The epitome of sophistication and style, Aziza Mondoñedo reveals something exciting
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
THIS year one of Cebu’s famed commercial landmarks, The Tinderbox, went through exciting changes, including Restaurant Aziza next door that’s a favorite hideaway for connoisseurs and trendsetters. A new look, a new menu and an influx of lifestyle events, there’s plenty to experience there, says the lady behind it all, its namesake Aziza Mondoñedo, herself the epitome of sophistication and style.
The youngest daughter of founders Billy and Marlene, Aziza was only a teenager when her parents started the dining and lounging strip years ago. Now, after studying hotel and restaurant management in the Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland, and a three-year stint handling guest relations in Island Shangri-la in Hong Kong, she joins the family-owned enterprise and dishes out her expertise in hospitality.
While she admits their biz venture had an influence, Aziza says she did toy with several plans, then decided on this. “I really do enjoy preparing food, serving it and tasting it,” she said. “Plus, eating is a basic need. If I can make that basic need exciting, why not?”
“I love the surprises that come with it. All of us have our traditional family recipes that we know and love, but when experimenting, that’s when surprises come out, like discovering new combination of ingredients…I enjoy the creative aspect of food preparation the most.”
So when the newly renovated Restaurant Aziza was unveiled last October, a new dining experience was unveiled as well. Aziza brought in Chef Marleen Ong, who specializes in molecular gastronomy, a style of experimental cuisine,that the restaurant boasts of pioneering in locally.
“When we first opened this part in 2005, it was the only fine dining restaurant in Cebu patterned after classical French and European service and cuisine. Now with molecular gastronomy, we’re also the first offering it.”
A prominent figure in Manila and Cebu social scenes, Aziza shuttles between the two: Cebu, which also happens to be where her grandmother is from, and Manila where she helps out in their outlet there and oversees her own jewelry line. “I have yet to launch it in Cebu,” she said. “That’s another thing I’m looking forward to. It’s called The Aziza Collection.”
Although she does have customers here, most of her orders are either through personal contacts back in Manila or online. “You’d be surprised with the hits I get on social media,” she shared.
“When I first started in 2010, I didn’t have a background in jewelry making or designing at all,” Aziza said. “It wasn’t something I planned. It just happened. I started designing for myself and then my dad saw it and told me that it’s actually good and that maybe I can sell it to other people.”
Aziza has since taken an online course from the Gemological Institute of America, and plans to even go there when the opportunity arises. “It’s actually still on hold while we’re reopening the restaurant—the last collection I made was last April. But after I figure out a schedule, I plan to make new design studies.”
The hospitality maven articulates this other passion of hers in the restaurant as she uses the space for events that cater to that niche. She’s looking at holding art exhibitions there soon, and just last weekend held the second leg of the Mode De Vie trunk show series. It was an exclusive display of designer jewelry, accessories, shoes and bags.
“Cebu is known for fashion and art, and we want to showcase that, at the same time bring in ones you wouldn’t normally expect. We want to bring in brands that you’d normally have to fly out for (to get),” Aziza said. Aziza herself is the exclusive distributor of Lulu DK in Cebu, a brand known for its stylish and innovative, washable metallic tattoos.
In between being a designer and a restaurateur, Aziza is an avid traveler who revels in discovering new places, new cuisines, and evident in all she does, new experiences.
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome | Make-up: Carlo Damolo | Hair Styling: Jerwin Bastatas