Gaita Fores (left) smiles at Singaporean chef Malcolm Lee as he delivers a short message during the launch of the new Ascott serviced residence in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. The two collaborated to prepare a Peranakan meal for guests at the launch. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – Margarita “Gaita” Fores, the woman behind notable concepts such as Cibo, Lusso and Grace Park, has ventured into the hotel restaurant scene after 27 years in the industry.
Singapore-based Ascott has tapped Fores to helm Alta, which is located at the company’s newest serviced residence at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. The restaurant, which is set to be launched within the month, will have a diverse menu to cater to Ascott’s international clientele.
Fores sat down with ABS-CBNnews.com to share her thoughts about her newest venture, the local restaurant scene, and how Filipino cuisine is gaining ground across the globe.
Q: What is the concept behind Alta?
A: Basically it’s a venue for the market of the hotel, plus some corporate dining. The base of the menu will be more on modern Italian and continental. But because it’s in a location like Ascott, we will also highlight a very tight Asian menu that supplements the modern European items.
I will highlight a lot of things I’ve done with Italian food… but I also want to have a strong Asian menu because the clientele of Ascott is really from the Asia Pacific region. And when you do a hotel or serviced apartment concept, you really have to have a balance, and the cuisine needs to be a bit more global.
Peranakan and Filipino influences come together in this delicious dish by Fores and Lee which contains steamed lapu-lapu, tiger prawns and otah, a grilled fish cake. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
For lunch or dinner, it will be an a la carte selection. But for breakfast, when there’s a large enough crowd, we will be doing a buffet with my own touch. Price points will be medium, kind of… maybe like Cibo, or a little bit higher. It’s perfect for the business community in the area.
It’s also my first foray into this part of the food industry. I’m excited to get myself into this.
Q: Why Alta? What is the story behind the restaurant’s name?
A: The principals here and I thought of something short, but also kind of suggest my background and the work that I’ve been doing. And also partly, because it’s on an upper floor.
But I think that it is also a good kind of description of what the Ascott brand stands for. The co-branding, my teaming up with them… I think if it works out, it will be a good way to describe what we’re looking forward to doing here.
Alta is a result of a partnership between Ascott and Fores. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Q: Is this the start of a long-term partnership with Ascott? Are there already plans for you to set up restaurants in other Ascott properties in Manila?
A: Well, I told them that we’ll strengthen this one and when that happens, we’ll think of doing it with other properties. I love Singapore and now, having this partnership with a Singaporean brand, I’m looking forward to hopefully doing more things [with Ascott] later on.
Q: Were you given full reign over Alta’s menu?
A: Yes, pretty much. As long as we service the requirements of the hotel and we do it along the lines of what Ascott normally does around the world, it’s okay with them. They’ve given me pretty much carte blanche, to make my personal mark on what we’re doing here.
Q: Will Alta officially open to the public this Christmas season?
A: We’re soft opening the all-day menu, but we’ve been servicing the hotel for two weeks now. It’s really very new and we love the space… The part that we’re really looking forward to is with the catering business because we will have our own venue upstairs, the 200-seater ballroom plus a lot of other open spaces in the property.
I’m also really looking forward to working with the bar concept at the pool and to service the clients of the hotel with the room service, the ones who are lazy to cook.
A bar, also helmed by Fores, will soon be put up near Ascott BGC’s pool area. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Q: Aside from Alta, are there other new concepts that you are currently working on?
A: In Taguig City, not yet. But soon, Cibo may be opening in one of the properties here. We’re looking forward to that. But as far as other new concepts, I’m good with Grace Park, Lusso and Cibo, and making those strong.
Q: Can you share some of your thoughts about Manila’s restaurant scene?
A: It’s gotten really vibrant and for those of us who have been in the industry for quite some time – I mean, I’m on my 27th year – there are always a lot of stuff to learn. It’s become really exciting to see a lot of strong foreign brands come to Manila. Everybody knows that people believe in the market, and that the economy is strong. It says a lot about the way the future of our country is looking.
I think the food industry is one of the best examples of how strong the economy is, and how we can look forward to a lot more in the years to come.
Q: What do you think are the food trends that will shape the industry in 2015?
A: I think that the focus on using really good and clean ingredients that have been grown in a very fair way, I think that’s still strong, like the trend last year. That’s one of the reasons why I opened Grace Park. I think that more and more, it’s becoming a stronger advocacy with a lot of restaurant owners, so it’s really nice.
Aside from that, I think that globally, what’s really interesting to see is that everybody’s starting to love Filipino food. I’m quite happy to see how the market in New York has taken so strongly to Filipino food. It’s getting a lot of buzz not only in the United States but in other areas because we have such a huge community of kababayans that are working abroad. We’ve always been a strong presence in everybody’s kitchens, whether it’s in Italy or in other places.
Maybe 2015 will really be the year of Filipino cuisine all over the world. I think we’re getting a lot, lot more evidence on that. Even in Manila, actually, you see a lot more people doing concepts that are proudly Filipino, which is great. Back then, we wouldn’t know where to take foreign friends and now, there’s a large number of choices at all price points.