A new food industry player in Bacolod City – CIBO- no, not the grease, but of good food and fine ambience, highlights local produce and local workforce – including its founder and Asia’s Best Female Chef Margarita Araneta-Forés who takes pride of her Negrense roots and heritage.
CIBO, pronounced as "cheebo," sources 60 percent of its raw materials from the local Burgos Market in Bacolod City, small tomato farmers, premium organic farms and artisans, all based in Negros Occidental except from its non-negotiable, irreplaceable supplies of pasta, parmesan cheese, the good Italian olive oil, and some of the cured meats.
“We hope to showcase what you (locals) can do, work with you and source things from you. I changed my little dedication at the cover of our menu, only for Bacolod. Here in Bacolod, we would really like to showcase produce from the province, the work of the artisans here. Ginakalipay ko gid (I am so happy) to be with all of you, and working with all of you to make our brand bigger do things with you to make it more vibrant. We’re here to stay and get bigger in Negros,” Chef Gaita shared as she addressed the young Negrense suppliers at the restaurant.
Chef Gaita seemed amused with the nicely priced local tomatoes, seafoods, and greens they used for their salads and pasta at the same time, their Bacolod branch bakes its own bread. This branch is the first store where they prepare and cook on the property unlike in Manila where they have 16 branches, everything is prepared in their big commissary and transported to branches, but here, according to Chef Gaita, even the Spinach from local growers made into dip looks so fresh and beautiful.
All 28 working staff of the restaurant are all locals with only 7 key people from Manila training them. Some 10 of these staff also went to Manila to train and were stranded last year at the height of lockdowns in the National Capital Region and barely no flights going out of Manila.
During the height of COVID-19, like a true resilient Negrense, Chef Gaita citing the time when sugar plummeted to its low, asked her dining staff to do the deliveries themselves instead of hiring third party providers and like the sugar industry then, she too, diversified into food trays and food boxes apt for zoom meetings and work from homes schemes, expanding their income streams.
So for Chef Gaita, opening its 17th branch and first out-of-Manila branch here in Bacolod City, while others are closing down, is a leap of faith but she held on to the words of her grandfather tracing her roots as a Bagonhon.
“I think for me and for all of us Negrenses, I’m Bagonhon, my lolo and lola are from Bago and my Lolo’s biggest advice to me, mahibi na ko (I’m about to cry), ‘Never forget where you came from and how you started’. That you should always look back always, that is why we opened in Bacolod," she said.
Growing up, almost every summer, Chef Gaita remembered she would be here in (then) Bacolod-Murcia Sugar Mill and have vivid memories chewing on tubo, or her nanny teaching her how to cook rice in the pot under the house. Apart from going here, my Lolo never allowed that we did not have food from Negros at our tables in Manila like upod nga lumpia, puto manapla – all so much a part of my upbringing and influenced my love for food.
“I’m glad we decided to open here, because look everybody welcomed us so warmly, and we hope it adds a kind of boost of good energy into the restaurant industry here in the city,” Chef Gaita added. *(EAD-PIA6 Negros Occidental)