The Next Big Food Entrepreneurs: The Four Big Winners @MercatoCentrale

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos and Video by JR Velasquez 

Overall Winner

Mercato Centrale, the country’s premier chain of food markets, has served as a launch pad for a plethora of successful food establishments, such as Manang’s Chicken, Spring and Chuck’s Grub among others. Recently, it held a competition for budding food entrepreneurs, doling out a much needed avenue for them to flesh out their gastronomic ideas: The Next Big Food Entrepreneur (NBFE). 

This year’s roster of participants, coming up with a diverse lineup of savory delights and desserts, were given an opportunity to showcase their food creations and test the market, and many of them were able to leave good impressions to the buying public. In joining the Next Big Food Entrepreneur, everyone’s a winner; however, in the spirit of competition, there were four that stood out.

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

Watch this video of The Next Big Food Entrepreneur’s Awarding Night at Mercato Centrale:


BAKMI NYONYA (Overall Winner, People’s Choice, Best in Innovation)Bakmi Noodles

Emerging as the overall winner of The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, Bakmi Nyonya impressed both the judges and the buying public with their take on Indonesian food – they serve Indonesian noodles topped with mushrooms, herbs, spices and one’s choice between beef, pork and seafood.  

Complementing the noodles are servings of large shrimp dumplings and spiced rice topped with spice sambal. According to Bakmi Nyonya’s co-owner, Gershwin Garcia, they are working with the different layers of flavor, each one being a vital component to one central taste.  

“What’s startling about our noodles is that the overall flavor changes whenever different kinds of toppings are added,” explains Gershwin. “Our bakmi goes well with almost every entrée.” He went on to narrate animatedly how a fellow TNBFE participant’s dish, adobong pusit, perfectly blended with his bakmi noodles.

Read More: BAKMI NYONYA: Best Indonesian Cuisine in Manila! 

Facebook: BAKMI Nyonya
Twitter: @bakminyonya 
Telephone: +63 925 870-8899


BIGOROTS (Best in Savoury)

Bigorots 2

Triumph and having a keen eye for detail are the keys to success for Benguet band vocalist, JR Royol. After all, stringing together words for songs and meticulously minding the taste of cooked dishes are never easy tasks. Royol, however, isn’t one to back down from a challenge, and that challenge required him to trade the microphone for cooking equipment for a while and come up with an array of cuisines based on his roots in Benguet and his sheer love for food. 

Prior to joining and winning “Master Chef Pinoy Edition,” Royol has got the Sous-vide method of cooking down pat, and wound up developing yummy dishes, such as the YOLO Humba and his own version of Chicken Pinikpikan (which he proudly calls “Perfect Cooked Chicken”). He has been eying Mercato for a long time, since he views it as a makeshift R&D department for his cooking.

Upon knowing about The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, joining the competition is a rather easy decision.  “Paying customers have no bias; in fact, unbiased feedback is sometimes better than sales,” explains Royol. This line of thinking combined with his succulent creations made him an early favorite to win the competition. 

Read More: BIGOROTS: Bicol + Igorot Heritage Cuisine by Pinoy Master Chef JR Royol! 

Facebook: BIGOROTs
Instagram: @jrroyol 



Turonne De Manila

Who would’ve thought that a regular afternoon snack such as turon could be tweaked and stylized to become an artisanal meal? Danz Semilla, a food enthusiast, didn’t think of it as a possibility, at first. It just so happened that the game of chance landed on his lap, literally, when he had an extra portion of cookies & cream-flavored butter cream and a saucer of turon. 

Creative juices were churned out of Semilla’s mind, as he imagined how the seemingly odd pair would taste like, and alas, he stumbled upon a good idea. Upon mixing turon and butter cream, his taste buds were entranced, so much so that he started building on the idea, taking into account his love for eclairs and turon as well as the unyielding charm of artisanal desserts. The rest is proverbial history. He, then, thought of opening a food store.

Snacking on his new creation, as it happened, was not enough. In truth, Lady Luck would again dab her meddling fingers into Semilla’s life one day while he was going through Facebook. He chanced up on ad for The Next Big Food Entrepreneur at a time when Mercato was nearly done taking in all the participants for the competition. 

Read More: TURONNE DE MANILA CAFE: Best Pinoy Dessert Innovation! 

Turonne de Manila
Facebook: Turonne de Manila Cafe  
Telephone: +63 927 660-8705
Mobile: +632 842-3680 


HUNGER BUSTER (Best in Marketing and Technology)

Hunger Buster 2

College is the breeding ground of young entrepreneurs, as students learn the fundamentals on how to come up with a business concept and make its products quite tempting to its target market. Such is the case with Erika Cantor and her friends, owners of the burger booth Hunger Buster. A refined and classy lady, not a lot of people would suspect Cantor as a purveyor of grilled delights in Ateneo de Manila. Well, in this case, big surprises can come in stylish packages. And Hunger Buster’s burgers do pack a wallop in taste and value for money.

Hunger Buster started as a business idea in a class in Ateneo wherein participants are supposed to put up a small business and sell items to students, faculty and other customers. Cantor and her friends – Kenneth Chan, Eries Chan, Brett Monsanto and JC Carlos – unlike the average college slacker, saw this as a challenge not just to get good grades, but to actually make it big on the business front. 

Read More: HUNGER BUSTER: Best Affordable Gourmet Burgers in Manila!

Facebook: Hunger Buster 
Twitter: @hungerbusterph 
Instagram: @hungerbusterph 


The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

Live an Awesome Life,


Disclosures: OAP is a co-founder of Mercato Centrale and The Next Big Food Entrepreneur. 

P.S. Thank you to our sponsors for The Next Big Food Entrepreneur 2014 competition!

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