Looks who’s cooking now! It’s none other than controversial fashion designer Puey Quiñones, who turned the first level of his rooftop pad at Bel-Air Place in Makati early this year into a dining venue for private parties.
Simply dubbed Puey’s Penthouse, Quiñones’ latest venture is at the corner of P. Burgos and Durban Streets. With its glass walls and a garden verandah, the sixth-story venue, which can accommodate up to 25 people for lunch and dinner, provides guests with a sweeping view of old Makati. (Call 0916-776-3098.)
“I can cater to as few as five people,” said Quiñones. “But they have to make reservations at least a week in advance because I myself do the marketing and cooking. For big groups, I require at least 50-percent down payment.”
Food and ambiance
We experienced Quiñones’ cooking and hospitality at a recent media appreciation lunch hosted by PSBank, led by its president, Pascual Garcia III.
“I’ve been here with a smaller group from PSBank, and I love the food and the ambiance,” said Garcia. “My staff and I thought of sharing the experience with you.”
Assisting Quiñones is a small staff of cooks and waiters in crisp white shirts and dark pants. Sometimes, even his parents help out in the kitchen.
Guests have three set menus to choose from: Pinoy set; Continental set; and Samar set (Quiñones hails from Samar).
Our PSBank hosts chose the Samar set, which included crispy dilis; bulalo soup; salted-egg salad with fresh lettuce and four kinds of vinegar; Samar-style laing, adobo with truffle oil and sans soy sauce; and pork humba, which is based on a recipe handed down by Quiñones’ grandmother.
“The crispy dilis, which I serve as appetizer, is a personal favorite,” said Quiñones. “You can find that variety only in Samar. I used to have it almost every day with fried rice and eggs for breakfast.”
Quiñones, 32, said he loved cooking even as he was growing up in Samar. Now, apart from sporting cropped hair, he has also ditched his gender-bending skirts in favor of a white chef’s uniform without the toque.
To supplement his homegrown knowledge, he’s taking up culinary arts as a scholar at the Global City Innovative College in Taguig.
“I’m done with wearing skirts,” Quiñones said with a wink. “I don’t go out at night to parties anymore.”
There was a time, not too long ago, when the flamboyant designer did the party scene almost every night. After encountering a bump in his career last year, he slowed down, withdrew from the social scene and retreated to Samar for a month.
“I was all set to start life anew in the States, but I changed my mind. I was deep in debt, and I didn’t want people to say that I was running away from my obligations,” he said.
Quiñones’ trouble started when he was caught passing off an RTW suit as his own to a client. The guy and his then fiancée tapped the designer to do their wedding outfits.
He was forced to resort to shortcuts, Quiñones said, because he was pressed for time. All those all-nighters were wreaking havoc on his schedule.
“The guy originally ordered a two-button jacket, but when he saw the finished product, he changed his mind and wanted a one-button jacket instead,” he said. “I should have said no, but I couldn’t.”
The practice, which no one in the made-to-order industry would naturally admit to, is called retagging. Unknown to Quiñones, the jacket came with an incriminating label hidden inside one of its inner pockets.
“It was the first time I did it, and I got caught,” he claimed.
“I had no one to blame but myself,” he said. “I was devastated, but at the same time, I knew I wouldn’t go hungry. I’m not afraid to lose everything. I know what it was like to be poor.”
Just when he was about to pack his bags for the US, his then good friend and business partner Andrew Rivera thought of the idea of turning part of Quiñones’ place into a private dining venue.
Private dining venue
“He knew I could cook,” he said. “It wasn’t such a bad idea so I said yes. We started the business last March, but Andrew had to suddenly leave in July to work in Singapore. I decided to continue the venture.”
Friends and former mentors like designers Lulu Tan Gan and fellow Waray Dennis Lustico have been to his place to sample his food. A number of Quiñones’ fashion clients have also made reservations.
Quiñones’ hard-partying days may be over, but he hasn’t turned his back on designing. His shop, including a downsized production area, is on the second level of place.
“They’re really happy for me,” he said of his longtime friends and customers. “At the same time, by word of mouth, I’m winning new clients to try my food. The money I earn from this venture may not be as big compared to what I used to earn making clothes, but I’ve never been happier.”