people we’ll have connections with eventually. Like the person you bumped into at Starbucks happened to be at the same job interview you’re headed to. Or your high school classmate’s brother might just be your next boss.
Take Cibbie Gonzales, 27, and Samantha Ty, 26, as an example. The story of their partnership started at the International Culinary Center (formerly known as the French Culinary Institute) in New York. The two aspiring chefs met through a common friend while studying culinary and pastries, respectively. Little did they know that years after, they’d be sharing a space for their own restaurants.
After Cibbie’s 10-month stay in New York, he came back to Manila confused by what to do with his new culinary degree. Should he help out in the family business? Or should he just do his own thing and create a restaurant? Finding his answer lead him to a series of trial error.
When he got back to Manila, he experimented with the fresh produce he got from their farm. “I started selling from the house, through friends, neighbors, family friends. In a way, I was able to test my market,” he says. After successfully creating affordable salad combinations, he eventually brought it outside his home. In April 2013, the first ever Go! Salads branch opened in Katipunan. “We want to promote healthy living for everybody. Most Filipinos’ concept of veggies is sautéed or fried. We wanted to bring something raw and fresh into the market.”
From fresh salads like the Peachy Traveler (peaches, almonds, raisins salad in vinaigrette) and Sgt. Steak (mushrooms and steak salad in chimichurri dressing) to sandwiches and smoothies Go! Salads make healthy eating accessible and affordable.
Sam’s Salt Bakery story started just like Cibbie’s. Baking has been her hobby since college. During a post-college job fair, Sam recalls: “I wasn’t set on what my career should be. After college, I thought that I really liked being in the kitchen.” So she took a course in New York, which eventually led her to meeting Cibbie.
After finishing her degree in New York, she returned to Manila and tried working in a hotel. “I didn’t really enjoy it. I thought I could do more so that’s why I started being a home baker.” From the crowd favorite Salted Egg Custard Cupcake to the Royal Tenenbaums-inspired red velvet cake Chaz, her pastries were a hit in bazaars. “People would ask me if I have a shop already. My line up was enough for a small shop so I decided that it was time.” At that time, Cibbie already have the space in Katipunan and he offered the other half of the space to Sam. “I was kind of looking around but I wasn’t intensely looking around. So he presented it, I took it as a sign.”
“It’s important to have a good concept and a really good location. You have to adapt to changes and rookie mistakes is important,’ Cibbie says.
Salt Bakery and Go! Salads have been sharing the space since February 2015. For some, it might seem a bit strange to have a healthy restaurant and a bakeshop selling side by side. But think of it this way: you ate your greens, so you’ll have space for dessert after. “It gives you a reason to treat yourself after eating something healthy,” Cibbie adds.
The two restaurants’ dynamic isn’t competitive; it’s complementary. And the same can be said for Cibbie and Sam’s working and personal relationship. They value each other’s opinions and they even let the other help out in developing new recipes for their restaurants. “The trust is there because you already know the person. I guess that goes for almost anything,’ Cibbie says.
Operating a restaurant is never easy, and doing it in your 20s is much harder. But the two seemed to have figured it out already. “It’s important to have a good concept and a really good location. You have to adapt to changes and rookie mistakes is important,’ Cibbie says. “Pick something you like to do. Not everything will be on a high. There are so many lows. If you go through that phase, the only thing pushing you would be your passion,” Sam adds.
An idea, passion and, in Cibbie and Sam’s case, someone to nudge you in the best direction are all you need to succeed in business. After all, we get by with a little help of our friends.