It was a full house for lunch last Friday at the opening of the “Masarap Nga! Meet and Eat” promo at Novotel’s Food Exchange Manila.
The nine-day event that runs until this Sunday, April 7, was the first of its kind—bringing together some of the foodie finds of Instagram star Masarap ba? (@masarapba) in one venue.
The funny and relatable person behind the Instagram account goes around the city incognito, sampling groceries, restaurant dishes and edible bazaar finds. These are then judged as either delicious (masarap) or not (hindi masarap).
Followers who label themselves as kakulto (cult member)—now numbering 235,000—go out and try out the finds for themselves, posting images on their own accounts and tagging Masarap ba? while they’re at it.
So, when the “meet and eat” was announced a few weeks ago, many of them made it a point to book a table at Novotel’s Food Exchange Manila, flashing a kakulto “badge” on their phone that entitled them to a five-percent discount.
The full house on opening day apparently wasn’t a fluke. “We’ve been filling tables almost 80 percent for both lunch and dinner daily since last week,” Erwin Doña, the hotel’s marketing communications director, told Lifestyle. Other diners have been using their BDO cards which entitle them to 40-percent off their meal.
Since many of the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) “discovered” by Masarap ba? sell food ingredients like chili oil, garlic chips and pork floss, their products were incorporated in dishes prepared by the hotel’s kitchen team.
The bottled tuyo (dried herring) of June Sanlao at Baguio-based Cheche’s Gourmet was flaked and used as topping on Pizza Napolitana, while her Pes-tuyo (pesto in gourmet tuyo) was mixed with pasta and presented as Fettuccini con Gamberi.
Another pasta dish was Aglio e Olio, given some pep with Daddy Mik’s garlic and chili crunch. The condiment sold in bazaars is cooked in minimal oil and is delicious sprinkled over rice, pizza, meat, soup or vegetables.
Ciara Lira of Tamagochips said that before the opening of the food promo, she and other suppliers were invited to sample the dishes whipped up by the hotel, and give their feedback. Their salted egg potato chips were crushed and crumbled, and reappeared in the spicy tuna rolls, prawn tempura, and a mixed salad as an option to traditional bread croutons.
All agree that the virtual stamp of approval they received from Masarap ba? has brought them the attention (and the Instagram followers) they would not have been able to muster on their own.
“We don’t have physical stores—we join some of the bazaars—so we receive inquiries and orders online,” Lira said. “The exposure on Masarap ba? has certainly helped boost business.”
The idea of going around incognito and ferreting out share-worthy finds is something unfamiliar to the Instagram generation. They all want fame and recognition, while Masarap ba? is happy just being in the background.
Fact: Masarap ba? did not receive any remuneration or commission for the event. The only request was that a portion of the proceeds goes to an animal charity. How’s that for novelty?