Chef at the gate - Weekend

Chef at the gate

Frontgate’s Sidney Sainz Uy opens up on burgers and bacon

By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor

BURGERS, BACON AND MORE. Sidney says the new branch features a look that’s inspired by subway diners abroad and a menu that focuses on burgers and bacon.
BURGERS, BACON AND MORE. Sidney says the new branch features a look that’s inspired by subway diners abroad and a menu that focuses on burgers and bacon.

SIDNEY Sainz Uy comes from a family of food lovers — from his grandma, to his parents, down to his younger brother. An innate appreciation for good food was instilled in him at a young age, and having grown up in the States where he had to fend for himself, the practical side of it followed just as naturally.

When his family came back to the Philippines more than 10 years ago, Sidney’s parents opened Frontgate, an unassuming little food place near their house in Ma. Cristina Ext. — commonly described as “in front of the gate of Sacred Heart School–Hijas de Jesus” — that served all sorts of comfort food for the family, reminiscent of their stint abroad.

“We started with food that we missed, like taco salads and philly cheese steaks,” Sidney said.

No signage, no advertising. It was word of mouth that brought people to Frontgate, which for a longtime was considered one of Cebu’s best kept secrets. But now the secret is out, especially with the opening of their second branch in Paseo Arcenas in Banawa—roughly more than 13 years since it was first opened.

It was in 2011 that Sidney and his younger brother, Gary, were given the reins of the restaurant. Both of them are chefs and were part of the pioneering batches of the International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu.

Sidney describes the takeover as “accidental,” not really expecting it early on. “This was around the time I came home from working in Manila,” Sidney said. “We stumbled on a burger recipe but since we wanted to keep the (Frontgate) name, we decided to make it into a burger place.”

Sidney was previously with the hotel industry for over nine years. After graduating from ICAAC, he had his internship at the Makati Shangri-la.

“Out of all the places I’ve been to, I can never forget my experience there because, aside from it being intimidating, it was where I started. I learned how it really is in the kitchen,” he said.

As a chef, Sidney’s stints include big names such as the Shangri-la Mactan Resort & Spa, Holiday Inn in Gatwick Airport in London, and the highly exclusive Amanpulo in Palawan. He was also consultant for Giligans for a time.

With Frontgate now under their watch, Sidney and his brother have revamped its interiors and menu. The new branch features a look that’s inspired by subway diners abroad while the menu now focuses on burgers and bacon.

“We make our own bacon,” Sidney adds, as if casually letting slip an open secret.

He further drops more hints on why Frontgate clicks.

“Another bestseller is the philly cheesesteak wraps, which we created by accident,” he said. “It’s normally in a sandwich, and I think, so far, we’re the only ones who put it in a tortilla wrap.”

It’s not only the equipment that brings in the heat inside the kitchen. As the chef that leads it, there are innate pressures that also exist—the pressure to bring out only the best to the customer’s plate.

Sidney’s not complaining though.

“As a chef, I think everything I cook is not perfect, that it’s not enough, and I feel there is something missing,” he said. “But when I see customers coming back and saying that they like the food, it is what keeps me going. It is what motivates me and drives me to do better every time.”

Photography: Jonolin Miñoza Luab
Venue: Frontgate at Paseo Arcenas

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