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The Lyttles: Growing in food and business

It's going to be the year of the poke.

Food critics and purveyors have weighed in and declared that the well-known Hawaiian raw fish salad is among the biggest food trends of 2018. Microsite InsiderFood has included it in its list alongside ube and Filipino food, while has called poke "essentially sushi without the fussy presentation." It has also hailed it as something "customisable and economical" and "will most likely cross over to the mainstream."
If anyone would be overjoyed by this, it would be the husband and wife tandem of Speedy and Alta Lyttle. The couple, after all, had begun their poke craze in 2016.
The Lyttles put up their first store in Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Pasig late that year. It was a rather mundane topic for both. Alta recounts that Speedy had been thinking of reviving the Mongolian food craze. She recalls having considered it as she a Mongolian feast was what she would prepare for him and their four children whenever she had time. After she had a chat with her sister, however, who was based overseas, another idea came to mind. Her sister thought that Mongolian bowls had had their time and suggested that they introduce poke bowls to the Filipinos.
"Luckily, he had it once," shares Alta. Speedy, being the one with the "better tongue," says he, to which Alta concedes, adds that it was a refreshing bowl of just raw fish with soy sauce and seaweeds.
And so, like the entrepreneurs that they are, they opened their first Poke Poke store with a twist.
It was a confluence of things that they love. Their take was their own tongues at play. With the hands and experienced tongue of chef Mikel Zaguirre, the humble Hawaiian poke was creatively interpreted to suit their Mongolian preference with the introduction of seared fish or meats, a Japanese favorite in the form of Alta's favored chirashi bowls, and Filipinos' love for a medley of flavors.
Their poke bowls can be customized where diners are given the option for their base to be either white or brown rice, quinoa or mixed greens. They then choose their toppings and drizzle it with a selection of sauces and dressings that includes shoyu, sriracha, nori mayo and mangonnaise. The customizable bowls start at P350.
Those who are not as experimental as Alta and Speedy, who share that their travel itineraries usually put a priority on food trips that have them trying anything from isaw to foie gras, can choose from their selection of nine signature bowls.
Among these are the deconstructed California Maki with Cali (P300) and a richly textured and flavored For The Rich (P480), a bowl of rice topped with beef tenderloin, bacon, soft boiled egg and drizzled with garlic yogurt and truffle oil. Their signature bowls range from P280 to P480.
Their experiment has certainly paid off. Today, Poke Poke has four branches, with branches in SM Aura, SM Megamall and 8 Missouri in Greenhills.

'We know food'
Poke Poke comes at the heels of the much-talked-about and much-loved Locavore Kitchen x Drinks food concept they opened with friends/partners sisters Tin and Carla Magsaysay back in 2014 at Kapitolyo in Pasig.
Alta shares that their first food venture came about simply because of their shared passion for good food. All lovers of good food, they had been going out, scouring the town for the best restaurants.
Speedy shares that when they initially thought of putting up the business, they asked Tin if she would like to man the kitchen. She had begged off so they hired chef Zaguirre.
They went on to win the hearts of foodies with their "locally sourced" initiative and inventive dishes such as Sizzling Sinigang and Oyster Sisig.
"Marunong kaming kumain (We know how to eat)," proudly shares Alta, adding that it is their discriminating tongue that gives them an advantage in their food business.
Of course, it was not all easy, she recalls. Speedy had a regular 8-to-5 job plus some business on the side. He had always been a little money-savvy, starting with selling perfumes that were not yet available in the country when he was still in his teens.
Alta, meanwhile, thought of business as "laro-laro lang (play)." She was inspired by her mom who had been a retail supplier of a big shopping mall brand. She started selling Chinese jackstones, stationeries and stickers in elementary school.
Their serious venture started with Xtensions Salon, which now has 11 branches.
When they opened Locavore, she had to man the cash register, while Speedy waited ables. They had to put all their hands and heads together to make Locavore float.
Their hands-on management style and learned tongue resulted in the success of Locavore, which opened two more branches, one in Bonifacio Global City and another in Makati.
"If it's something that you look for after you eat it, that's it. It passes our taste. We want to make food that gives that kind of craving. That's what we're looking for in food," explains Alta.
Now that their love for good food is paying off, they talk of expansion with the acumen of a visionary and realist. Locavore, understandably, will have to be thought of carefully. They have to take into consideration the brand equity it has become synonymous with -- locally sourced inventive dishes. That means they have to fully trust the people who will man the next branch if ever they decide to open another Locavore.
For Poke Poke, however, Alta shares it is easier to standardize the recipes since they only have a handful of it. Thus, its expansion, including franchising, can be put into action sooner. She estimates that they can open four to five branches more in a year.
"I put things together, she puts everything in motion," admits Speedy, when asked who the better entrepreneur between them.
Their synergy works well for each other, and even their names are fortuitous. He was named Patrick Daniel and christened himself Speedy after his initials P. D., combining it with then popular cartoon character Speedy Gonzales. She was simply named Alta, which means "high" in Spanish.
Such an aptly named duo.

1 comment

  • Nathan Kubish

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    Nathan Kubish Saturday, 03 March 2018 03:39 Comment Link

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