Tuesday, December 16, 2008


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Monday, December 15, 2008

A Fistful of Salt

Having been accustomed to the stiff competition among lechon businesses in Metro Cebu, I was trained to always be on my toes for whatever new developments my competitors are concocting. Though most of them are my friends, when it comes to business we have this healthy competition where we try to outdo one another--from ingredients, presentation, and down to customer service. Our business did have a good chunk of the market: locals, from neighboring provinces, from Metro Manila and even abroad.

But now that I am here in Metro Manila, the business climate is different from what I have been used to; here, it's about the authenticity of our recipe on top of penetrating the market.

Being a newbie in the metro gave me a new challenge to prove to our clients that we are a legitimate company and that we are indeed Cebuanos offering real Cebu lechon. Some clients would even ask us to speak in vernacular just to prove our claim. We do take that in stride though since we know that a new player in the market has to work double hard to make his company reliable and credible to the public.

Presently, we have a tie-up with one La Loma lechon house to grill our lechon for a fee. That lechon house is one of the top 5 biggest lechon companies in the area. They have a big and clean slaughter house which gets a regular visit from the Department of Health, since each meat is duly inspected for the protection of the consumers.

For each order, we at Manong's Lechon Cebu would meticulously go to Divisoria daily (without fail) around 8PM to catch the first arrival of ingredients from several sources coming from different provinces.

We then prepare the bought ingredients and make sure that correct proportions are made since a slight deviation would greatly affect the taste of a Cebu lechon. We then pack the prepared ingredients in color coded containers depending on the size of the order. Each order would take us an average of 40 mins to prepare the ingredients alone since we make sure that all ingredients are properly washed and are free from any unwanted elements.

In contrast, for companies selling regular lechon such as those in La Loma, they need not go through all the trouble that we have to go through. Their recipes are just simple and basic; just with some seasonings that even the butchers and helpers know about.

Many lechon houses would claim that their ingredients are well thought of. But I always question this since their ingredients are composed only of salt, MSG and bits and pieces of pepper corn and garlic. But I have to admit though that this is slightly better than some companies who just use nothing but plain salt to jazz up their lechon. Now I know why most lechon in Metro Manila needs sauce. This is to compensate for the lack of taste of an almost "unflavored" regular lechon.

There was one time when I saw one of the butchers there grab just a fistful of salt and rubbed it on the pig's belly and did nothing else to flavor it. This was clearly a surprise since for the same size of the pig he was working on, I would have used more than just a fistful of salt in accordance to our recipe.

I then figured out that these lechon companies can make or maybe even pay people to do Cebu lechon, but they opt not to since they are already selling a lot. It amazes me that despite the current economic situation of our country, top lechon players in La Loma could still command a sale of 50 pcs of lechon on regular days and a whooping 400-1000 pcs a day during the holiday season. And if they will do Cebu lechon just like ours, they wont have the time to deal with all the intricacies involved.

A friend of mine challenged me that if my company becomes big, I might forget doing Cebu lechon and opt for the kind of ingredients which most people from La Loma are doing. I made a promise to myself though that no matter what happens, quality will never be overlooked. Quality will take me places and put me to greatness, and it's just fair that I should maintain it.

Sometimes, a fistful isn't worth your salt.