“The food I cook is reminiscent of the happy times in my life, and I’d like to share that with others,” says Kevin Uy of his venture Viaje by Kev.
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Growing up, Kevin Uy had always loved food and the dining experience. However, the plan was to become a lawyer. Cooking was merely a hobby he started when he was 13. Things changed when he began traveling with his family. “Food has always been something that bonds us, so I wanted to bring those memories and share them with other people,” he says.
Graduating from Enderun Colleges as an Alain Ducasse-certified cook, Uy trained at the two-Michelin starred restaurant Enoteca. He then moved to San Sebastian, Spain, to pursue his master’s degree in Gastronomic Sciences. After this, he flew to Peru. “I spent a few months in the Andean mountains in Mil, studying and understanding the Andean culture and food,” he says. He was then offered a position at Central, a Peruvian eatery declared as one of the finest in South America by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Do what you love
In any other year, Uy would have been back in Peru. Due to the instability brought about by COVID-19, he decided to return to the Philippines. Rather than taking a break, he decided to open Viajé by Kev. The venture, he explains, was a means to create opportunities and share what he has learned in Peru to the local food scene.
Uy adds that the project is a manifestation of his experiences traveling, eating, and learning from all over the world. “This is a way for me to do what I love, in a way that will help me make financial contributions to the family. Though I would much rather be at a restaurant and engaging with chefs alike, this is the best I can do for now,” he says.
Like all small business owners, Uy knew it would be a challenge to open in the middle of a pandemic. It’s not just about quality and a well-conceptualized menu anymore, it’s about making sure that the food and its preparation adheres to safety protocols. This is also the first time that he will also be in charge of the business end of things, which he recognizes as a learning opportunity.
Despite the challenges, Uy says the lack of dine-in clients does allow him to create with fewer limitations. Although, like any chef, he does miss being able to hear immediate customer feedback. e current conditions might not be ideal, but Uy believes they could make things work as long as they put in enough effort.
“The business itself is designed to adapt to the current situation, with specific focus to address the closed borders. It was born predominantly to serve people the food they would otherwise have been able to try on vacations abroad,” Uy says. “The food I cook is reminiscent of the happy times in my life, and I’d like to share that with others. That is what Viajé was born to do—create not just delicious food, but happy memories for people to share.”
When Uy was still in university, the only thing that he was certain of was that he wanted to work with food. But he didn’t know if he could handle the pressure of being in the kitchen. It was in Barcelona where he realized he made the right choice when he first stepped foot in a professional kitchen. “It was there I realized I belong in this world, discovering my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to work at a level I didn’t think I was capable of,” he says. “It was the driving moment in my career, and it is that passion and belief in myself that brought me to the greatest opportunities of my life.”
Supporting others in the industry is something that Uy believes in, and what he wants young chefs to take upon themselves before entering a kitchen. Recovery is always possible, but the industry as a whole must think of a plan, one that adjusts to the new normal, and elevates the culinary scene here.
“In times like these, we should not be thinking of what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do as an industry,” Uy says, adding that, by helping the industry, you pave the way for your own success.
Photos courtesy of Viajé by Kev
For orders, please visit @viaje.bykev on Instagram.
Read more about Viaje by Kev in Volume 1 of Lifestyle Asia 2021.