Deli By Chele Brings Luxury Home: We Talk To Chefs Chele Gonzalez And Carlos Villaflor
As the private Zoom call began I waited for co-founders culinary powerhouse chef Chele Gonzalez and his executive sous chef at Gallery by Chele, Carlos Villaflor to enter. With smiles on their faces, they exuberantly and intelligently explained their latest brainchild: Deli By Chele. It’s an online shop that brings us bottled goods, cheese, charcuterie, freshly baked bread, sauces and kombuchas from responsibly sourced ingredients and local produce... plus every single thing on their menu is made at Gallery by Chele/Stvdio Lab!
Their innovation, dedication to their craft and commitment to sustainable food systems is inspiring. “Our boxes are a journey around the world with foundations in the Philippines,” says Chele. You will find international flair in the deli that will surely elevate your pantry.
Accustomed to the intricate dance choreographed to produce a haute cuisine meal, these chefs and co-founders of the concept wanted to create the deli to bring their flavours, techniques and creations into our everyday lives – so we could take the experience home. Although the takeaway or at-home habit trended due to the pandemic, Carlos and Chele were tinkering away with the idea of selling their products in a store-format, prior to 2020. “Before the pandemic, we would joke that we should open a small deli with all the products we are developing at Stvdio Lab. The pandemic gave us the time and reason to re-examine this idea seriously,” says Chele. “We realised that we could create an online concept innovating artisanal techniques, bringing flavours from here and around the world to customers’ homes. We realised that we had something very special to share.”
Over the years the Gallery By Chele team has been immersed in the potential of what can be done with local produce, Chele shared with me. “These discoveries have inspired us to be more environmentally aware and to strive for more sustainable practices. We believe going local is one of the ways to move toward a better future” chef Chele adds. On top of that, you will be pleased to learn that Deli by Chele products are all natural, with no artificial preservatives.
The shift from the restaurant to the deli is massive and challenging. However, Chele shared enthusiastically that they were very excited to jump into this. “We were learning things that a chef does not normally do” he adds.
The entire ecosystem and culture of running a deli are different, so a great deal of time and effort was definitely spent in perfecting both food and brand. Chef Carlos explains that: “In creating any of our products, we start by searching for high-quality produce. Next is the painstaking process of recipe development. It is an involved exercise in trial and error, mixing and matching until we get that perfectly balanced note.” Not only do they have to achieve the taste they want, but they also have to create food that is not just suitable for transportation but for longer-term storage too. Working on a product that has a good shelf-life while maintaining their exacting standards was a challenge they met head-on.
They did not want to launch until they felt confident and ready to show the world the Deli in all its glory. Upon its opening, Carlos and Chele crazily released a menu of 70 items! They definitely did not start small nor did they choose to lessen their work-load. This talented tandem entered the deli-market with a bang. “We wanted to be a full shop,” Chele said, “to open with all our categories, which is why we started with 70 things! It is a lot of work but we wanted to do it right. You know us” Chele said.
Each product is even labelled uniquely indicating which co-founder was responsible for its birth, either Carlos or Chele. Everything with Filipino influences is by chef Carlos while those with Spanish touches is headed by Chele. There are also whimsical descriptive tags that aim to tell consumers more about the product by painting a picture. “We did not want our descriptions to be traditional. We wanted to have fun” Chele says with a smile.
“Each box we deliver to our customers tells a story,” reiterates Carlos. “It is the story of us as a business making thoughtful decisions. From big things like working with local, sustainable ingredients to finer details like using biodegradable packaging, we make choices that not only make for the most delicious products but also leave a lasting impression on the world we all live in.“ he adds.