By Michael Karlo Lim
Photos: Hustle Café stock & writer’s own
MAN about town, well, more like man all over, I come across the most random characters that both expand my network and create ever overlapping Venn diagrams of my circles. One such character is Calel Gosingtian. As with most of my new friends this past year, I met this most unassuming personality at my usual haunt, Linear Coffee Roasters. I say unassuming as this easygoing chap, I so much later found out, happens to be the son of marketing superstar, Josiah Go, and brother to celebrity style and lifestyle blogger-photographer, Tricia Gosingtian.
Calel’s hustle, one of his many, is an eponymous container van cafe set up in Cubao. The sturdy make of containers serve this two-stack well, underscoring practicality and the eco bent for repurposing with the increasingly popular design direction towards the industrial. The starkness is softened by hand painted designs and murals on the available surrounding walls. A long wooden counter brings in a warm tone to the cold metal with string lights and shade sails overhead adding a bohemian appeal. Next door is a shared office and co-working community, Racket Room Collective — yet another hustle Calel is involved in.
I dropped in on a particularly busy Saturday morning with one for their community events in full swing, the Cubao Flea Market – Cubao’s first neighborhood flea market. With the proceeds benefitting the café’s out-of-school youth training program, the sense of community was as palpable as was the desire to land a good bargain on the mostly pre-loved items on sale.
Calel started me off with their Cold Brew. The process naturally bringing out the “sweetness” of coffee, theirs is one I’d put on my recommendation list as an introduction to drinking black. Privy to my current obsession with espresso and tonic mixes, he made good with his promise to have me try their take on it. Looking like a plain bottled brew, the Cold Brew + Indian Tonic curiously had the taste and texture of cream soda. As Horchata was that day’s special, I just couldn’t say no. We didn’t stop there as he sold me into this from-scratch, fresh daily (as all their items are), deep-fried Pita Pocket with Pork. There was that epic “socio-consciously sourced” Sisig Sandwich, too, but I already had to decline to save space for “#work” and another story.
Hustle Cafe serves “well-executed entry-level specialty coffee.” Built on his group’s common love for a good brew, the backbone of the operation is the social promise of training and employing out of school youth to become baristas. Since 2015, 26 kids have either been hired full-time or inspired to go back to school.
Their fast food fry station rescue and former cook, Zeke, was able to save up to go back to school and pursue an IT degree, and Jener, formerly “unemployable,” graduated from the café’s internship program in partnership with a community shelter to become one of their full-time staff. From the other end of the scale, current chef Bobby comes in with a wealth of experience and education, seeking freedom and creative expression to balance the excellent food and affordability equation.
“Whenever I see the trainees after the program, it becomes obvious to me how we created something special. All the work feels worth when a previous trainee thank you with a twinkle in their eye,” Calel shares. “Some people are born with privilege, while others find themselves in tough situations with no visible way out. This is our effort to create opportunities that let them compete in the real world, to give them hope that there can be better opportunities for them out there. That’s why we do it. Helping change the life of even just one person makes everything worth doing.”
Facebook: Michael Karlo