For Chef Glenn Villacin of Iligan City, food is not just a means to satisfy hunger. It’s also something that should represent emerging cultures so people can relate to it in some way because of its universality.

This was why he decided to start his food businesses, which he called the Kogi-Yah Yakiniku Bar, and Ramen-yah Japanese Noodle and Bento.

But he learned recently that even though he’s passionate about culinary arts, the unexpected can still happen. And if you are not ready to fight for your dreams, it could extinguish the fire of passion in your heart.

Blazing Background

Chef Glenn started his culinary journey with a barbecue station, a lechon house, and then a restaurant — all while still in college.

Upon graduation, he joined one of the largest corporations in the country, working on a job unrelated to his passion.

But something stirred within Chef Glenn. He felt that corporate work does not inspire his spirit. He decided to go to Japan and work in a bento box factory that supplies convenience stores with lunch boxes. He stayed there for a decade and accumulated the necessary experience to feed his true passion.

This experience prompted him to start Ramen-Yah! Japanese Noodle and Bento Restaurant in his hometown of Iligan City, Philippines, in 2013.

He noticed that the Korean culture is widely accepted in the Philippines, so he felt it would be an excellent concept to merge two east Asian traditions through culinary fusion.

“I’ve noticed some similarities in Korean and Japanese cuisine. Since I love shabu-shabu (hot pot dish), I thought of opening a restaurant that serves one,” he commented.

Glenn opened the Kogi-Yah Yakiniku Bar in 2018, which fuses the culinary traditions of both cultures. The restaurant offers popular oriental food such as samgyeopsal (a grilled dish), ramen (noodle soup), and sushi (cooked rice topped or wrapped with other ingredients).

Rising from the Covid-19 Crisis

However, in March 2020, Glenn was not exempt from the difficulties that confronted many other entrepreneurs in the country — the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s saddening but we had to let go of our staff. I even had an outstanding loan that I had to pay so it was very hard for me,” he recalled.

The pandemic may hurt the economy, but our Iligan City’s fusion chef refused to put his apron down and close his restaurant.

Glenn realized that they could continue their operations by relying on delivery services alone. He then utilized his restaurant’s social media presence to let his customers know that they are open and available for delivery.

But Glenn quickly realized that innovation was not enough to keep his business afloat. He needed assistance to restart his business and get back on track. Thankfully, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was there to provide support through a livelihood kit.

While he was struggling to keep his business afloat, he still took time to participate in DTI’s Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) program.

“Through KMME, I’ve learned the importance of knowing my business well, how to manage my people effectively, and find ways for an entrepreneur to entice people in getting to know one’s business,” he expressed.

Glenn strengthened his products’ quality control, something that one of the KMME mentors recommended, especially since he is engaged in food delivery.

While other entrepreneurs continued to suffer the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Glenn’s business has now recovered, with six employees backing all his ventures.

While he was just barely surviving with a PhP1,000.00 per day revenue in Kogi-Yah Yakiniku Bar before, his daily revenue has now reached an average of PhP4,000.00 per day thanks to his innovation and willingness to adapt to change.

“Be updated with government policies since it has a huge economic impact. If customers are no longer coming, try to diversify your product or change your concept. Innovate, adjust, and diversify.”

Despite having problems of his own during the height of the pandemic, he provided assistance packages to people around him, especially his staff. He gave food packets to frontliners and representatives of IHARRA (Iligan Hotels & Resorts Restaurants Association), where he is also the president-elect, demonstrating his blazing Bayanihan spirit.

Mouthwatering Mission for the Future

Despite the challenges, Chef Glenn remains positive and continues to explore ways to improve his restaurant business. His love for cooking and providing good food to others is what drives him to continue serving the people of Iligan City with delicious fusion dishes.

Glenn intends to branch out in Cagayan de Oro City and increase brand recognition for his new processed food business. He feels that continuous improvement and setting oneself apart from the competition can keep any business afloat during tough times. One thing is for sure, Chef Glenn Villacin did not just fuse culinary dishes; he also fused determination and passion to rise up from difficulties and come out victorious. ♦