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Local Noms: KURIKIPU

We at What’s a Geek love our food, and we’d love to interview more groups like Kurikipu. If you’ve got your own business or if you want to recommend a place that we should check out, contact us! We can work something out.

Casa Gonzales is tucked away somewhere between Cainta and Antipolo, and it has become the kitchen/laboratory of Kurikipu. Bea greeted us the moment we came around, looking Beyond Stressed. Turns out that after she and Nishi Candelaria – her business partner and boyfriend of two years, four months and counting – had woken up at Bumfuck Early O’Clock to go to the market and buy what they needed for today’s taste testing and interview, the oven had decided to break down. That meant that they were going to end up using the toaster to prepare the entire spread they had planned out for us.

We’ll just lay it out here straight: their stuff was compromised by a crappy oven, and it STILL tasted great.

Originally founded by four members, Kurikipu now runs solely on the drive and tenacity of Bea and Nishi. They use Facebook as their portal for taking orders and offering their catering services. They’ve also been to a few bazaars, and plan on going to more in the future. We interviewed them after the taste testing, and have included some of their answers below.

For the curious we DID ask them what Kurikipu means, and while we know NOW, we’ve promised not to tell anyone. Try asking the owners themselves someday! Be warned: it may involve parrots and epic shonen journeys in Japanese restaurants.

Pam: Okay, so what made you guys interested in starting Kurikipu in the first place?

Bea: I really wanted to start like some version of Xocolat with really good food, and I had this idea that it would be in Katip. I wanted a place where people could drink, and eat, and studyBack when I was in college, I really wanted that. After… doing hours of work, I just wanted a chill beer after, and not have to move from where I am.

So when I pitched it to RJ {one of the former founders of Kurikipu} and Nishi, they were interested. We really wanted something that could use all of the things that we wanted out of our college lives that we wish we had in Katip. Super good food, really good drinks…

Pam: You mentioned, specifically, Xocolat. What is it about that restaurant that really made you decide to make it your peg?

Nishi: It feels homey at the same time… it’s very open-air, how the design is. It really feels like you’re in a house.

Mike: And it is an actual house, so.

Pam: And there’s a lack of that sort of place in the Katipunan area. A homey bar.

Mike: You’d expect that there would be more considering the culture that Ateneans have, like. It’s as much drinking loudly as it is studying silently.

Pam, Rika, & Noey: And drinking.

 

Masmaras Pasta, from Kurikipu
Masmaras Pasta, from Kurikipu. Inspired by the signature dish of Hotel Saramsam somewhere in Ilocos, it makes use of bagoong, green mango salsa, and fresh mangoes on top of pasta.

 

“So kinda wanted to bring it down to the people who have never tasted it before. It was like a unique way of trying to get the… it’s very nostalgic. Green mangoes and bagoong. Almost every Filipino kid has tried it. We were so amazed that they presented it in a different way.” – Bea Gonzales, on Kurikipu’s Masmaras Pasta

 

Pam: Given that peg, you guys started with the idea of making a restaurant, but now you’re doing catering. So, is the restaurant thing still in the plan, or…

Bea: End goal.

Pam: So that’s the ultimate goal to have for you guys to have a place like that.

Bea: Yeah, but I feel like it’s gonna take a lot more years, ‘cause my idea is that I want it to be super quality. I don’t want it to start na chipipay, whatever we can use in our budget. I want it to be our end goal because for me, Kurikipu kinda became our brand. Not just as a business, but as people and what we like, the food we like to cook?

Bea: So right now, it’s like our avenue for experimenting on really good food to cater to people. We focused on our families’ signature recipes. We were thinking on how we could make them sellable.

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Kurikipu's 12-hour brew, with vanilla or chili syrup for flavoring.
Kurikipu’s 12-hour Cold Brew, pictured with two their signature syrups: vanilla and chili. The coffee itself is a mix of Sagada beans, Benguet beans, and one other kind that Bea and Nishi refused to disclose.

 

Rika: Can you tell what you did during the first few days, weeks, months of your business?

Bea:

WAG folks: (laughter)

Pam: For the record, that was a really, really interesting gasp.

Noey: With matching clawfais.

Bea: EVERYTHING.

Nishi: Which was also our biggest mistake. We tried to make everything in a bazaar when we didn’t specialize in anything. So basically we tried to be a jack-of-all-trades at a bazaar.

Bea: We had all of these recipes that we wanted for our end goal restaurant. So we put it all out. We spent most of our investment money on making all that food. Like, different kinds of shakes, fruitshakes, all of our pastas, all of our brownies, our cakes, our pies… so many things.

It was a 2-3 day event, twelve hours each. Twelve hours, and then we would go home, cook more, and go back there, then do that… so we couldn’t sleep, and it was just so stressful.

It was a really good place, though, because we found out what our customers liked. Because we sold everything that we wanted on our menu. We kinda filtered out which ones they do like, or didn’t like, so okay, but… I feel like we could have done it more step-by-step instead of everything kaagad.

 

Kurikipu's Roast Chicken
Kurikipu’s Roast Chicken, with corn, carrots, and potatoes. It’s seasoned, interestingly enough, with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Pam: So you started on the expectation that there would be four of you. And now that there are two of you, what are the main difficulties? You guys are a couple, and it’s pretty admirable that you’ve made it this far.

Nishi: The priorities that should have been for four people got squished down to the two. Like, our preps for events. Instead of just, like, 2-3 days before the event, it becomes a week.

Pam: So it eats into your time.

Nishi: Yep. Before, we used to split what we would make. Bobby and RJ {their old partners} would cook like, half the food. Now we have to cook everything.

