MANILA, PHILIPPINES — He may have designed structures that have kept people safe, but for him, nothing is more fulfilling than delighting people with his culinary creations.
Mon Cabsag is an architect by profession, having worked in several design firms and various freelance projects for years. In August 2020, he finally had the courage to go after his dream: start a food business.
“Cooking is the second great love of my life here on earth, the first is my wife. Even before my wife and I got married, we already had this dream that one day we will have our own restaurant,” he said.
This great love for cooking allowed him to open a small online business The Bistro Box, which initially served gourmet baked goods at the height of the pandemic when most people had been staying at home because of the strict lockdowns. Some of their offerings include Chocolate Swirl Buns and Burnt Basque Cheesecake with Maraschino Cherries, which they whip up using basic baking equipment. Now Mon’s online food business has expanded its menu to offer Caramelized Chicken Adobo, Salisbury Steak, Hickory Pork Liempo, Sweet Ham and Longganisa Carbonara, and Adobo Flakes in a jar.
Mon’s calling in the kitchen has led him straight to Pinoy Dream Negosyo by Viber, where he was recently named the grand winner after besting fellow foodpreneurs in the final cookoff. His winning recipe is an innovative take on nilupak, a Filipino rice cake made using cassava as its base.
For his own version of this Pinoy delicacy, he combined the cassava with nata de coco, mung beans, sugar, condensed milk, and ube, ultimately wowing the judges with a dessert that combines creamy nilupak texture with the flavors of halo-halo. His dish was assessed by Rakuten Viber’s Business Development Manager Veronica Feleo, journalist Ruth Navarra-Mayo who’s also an avid homecook, and restaurateur and celebrity chef Gerick Manalo who has worked in top hotels like Sofitel Philippine Plaza and Diamond Hotel Philippines. One of the judges even mentioned that his entry reminded her of her childhood.
“I was so happy when they named me as the winner. I felt like I was floating. All of the contestants did great, so there was a really big chance that they could have won,” Mon shared. “But I just hoped for the best, knowing that I gave my best like what I did in the previous challenges. The first thing I did when my name was mentioned as the grand winner was to look up and smile saying, ‘We did it, God!’”
Because of his halo-halo style nilupak, he got to bring home the major cash prize and other gifts from Viber’s partners. Mon explained that his winnings will allow him to upgrade his baking equipment and serve their customers better.
Viber, the leading messaging and conversational commerce app, had launched Pinoy Dream Negosyo to empower Pinoy micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to launch a business or scale their side hustles up. As a kickstarter, it aims to open bigger opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to share their journey and at the same time acquire the right knowledge and tools to make their business goals a reality.
Mon is one of the small online entrepreneurs that used Viber to reach out to a wider audience amid a pandemic that forced people to stay at home. He joined the app’s FoodPH channel that connects food businesses with foodies. “Viber is a powerful messaging app used not just to send messages, but also to be connected into a community. In my case, Viber is maximizing my chances to sell my products and do online transactions with people in the comforts of their home,” he explained.
Mon also emphasized that apart from having another platform to sell his products, FoodPH is also a place where anyone can share their passion for food by exchanging recipes and cooking tips and tricks, which eventually inspired him to create more food videos and content. “The heart of FoodPH is the members’ passion for food and sharing food ideas. FoodPH was on my mind when I developed my halo-halo style nilupak— that anyone can make this recipe even though they aren’t expert cooks.”
When Viber announced that it’d organize Pinoy Dream Negosyo to further support MSMEs, Mon grabbed the opportunity right away and signed up. Before reaching the final cookoff, he had to go through a 3- course online challenge. The first one entailed them to incorporate mango as the main ingredient to one of their existing products or specialties. The next challenge gauged their budget skills as they were required to create dessert for only Php100. Finally, they were tasked to showcase how they’re future proofing their business by using sustainable packaging for their products.
“I just thought I needed to embrace the chance Viber is offering to small business owners like me. Viber is a good platform that’s been championing foodpreneurs like me achieve business success,” Mon underlined.
“Participating in the challenges made me feel empowered, allowing me to push myself beyond my limits as an entrepreneur. I knew that by joining Pinoy Dream Negosyo, I have learned a lot of things that can help me reach my dream of serving my dishes to as many people as possible.”
Join the FoodPH channel on Viber for more details.