Kimberley Dacay’s journey leads to a delish discovery
By Deneb Batucan
KIMBERLEY Dacay has embarked on a solo journey that’s becoming quite epic as far as food trips go. And along the way, she’s learning the ins and outs of the industry with her newly opened Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant.
Kim’s love for food started when she was working and living in California. While working for the sales and marketing department of her uncle’s ice pop manufacturing company in the United States, she discovered her love for food. “There were so many choices there. We discovered so many amazing restaurants. I’ve always been fascinated with the food industry,” Kim said.
She frequented a local Korean-Mexican joint called Red Hot Kitchen. “I love Korean food and I think the concept of Korean-Mexican food is a really fun and modern,” she shared. Red Hot Kitchen’s chef became a good friend of hers and that’s where the idea of bringing Korean-Mexican food to Cebu blossomed.
After working for three years in California, Kim decided to go back home to Cebu. With the Korean-Mexican restaurant in mind, she enrolled in a formal culinary course at the Academy for International Culinary Arts (AICA).
At AICA, they had a “hell week” where a batch of would-be chefs would come up with different cuisines or themes for a whole-day menu. She suggested that they go the Korean-Mexican route. “We had bulgogi beef over Mexican rice, spicy chicken quesadilla, and many more. It became a big hit that week. All the chefs and mentors loved it,” she recalled. And that’s what gave Kim the push that she needed to make her restaurant dreams a reality.
She went back to the States for a vacation and with a plan. “I called the chef, my friend from Red Hot Kitchen, and told him I had a proposal for him. I told him I really wanted to bring his food here. Luckily, we agreed on a good deal. He told me to set everything up here in Cebu and he’ll come and train me and the staff. During his stay, we came up with the menu and the taste and everything!” she said.
And on Dec. 16, Kim opened her very own restaurant, Señor Kimchi. She has whipped up an interesting take on Korean and Mexican food, fusing the two delectable cuisines together. But she doesn’t stop there. Aside from Korean cuisine, she mixes Japanese, Chinese and Filipino dishes into Mexican dishes as well. This is what she calls Asian fusion — Asian spices of all sorts mixed with sweet and savory tastes.
Opening a business, Kim slowly realizes, is a lot of work. “I’m really learning a lot now because I’m the one touching everything from purchasing, accounting, marketing, quality control in the kitchen, like, everything. But I’ve been really lucky because I have a good team in my kitchen. It helps if you have a good team whom you can trust,” she shared.
On this first business path that Kim now treks alone, she realizes that it’s a 24/7 job. But for her, it’s all worth it. “I just want to make a name for myself, to have something that I could call my own, not something that’s handed down to me. My family, they’re very supportive of me. My lola, who’s 82, still works and goes to the office. She’s really part of the reason why I want to keep pushing myself and keep on working hard,” Kim said.
To keep Kim’s work and life in a balance, Kim participates in triathlons as well. For more than two years, she has been consistently training to join Iron Man annually. This year will be her third.
“I like the healthy lifestyle, the feeling that you get after you workout. Also, I train so that I can eat! It balances everything out,” she quipped.
The discipline she learned from training for triathlons also helps in her career as a businesswoman. “It taught me to be punctual and organized. I am more time conscious now and very detail oriented. I usually have a checklist before races to make sure I have everything that I need and I do the same for the business. You get good and bad days during races, which is the same in the business. You just have to get through it and hope to prepare yourself better in the next days to come,” she said.
Be it in business or in races, Kim believes that every day is an opportunity to learn something and improve one’s self. “The important thing is to have fun and love what you are doing,” she said.
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Locale: Señor Kimchi, Unit f18, Axis Entertainment Avenue, Escario St., Cebu City