Meet Michele Gumabao, the restaurateur

Barry Viloria on Nov 16, 2015 02:04 AM
Meet Michele Gumabao, the restaurateur
This UAAP back-to-back-to-back women's volleyball champ is all-smiles as she gets into a new venture! (Photos by Mike Gella)

“I love my shisha,“ Michele Gumabao enthused with the hose of a waterpipe in hand.

It was a mid-afternoon on a Friday, and we found ourselves at Tycoon Bar & Restaurant, a joint on Adriatico St. corner Remedios in Ermita that serves Filipino-Lebanese food. She is handling the marketing of the business, and was welcoming us as her guests. The former DLSU Lady Spiker has her own restaurants (Shawarmama, which serves Persian to the more masa market, two of which are located in Quezon City and Makati), but Tycoon is especially one close her heart. The reason: The owner, Imad Ammar, is the best friend of his long-missed, presently incarcerated dad—actor Dennis Roldan.

“He’s my dad's best friend, but he is like another father to me. I call him my uncle,” Michele spoke of the “100 percent Lebanese but Filipino by heart” Imad, who was then walking around and busy setting the place up.

That time, Tycoon was about to open its doors and it would stay that way until 5 at dawn—just like many other bars-restos whose clientele comprises mostly bigwigs, foreigners, and balikbayans. As part of her job, Michele quietly observed—checking in on the staff about recent feedback among frequenters, and pointing out to us which bestsellers to order and discussing what else made the one-year-old place special.

From raking golds as a student-athlete in the UAAP (a back-to-back-to-back, at that) and a couple of years after her graduation with a degree in Marketing Management, this is what makes the life of the 23-year-old now. She visits Tycoon every now and then to immerse herself and get a feel of the place’s relationship with its customers. Online, she checks out how it’s also going for the business and would also use her heavily-followed social media accounts to promote it. In fact, she flew to Lebanon with some business partners to experience the cuisine, and was there for around two weeks. What she found out from her research, which she deemed useful once she got hands-on at Tycoon?

“I found out that Lebanese people love to eat. And when they eat, sobrang dami nilang kumain at nakakamay. Appetizers pa lang, sampu na. Same with the entrees. It’s a feast talaga! It’s the same with every restaurant.”

Of course, this is apart from Michele’s duties as a TV and events personality, host, fitness ambassador, and so on. But her new venture obviously excites her both as businesswoman and marketing specialist. As well as a foodie.

“My favorite cuisine is Korean. But I liked Lebanese when I was introduced to it because it’s healthy! Lahat kasi grilled, walang fried. Then kung may fried man, appetizers lang. ‘Tapos they love salads and tea—ang dami. For me, I love healthy food! It helps me na rin to stay fit.”

We got Michele expounding on expound the “authenticity” of the Lebanese food served at Tycoon and the perfect incorporation of Filipino into the menu. (Aside from the signature Middle-Eastern staples kebab, shawarma, pizzs, salads, and tikka, she mentioned that the menu also boasted of classic Filipino ulam like tilapia, sisig, gambas, and beef meals.) She said that Tycoon ships its main ingredients—from the spices to the flour—from Lebanon.

And then there’s also the place’s ambiance.

“It’s not just the typical Filipino restaurant. It has color, it has life, and you get the Arabic feel and vibe once inside,” she said.

Is juggling her businesswoman duties with her being an athlete (she still plays for the PSL) a challenge for this former role model of a student-athlete? Yes, but not one that’s strange and unmanageable. Michele goes to her events in the morning and trains at night. And while she’s also planning to put up a website along with her siblings a.k.a. “a family blog,” trust that this young lady still knows to be grateful and content of a lot of things falling into place.

“It’s stressful syempre because ang daming iisipin. But it’s rewarding because you’re not only providing jobs for other people, but you also provide happiness when it comes to food. Honestly, pag kumakain ako, I’m at my happiest moment,” she said. “So, seeing people smile over your food, over the service, over the taste—is something very heartwarming for any restaurateur.”

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