Kelly Urbina Viado proves his chops in family-owned enterprise
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
IN MANY of their family gatherings, culinary icon Lita Urbina would assign her grandchildren certain dishes to prepare and bring to the table. One of them was a boy named Kelly Urbina Viado, who would soon grow up to become the newest member of the family’s 20-year-old culinary venture, the Laguna Group.
Now 23, Kelly recalls that as a young foodie, he looked forward to these gatherings that called for a hefty spread, drawing dozens of family members who were always in for a delightful surprise.
And as part of the growing family enterprise, Kelly, with a degree in entrepreneurship, brings something different and fresh to the table: he handles marketing affairs of the group and managing operations in one of its concept restaurants, Ulli’s Streets of Asia, in Ayala Center.
“I’m definitely enjoying it,” he said. “Working on a variety of projects and facing different challenges—I’m learning a lot. The group has also given me the opportunity to learn things in a faster pace.” Plus with his interest in tech and design, Kelly has expressed his enthusiasm in also being able to handle food photography and creative production for the group’s marketing materials.
Kelly joined the Laguna Group in 2012 after finishing his entrepreneurship degree from the University of San Carlos, and after an internship stint doing marketing for a reputable mall chain. He briefly ran a design and printing startup in his college years, but has since let go of it as he focuses on his new role. He said, “I thought about working in a different environment for experience, but since I saw myself (eventually) with the group, I might as well get a head start and grow here.”
Kelly said he takes inspiration from how his grandparents continuously innovated, and developed Laguna Group from a small, home-based eatery in Lahug into a diversified company. At present, the group holds a catering service and four concept restaurants, including Café Laguna, which already has outlets in Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Dumaguete and Iloilo. “It is a humbling experience knowing how my grandparents started it all and fuelled the family’s passion for food,” he said.
Grown up to be quite the foodie indeed, Kelly said that in his free time, he is usually in the kitchen with his friends, prepping to do the cooking themselves.
“We would make different types of cuisines from curries to calzones to ramen,” he said, “And of course after that, enjoy what we made. It’s a great bonding experience for us since we have that hobby in common, and it’s also fun to learn new recipes.”
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome | Grooming: Carlo Damolo and Jerwin Bastatas
Assistants: Bernadette Abangan and Judiel Dal, USJ-R Interns | Locale: Ulli’s Streets of Asia