In the Moment
Though she took up the Restaurant Management and Culinary Techniques programme at the French Culinary Institute in New York after graduating from the university, The Moment Group of Restaurants’ Founding Partner for Creative Development, Abba Nappa, didn’t dive head-first into the restaurant scene. At 22, the management graduate developed an in-house franchise model, and made her first forays into retail with a privately labelled skincare brand, followed by a casual footwear label which she co-founded three years later. Both brands have flourished under her leadership, with the former achieving a distribution network of over 25 points of presence strong, and the latter becoming one of the Philippines’ largest retailers of casual footwear today. Her success with retail was seductive, but she heeded a louder calling, a calling that came from the kitchen.
Bistro Du Vin
Nappa didn’t start out in the food and beverage industry, but when she finall y arrived, she knew she was home. She started out running a family-owned restaurant, the country’s most established Italian restaurant group, L’Opera. With exceptional management skills and her natur al love for food, Nappa went on from being in charge of the family business, to growing her own collection of unique, “hand-crafted” dining destinations in the country. She now finds herself literally opening one concept restaurant after another with her partners. “2014 was a whirlwind year for us, and without realising it we opened practically one new establishment a month,” she says. Phat Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant originally from Cebu; Linguini Fini, an American-Italian restaurant from Hong Kong that offers farm-to-table cuisine; Bistro du Vin, a French Bistro in the new Edades Rockwell neighbourhood; and Mecha Uma, a Japanese restaurant by Chef Bruce Ricketts are among the new restaurants that the group has launched during the past y ear. “We also expanded our burger brand, 8 Cuts, into different neighbourhoods: Mega Fashion Hall, Trinoma, Rockwell, Serendra, and Mall of Asia; and brought our comfort Filipino brand, Manam, to Ayala Fairview Terraces as well as Mall of Asia.”
The different restaurants under The Moment Group (TMG) are varied—from Japanese to French, casual to fine dining—but the one element that ties them together and defines them as distinctly TMG’s is how each one was thoroughly and brilliantly put together. “We try our best to capture the zeitgeist of the times whil e at once creating with a sense of timel essness in mind. It’s a fine balance that I think is v ery important but also happens to be a challenge,” says Nappa. There are, according to her, several factors in play when choosing a specific theme for a restaurant, the most important being how it should be born out of something personal and tangible to them. “Otherwise if it is an id ea so far removed from your life and experiences, no matter how great a concept it may seem, the level of genuineness or lack thereof will somehow tarnish the experience in the end,” she says.
“My dad once said to me, there are far easier ways to turn a profit than being in the restaurant business,” she says. And with how her first ventures in retail have succeeded, this proved to be true. But Nappa loves bringing something special to the table, literally and figuratively, and being in the business of food is what makes her feel that what she d oes is worth it. “That actually has much less to do with being epicurean and most everything to do with deriving a high from giving people a good time and feeding them well. Extending hospitality is completely different from receiving it.”