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2004 Philippine Food Festival in Belgium

Philippine cuisine - so diverse as the different cultural groups that make up the Filipino people and so highly influenced by Chinese and Spanish cooking - will be featured in a one week Philippine Food Festival at the fusion-kitchen restaurant, Les Jardins de Bagatelle on June 01 to 09 in Bruxelles, Belgium.

This event is 100% a private initiative led by Mrs. Marie-Louise Borremans, a Belgian-Congolese chef, whose restaurant constantly features dishes from all over the world- from Thailand's Tom Yan Kung, Antillean accras, Brazilian beef, to African moambe. The restaurant, which has a seating capacity of 60-150, is also the venue for various celebrations that promote cultural exchange.

Louise Baterna, a Brussels-based marketing consultant and events organizer, is co-organizer of this project. "We want to promote Filipino food in the mainstream so we are testing Filipino food in a restaurant which has its own set of clientele. Most of the Philippine food festivals abroad are held in hotels, where you get mostly the city's visitors and not the local people."

The chef will put her own personal touch to Philippine dishes such as Sinigang na Hipon, Sariwang Lumpia, Adobo, Steamed Tilapia in Banana leaves, and a plate of desserts - Mango Sorbet, Coconut Pie, and Turones de Platano. This project is supported by San Miguel Corporation, Diamond Star Agro Products, Alsons Agricultural Corporation, Figaro Coffee Company, Castillejos Jams and Pickles, Arengga Vinegar, Fiesta Brand, Mitjah Tropical Wines, Pecuaria rice, Manila Trading in the Netherlands, and the Department of Agriculture through the Office of the Agricultural Attaché in Brussels.

Baterna, who has been "fighting" to have Philippine products reach the mainstream distribution line, is also launching the Market Breaks label, a new range of "top quality products from developing countries."

"The majority of Philippine food products remain at the ethnic or Asian stores. We are already far behind Thailand or Vietnam that have successfully gained at least one meter of a supermarket shelf. The competition is very stiff and getting into these local chains is not easy. But we have to go beyond these obstacles and think of penetrating Europe. One of the strategies is go high-end and this means better quality products, better packaging, and a more aggressive marketing," said Baterna, who is also responsible for bringing Philippine mangoes to Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Italy.

Market Breaks provides international market access to high-quality food and food-related products from developing countries. "We have chosen Philippine products that we consider can penetrate the high end of the European market and whose activities have a social dimension. We are making sure that these products meet the EU entry regulations. We re-packaged some of these products to make it more consumer-attractive." Among these products are Mascobado Sugar, Rice, Arengga Vinegar, dried mangoes, tropical wines, jams and chutneys.

For reference: Jeannette G. Reyes

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