Pam: And then there’s transport, logistics, accounting…

Bea: Yeah. Before, the division of aspects of the business would be assigned to the one who knew it best. Now Nishi and I have to learn a lot of this on our own. And sometimes, we clash because dalawa lang nga kami (“because it’s just the two of us”). Like, when it comes to ideas, whereas before…

Nishi:

For the record, the expression on Nishi’s face was priceless.

Bea: …yeah. Sorry baby. (laughs) Anyway! Before we had a rule where if three people agree, that was that.

Noey: Vote of majority.

Bea: Yeah, or if we couldn’t come to a decision, we’d leave it. But now that since it’s just the two of us, sobrang nagca-clash. And a lot of the times, I admit that I’m more dominant with what I want to do. I tend to forget that I have to listen to him too when it comes to the business because I might not be seeing things properly.

Before, everyone has suggestions, advice… so you get to listen.

Sometimes the lines blur. Like, we’re also business partners, we’re not [just] a couple. We can’t fight over it like a couple.

Kurikipu's Lemongrass Tea, Chocolate Banana Bread, and Butterscotch Brownies.
A pitcher of Kurikipu’s Lemongrass Iced Tea, pictured with samples of their Choco-Banana Bread and Allspice Butterscotch Brownies. Kurkipu’s bestselling desserts to date are their choco-banana bread and their spicy brownies.

Pam: What else has helped you guys stay afloat so far? You’ve mentioned, for example, your friends. Would you include them on that list?

Bea: Yes. Some of our friends go to our events, and come around and help. Like, they’ll switch out with us and help us sell. A lot of our friends also gives us really good, constructive criticism on how to better our food. This important to us. We definitely want to give the perfect product.

Rika: That’s actually good, because a lot of foodies don’t like that.

Noey: Typically, they get really defensive about their product.

 

“I always get so kilig when like, I post something, and smocket yung unang mag-comment? I’m just like, aww, SO MUCH SUPPORT!” The smocket is Atenean slam for the old smoker’s pocket gardens that used to be scattered around Ateneo de Manila University’s campus. At one point in recent history, there were only two smockets for the entire university, thus forming the huge, extended circle of friends that Bea’s referring to in this quote.

 

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Bea: I’m also really close to my family, and they’re very supportive in a not pushy way. They spread the word to their friends, give contacts, advice… Nishi’s dad also helps us with financial stuff.

As a couple, what help us in the business is that we kinda told each other that it’s important what the other is saying. We can’t just always ignore it. We always have to value each other’s opinions. My motto is, if he suggests something, I’ll try it out. I can’t ignore everything he says.

Nishi: How do we keep our flame alive… if she wants to try something new, we get into a fight. And eventually, I get to tweak it a bit – but we still have to do it.

WAG Folks: (laughter)

 

Beyond the fact that they’re noteworthy because they taste fantastic, the chocolate banana muffins and chocolate banana bread that Kurikipu sells has special, emotional significance for the pair. It’s the recipe that put Bea’s mother through school, just as it helped put Bea through school.

 

For some context to this next question: Bea and Nishi are incredibly good friends with the owners of Walrus, a highly popular student bar along Katipunan Avenue. They, like Kurikipu’s owners, are counted within the huge network that is the smocket of Ateneo.

 

Pam: What is it in the smocket? A lot of people in that group seem to be pushing to do their own thing, or figure out something new, or sell themselves?

Nishi: Technically speaking, we’re a group of dreamers. We like to think big.

Bea: And I think a lot of us are opinionated? We don’t work well with bosses. We like to do what we want, and handle it on our own.

 

When we asked Bea and Nishi what “geeky things” they like to get up to, Bea mentioned her love for “all things horror.” Nishi, on the other hand, is really fond of computer games. Bea proudly proclaimed that she knew exactly what genre her boyfriend was into. “STRATEGY-SPACE! WORLD WAR STUFF!”

 

 

 Pam: What’s a geek?

Bea: A geek is someone who is very passionate and knowledgeable about a specific topic. It can be about anything, it doesn’t have to be books or anything, as long as the person is very passionate about one thing, and knows a lot about that one thing – like random trivia – then I consider him/her a geek.

Nishi: Someone who turns their hobby into a lifestyle.

 

Just Kurikipu Things
Just Kurikipu Things, after our taste testing and interview. Stay awesome, guys!

 

Kurikipu is always looking for assistance, and are also on the market for people who might be interested in joining their team. Furthermore, when we asked Bea and Nishi what their plans for the immediate future, they hinted at a really exciting project for the next month or so. Follow their Facebook Page for deets! You can also get a hold of them through FB if you want to order any of their products.

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Rika Sioson
Rika Sioson
Just a frog and a mage who happens to play tabletop roleplaying games and video games. She also loves reading books, comics, manga, graphic novels, and watching American and Japanese TV series. Eating is her favorite hobby, after sleeping.
Michael Dizon
Michael Dizon
Goes by Michael, Mike, Mikey, dude, pare, or bro. Constantly gushes about food, games, gadgets, books, movies, and shows. Sometimes writes about them, too.
Pam Punzalan
Pam Punzalan
29, female, not in Narnia about anything. Games, teaches, writes, reads, flails, smokes, occasionally drinks, loves cats. Answers to Kae, Pamela, Pam, Pam-Pam, Pammy, Pammeth. Pamera, and Pammu. Also part of the admin team of Girls Got Game, over at http://girlsgotgame.org/!
Noey Pico on InstagramNoey Pico on Twitter
Noey Pico
Noey Pico
Audioromantic, geek and gamer. Currently a contributing editor to both Girls Got Game and What's A Geek, while occasionally moonlighting as fictional characters online. Flails a lot. A LOT.
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