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Katrina Ponce Enrile’s DELIMONDO: How a passion for corned beef started a Deli brand

It all started out with plain, old-fashioned American-style corned beef  — canned, to boot.

 “My dad has always appreciated corned beef the way it used to be made,” said Katrina Ponce Enrile, president and chief executive officer of the JAKA Group of Companies. “Dad” is, of course, Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile. “Unfortunately, the corned beef that was available at the groceries then was tasteless. Even the imported kind was a mushy imitation of the post-war staple. Definitely, it was a very far cry from those he enjoyed in his younger years. So when JAKA acquired a food processing company sometime in 1995, it presented us with a great opportunity to produce corned beef made to our own specifications. We had special production runs of corned beef made from 100 percent pure beef meat, shredded and seasoned with our  spice blend. It was real American style corned beef that my dad used to enjoy.”

 You could say the nostalgia food caught on like wildfire. The specialty corned beef was initially produced for the sole enjoyment of the Enrile family. That enjoyment would eventually be shared — a box of the corned beef became the Enrile family’s signature care package for close friends. Needless to say, those friends just couldn’t have enough. They began ordering the corned beef for their own use. “That was when I decided to make our corned beef available to the consumer market under the ‘Delimondo’ brand. We call it Delimondo Ranch Style Corned Beef,” said Katrina. This is the same corned beef that is getting rave reviews from patrons of the Saturday Market in Salcedo Village. 

The Delimondo corned beef has gotten quite a following. “Most people would buy half a dozen or so for their weekly supply, but it is not unusual to see others cart off a carton or two to bring home to the provinces or send to their relatives abroad. We apparently reversed a trend,” observed Katrina. “Whereas before, relatives abroad would send corned beef to their families here in Manila.  Now, it is our customers in Manila who send Delimondo Ranch Style Corned Beef to relatives and friends abroad!”

The nostalgia food of her father’s youth opened the floodgates, so to speak, of Katrina’s passion for food. Not that it was ever a case of foodie-come-lately. Katrina has been exposed to deliciously prepared and beautifully presented food all her life, with grandmothers, whose diverse cultural backgrounds, had her taste buds deftly traipsing between the simple, true flavors of Ilocano food and the exuberance of Spanish fare. But that’s another restaurant story called Petra & Pilar.

Before corned beef, though, there was bread. Katrina’s very first venture in the business of food was an outlet chain called “Pandesal Magic.” “It was really a simple concept,” Katrina reminisced. “You know how Filipinos loved pan de sal. What I did was to combine comfort food like menudo, sardinas and giniling with hot pan de sal and you have an instant meal on the go.” The concept proved to be so successful that the young entrepreneur managed to establish five Pandesal Magic outlets in the University Belt and mall food courts before calling it quits to concentrate on her law studies.

After law school, taking on the reigns at the JAKA Group of Companies as president and CEO and consequently JAKA Foods Processing Corp. enabled Katrina to tap into her inner foodie on a regular basis. She is very much hands-on when it comes to overseeing food product research and development, constantly tweaking blends and mixes to her heart’s content, with a keen memory for distinct tastes and flavors as her guide. 

The corned beef was only the beginning. More food, glorious food, followed — deli meats, sausages, pasta sauces, pâté, bottled aromatic oils, dips, sauces and marinades, cooked food and bottled milk chocolate for fondue. The world-traveler in search of the best of the best in food also brought in superior jamon such as the highly-prized Jamon Iberico de Bellota. 

Closer to home, Katrina is in the midst of bringing Filipino longganizas and other local food products to the world’s attention under the “Delimondo” line. “I want to bring the best of the country’s deli products readily available to those who appreciate good food,” said Katrina. “We will have several kinds of longganizas — from Lukban, Pampanga, Cagayan, Cebu and Davao. Each of these has its own very distinctive character and taste. We will even carry bagnet from Ilocos Norte. Really, there’s so much we can offer, much to explore,” Katrina enthused.

Delimondo’s specialty sausages are fast becoming popular.  It can stand on its own against the well-established deli brands in the market today.

“It’s interesting how our  Delimondo sausages came to be,” recalled Katrina. “I used to bring home specialty sausages every time I visit the United States — the chicken with chunky apple, the Italian garlic sausage and the smoked Kielbasa among others. But it came to the point that it got too troublesome to bring these sausages to Manila. I decided to manufacture them locally instead. I sat down with our R&D and over a period of time single-handedly developed a line of specialty sausages for Delimondo.”

“Our best-sellers to date are our Hungarian & Cheese, Schublig with Cheese, the Smoked Kielbasa and the Chili & Garlic Sausages,” said Katrina.

The “Delimondo” concept of food served in as little as two to three steps is one Katrina is most proud of. After all, having a meal that’s just a pour, heat and serve away is nothing new. But having a gourmet meal that’s merely a pour, heat and serve away is simply extraordinary.

“At Delimondo, they will find a line of bottled gourmet food products in convenient serving sizes and at affordable prices,” said Katrina. “If you want to impress your date with a trattoria-worthy dinner, you can serve tri-colore pasta with Delimondo’s bottled pesto, carbonara and puttanesca pasta sauces. It would look like you spent all day working at the kitchen when all along, your deceptively ‘fussed-over’ meal came from bottles,” said Katrina with an amused glint in her eye. 

Or perhaps you prefer to go Spanish for Sunday dinner with the family. How about some Pollo Iberico, Bacalao ala Vizcaina and Callos al Estilo Morado? “Eats-off-the-grill” night with the boys? A platter of Delimondo’s Hungarian and Cheese, Chili and Garlic, Smoked Kielbasa, Schublig and Cheese, and Chicken and Pesto sausages hearty enough for you?

A girls’ eat-in with pasta, wine and cheese is a cinch with Nona Consuelo pasta sauce. If you want to go light, you can use drizzling oils to flavor your choice of pasta. Choose from Sun dried Tomato, Pepperoncino & Basil; Anchovies, Garlic & Cream; Rosemary & Caper berries; to Chili & Garlic. 

And how best to enjoy Delimondo Ranch Style Corned Beef?  “Just let it cook in its own juices in the frying pan until it is almost dry. Toss in some onion rings just before finishing then serve it with lots of garlic fried rice! It’s worth waking up to,” said Katrina.

The Delimondo line is available at the Delimondo stall at the Salcedo Village Saturday Market and at the Petra & Pilar restaurant along Export Drive corner Chino Roces in Makati. Petra & Pilar, named after Katrina’s two grandmothers, opens today.

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(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com)

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