Chef RV: UNIQUELY BIÑAN
BY CAMILLE CABAL
NO LONGER HIDDEN IN BIÑAN IS THE FAMOUS CAFÉ OF CHEF RV, WHO SHARES HOW IT ALL STARTED AND WHY IT IS EXCLUSIVELY AVAILABLE IN THE CITY.
You must have heard of or watched Chef RV already. After all, he is one of the country’s famous food content creators. He generously shares his recipes through his YouTube channel ‘Chef RV Manabat’ because even if people sell products using his recipe, he believes that if the success is for you, it will be given to you. As famous as he is, his café is only available in the city of Biñan.
Chef RV stands along Mariano Manabat Street in Biñan, Laguna. You’ll instantly see the cute red logo of the café with an elephant on it. As you enter, beautiful, colorful cakes of different flavors line the counter as if enticing you to try them all. On the other side of the glass wall are their freshly-baked bestseller bibingka (rice cake) and other pasalubongs (souvenirs) in a jar.
𝐇𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐃 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐇𝐄𝐑𝐃 𝐎𝐅 𝐄𝐋𝐄𝐏𝐇𝐀𝐍𝐓𝐒?
Aside from desserts, Manabat’s collection of elephants behind the counter is also noticeable. A seemingly happy elephant stands out in their logo, luring in the curious even further.
The chef shares that it all started with a vendor who would sell him random things. When the vendor was about to retire from selling, she gifted Manabat with a small porcelain figure of an elephant, which he displayed on his sink. The collection started to grow when people who came to visit him would gift him similar elephant items.
Eventually, Manabat decided to use it as a symbol of their café because it symbolizes the connection of the people to him and his pastries. “Because through these elephants, they remember me,” he explains. From the singular porcelain elephant, the collection grew to a massive collection of roughly 500 pieces, majority of which were gifts.
𝐌𝐀𝐆𝐈𝐂 𝐈𝐍 𝐁𝐀𝐊𝐈𝐍𝐆
Manabat discovered his skills for baking at the age of nine. He shares that her mother also loves cooking, but she never baked. So, his exposure in the kitchen sparked his curiosity about baking. This is where he started experimenting with the ingredients.
He adds that his favorite pastry to bake is brownies because it was his first product when he started baking. He shares that the first brownies he ever baked turned out so dry that no one can eat them. But it is part of the ‘magical’ journey of his baking career as his brownies have improved through the years.
While some find baking tedious because it requires perfection in measurements, Manabat finds it magical instead. It amazes him how simple ingredients like flour, sugar, and eggs can transform into a delectable cake. Moreover, he considers pastries as results of hard work because the process of baking requires discipline and precision.
“It’s magical [because] it gives you a sense of fulfilment dun pa lang sa produkto tapos ‘pag kinain nung customer mo o ng kapamilya mo o bisita mo, mas malaki din ‘yung fulfilment (on the product alone, and when your customer, relative, or visitor tastes it, it gives you even more fulfilment),” the chef shares.
Manabat started his career by selling blueberry cheesecakes back in 2011. He reveals that one of his first customers is the Alonte family and Mr. Sherwin Mendiola, DESCO, Inc. president.Through their trust, Chef RV’s bestseller Queso de Bola Cake was born. He recalls that in January 2013, his first customers ordered yema cake. Unfortunately, he ran out of cheese so he used the leftover queso de bola from the past Christmas as a replacement. His customers were surprised and liked the cake so much and that was how it all started.
When 2014 came, Manabat started organizing baking classes for housewives and enthusiasts as his weekend sideline. He has taught thousands of students who used to pay him Php2,500 to Php5,000 per day, including the ingredients. Eventually, his students looked for a place to hang out after every baking class so they suggested that their teacher should establish his café. And so he did.
In 2018, it became a full-blown restaurant that also offered hot meals. This encouraged Manabat to open the garden area for dining customers. However, dining in the restaurant has been closed to the public since the pandemic. He hopes that the restaurant and dine-in option will resume this year.
Chef RV Café is turning six this year. Queso de Bola cake, which is available per slice or as a whole, remains their best seller but Manabat claims that the introduction of bibingka in the menu in 2019 has beaten Queso de Bola on the top list. Their bibingka can stay for as long as three days when not chilled and up to two weeks when refrigerated. But Manabat recommends consuming it within 24 hours. It is available per piece, in a box of four, six, and eight, and available in regular, ube, and chocnut flavors.
If you prefer to add cakes in your purchase, you may try their cake sampler which is composed of slices of 10 different flavors. This includes the famous Queso de Bola, Real Ube Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cheesecake, Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cake, Carrot Walnut Cheesecake, Belgian Chocolate Cake, Wild Blueberry Cheesecake, Oreo Cheesecake, Brownie Cheesecake, and Choco Blackout.
What makes their pastries uniquely Biñan is its taste that is not too sweet and not too overwhelming, perfect for the palate of Biñanenses. According to Manabat, this is the result of numerous consultations of the elders of Biñan and his openness to criticisms and suggestions. “So I can proudly say that our products are timplang Biñan (created according to the taste of the people of Biñan),” he stresses.
Manabat is open about not wanting to branch out the café to places other than Biñan. He wants it to be part of the city’s identity like how other pasalubongs are unique to some provinces in the country. “You can’t say that you have been to Biñan if you have not dropped by here [in Chef RV Café] and we want to keep it that way that we only stay here because that is our brand. You can see it in our logo, we did not remove it anymore,” Manabat proudly says.