A buffet at Makati Shangri-La’s Circles or champagne and foie gras burger at Lusso can be enjoyed with less guilt. It’s got nothing to do with less calories or fats, but more to do with helping the underprivileged.
From Sept. 22 to 30, 36 restaurants will commit a percentage of their sales for a good cause.
An initiative of Style Media, publisher of Philippine Tatler, Charity Week is a yearly corporate social responsibility endeavor of select establishments featured in Tatler’s sister publication, Philippines’ Best Restaurants. This year’s beneficiary is the Virlanie Foundation, an NGO dedicated to protecting streetchildren and teaching them life skills, and its Mobile Unit outreach program.
Although Charity Week is a clever marketing tactic in promoting the restaurant guide book, it also makes people aware of NGOs who are holding a candle in the dark. Publisher Irene Martel Francisco’s philosophy is that a business that does good can also be good for business. Likewise, charity needs the wheels of business to bring hope.
The definitive guidebook is produced by all the Asian Tatlers in their respective countries. For the Philippines’ Best Restaurants mag, the establishments are evaluated by a panel of experts, led by special projects editor Mia Borromeo. The critics were given a standardized Tatler guideline, and they visited the restaurants unannounced. The compact reviews include ratings on ambience, food, wine and service.
The panel also named their best restaurants for tourists, wine lovers, vegetarians, steaks, al fresco, dating, buffets and Oriental cuisine. It even cited the five most popular home-made pastry businesses—from the kitchens of Yulo, an institution, to Roshan Samtani, all of whom are patronized by the Tatler crowd.
Oenophiles named the best wines of the year and recommendations for investments.
The latest edition has been redesigned to be more user-friendly, keeping in mind its target readers including foreigners. The reviews are organized alphabetically; however, they are also indexed by location and cuisine. It includes reviews of bars, maps and photos of signature dishes, and a brief profile of celebrity chefs.
Asked to quantify the Philippines Best Restaurants’ success, Francisco said although the sales are good, Style Media also gives out copies to top establishments.
“Sales aren’t the issue. It’s the goal of helping others through the book’s reach and involving restaurants in an activity that generates sales, too,” she said.
“The more people who eat in these restaurants, the more money will go to Virlanie. This is a business venture for the restaurants. We need to be viable for them as well, for them to succeed, so that they will do it again next year and we can help another beneficiary. ”
Francisco said the restaurants will write the check payable to Virlanie, which the publication will deliver to its founder and president, Dominique Lemay, a French social worker. The Mobile Unit is a van that goes to Divisoria everyday with a team of teachers, a nurse and a social worker. The children are taught their 3R’s.
In the past, the Mobile Unit has also brought malnourished children to a feeding program. Donations from Charity Week will serve 130 beneficiaries, 90 children and 40 adults. Last year, the Mobile Unit provided 8,800 meals.
Since Virlanie’s inception 19 years ago, it has helped more than13,500 children, some of whom have found jobs. Lemay said one of the challenges is winning the trust of the streetchildren so that they would take the responsibility to improve their lives. One of his most dramatic cases is Maribel, a child prostitute who became a pimp and was even called “Queen of the Streets.” As with many streetchildren, she would leave the halfway house and return to her old life. Nonetheless, she kept coming back.
“She felt loved here,” said Lemay. Today, she’s among the staff helping other waifs.
“I have hope, even if the child is difficult to manage,” said Lemay.
Most of Virlanie’s donors come from France and Switzerland. The most generous has been Princess Caroline of Monaco. She donates P14 million every year, which is a quarter of the foundation’s budget. Lemay said the projects also call for local support. Hence, Charity Week is an opportunity for Philippine restaurants and chefs to use their popularity to help others.
(Charity Week is sponsored by San Miguel Corporation. The participating restaurants are Aubergine, Azuthai, Banana Leaf, Café Ilang-Ilang, CAV Wine Shop-Café, Chef Jessie Rockwell Club, Cibo, Circles, Cru Steakhouse, Crystal Jade, Escolta, Felix, Indigo, Kai, Keizo, Kimpura, Kirin Chinese Dining, L’Entrecote, L’Incontro, Le Bistro Vert, LiLi, Lusso, Mabuhay Palace, Mamou, Masseto, Ninyo Fusion Cuisine, Opus Restaurant and Lounge, Palermo, People’s Palace Thai, Restaurante Pia Y Damaso, Sala, Sala Bistro, Sugi, Thai Patio, The Tivoli, Umu.)