From fresh anchovies to its popular pork belly, this organic resto surprises | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

FIVE-SPICE fresh marlin with mango salsa
FIVE-SPICE fresh marlin with mango salsa
FIVE-SPICE fresh marlin with mango salsa


Along the trendy restaurant row in Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig, a French-Caribbean-inspired restaurant tries to be unconventional while promoting health.


Open Kitchen by 48 Concepts eschews anything from the can, along with highly processed foods, vegetable oil, MSG and the microwave oven. On its first year, it even snubbed cheese.


“We don’t use the usual foie gras, truffle and bacon. They’re too safe,” says 30-year-old chef-owner Miguel Pacheco.


The crux of its cooking is healthy without the usual gob. For instance, while other restaurants cook a dry roast chicken smothered in sauce, the Open Kitchen’s chicken breast is pan-roasted, oozing in its juices.


“It’s not a battery chicken. I visit the farms to inspect our sources,” says Pacheco.


For vegetarians, Open Kitchen can whip up a five-course meal that is not on the menu.


Being in the restaurant business has given Pacheco a sense of purpose. “As long as you have a goal and family and friends who care, that will keep you out of trouble. At the end of the day, what makes you happy is sharing that happiness with others.”


He spent his teen years in drugs-induced stupor. He recovered without having to undergo treatment, by assuming responsibility for his behavior.


Young and foolish


At 13, he was puffing drags of marijuana and taking the “party drugs”—cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms, downers and banned drugs.

MIGUEL Pacheco: “Our food is about texture and three-flavor harmonies.”
MIGUEL Pacheco: “Our food is about texture and three-flavor


“I was young and foolish. All I cared about were friends, partying and girls,” he recalls. “Like any other kid, college was a party. I went to the College of Saint Benilde, but it was less of studies and more clubs and drugs here and there.”


Drugs came easily, even more when he was part of a music crew as a rapper, percussionist and sax player.


Asked why kids from well-to-do families do substance abuse, Pacheco explains the obvious: “Because they have nothing to worry about. It’s called ‘rich kids’ problems’… Experiment with things you’ve never done that would probably enhance your imagination and stimulate your senses. That’s why people do stupid things.”


Ironically, Pacheco came from a conservative family. Unlike his friends who were pampered with big birthday bashes and gifted with cars or cash, he was taught to take public transportation and live simply. He wasn’t allowed to drink soda or eat bacon. The most difficult part of growing up was having a curfew while his friends partied all night. Pacheco would then sneak out of the house and come home at 9 a.m. while his father was having breakfast.


His substance abuse was born out of nonconformity. “When you’re not allowed to do something, it’s more fun to bend the rules,” he says.


Unconditional support


Family engagement, keeping open lines of communication and unconditional support helped him recover quickly.


The second of four sons, Pacheco was fortunate that his three brothers were committed to help him overcome his addiction.


“I didn’t want to go to rehab. I have friends who went for a week there and came out as crackheads,” he says. “If someone messes up among us brothers, the three would say, ‘Hey, man, you’re not doing the right thing. We are here for you.’ When you’re young, you are careless. As you get older, you realize that the things you do will affect the other people around you.”


At 22, Pacheco had a light bulb moment. He couldn’t be a bum anymore. He needed to develop skills to earn a living.


While in Singapore, he confessed to his father all his misdeeds and revealed that he had secretly applied for culinary studies at the Art Institute of Vancouver in Canada.


Since taking up culinary courses abroad, he has remained sober and clean.


Pacheco adds that fending for himself abroad and working in a French bistro was a humbling experience. Although he was a garde manger, he washed the dishes and did menial jobs.


Leadership skills


When he returned to the Philippines, he helped open the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) Kitchen in Eastwood and discovered his leadership skills. However, cooking by bulk didn’t attract him. He longed to return to artisanal cuisine.


Upon a friend’s recommendation, Pacheco worked in an award-winning restaurant in Bermuda called Harry’s, famous for steaks and innovative menu using organic ingredients. The restaurant challenged him to push the envelope.


“I did baby octopus with ginger pear sorbet and a cactus salad. We also played with black ginger,” says Pacheco.


Back home, he tried being an entrepreneur. With his earnings from his Bermuda stint and interests from his investments in the stock market, Pacheco and his friends put up the Open Kitchen by 48 Concepts, a restaurant with an organic bent.


Its name is derived from the one-wall open kitchen design that invites guests to see how food is prepared in a sanitary environment.


Freshest produce


SAUTÉED portobello on a roasted tomato, platedwith bits of pan cubano and basil
SAUTÉED portobello on a roasted tomato, platedwith bits of
pan cubano and basil

Open Kitchen uses fresh produce, fish from the deep sea and meat from animals raised without antibiotics and artificial feeds. It substitutes red pepper sauce for ketchup and mustard aioli for mayonnaise.


The restaurant produces its bacon and anchovies.


“Our bestseller is pork belly. The pork is still bleeding when it arrives. Our ground beef is the reddest and is chunkier,” says Pacheco.


Other restaurants offer dark anchovies from the can, but Open Kitchen’s anchovies are fresh and white.


“We brine our anchovies that come from the sea. When the fishermen catch the big fish, the little anchovies surface,” says Pacheco.


The herbs are picked from the garden just before cooking to maintain their intense flavors.


The chefs apply classic French techniques and experiment with tropical touches of fruit.




PAN-CRUSTED portobello mushroom tartar
PAN-CRUSTED portobello mushroom tartar

Pacheco advocates juices to aid in digestion. Freshly extracted from the juicer, the pineapple-kale juice comes with a saucer of grilled pineapple on a bed of kale. The watermelon juice is infused with tarragon, while the vitamin-C rich calamansi drink is spiked with anti-inflammatory ginger.


Instead of the usual pumpkin soup with cream, Open Kitchen serves a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream and slivered almonds, poured with steaming pumpkin soup. It’s a play on hot and cold textures.


The salad is a colorful medley of wild fern, red endive, red cabbage and green lettuce, with the tartness of strawberry, the sweetness of mango and the crunch of almond. The next course is sautéed portobello on a roasted tomato, artfully plated with bits of pan cubano and basil from the garden.


The main course is the delicate, five-spice marlin with a rouille of red pepper, bok choy, roasted tomato, sugar beets, kale and sweet potato. The vegetarian option is the homemade pasta with brown butter for a nutty flavor, with arugula, lemon juice, herbs and almonds.


The desserts can be as healthy as fresh fruit, with mint plucked from the bush or sinful selections such as salted caramel cheesecake and chocolate grappa brullee with almonds and strawberries.


Pacheco credits the creative menu to his team: sous chef Alan Asuncion, chef de partie Stephen Gelacio and garde manger Bryan Alejandro.


“For us, to experience something new is amazing. That is what this all about,” he says.”


Open Kitchen by 48 Concepts is at 71B East Capitol Drive, Pasig City; tel. 0917-5548517.

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