How Jill went up the hill

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - June 2, 2016 - 12:00am

Chef Jill Ignacio Busuego of Delicioso, favorite caterer of many, started 20 years ago with two assistants in the kitchen of her condominium in Ortigas. They would cater for small groups until they were asked to cater for 1,500 people in a function. That was their meal ticket for many months to come.

Jill, who was teaching at CCA in Katipunan and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, then told her two assistants, who were incidentally also her students: “Look, if you’re serious about this, then let’s make a menu. Then we made one and we started off in my kitchen in my condo in Ortigas. We just serviced people around because it was just across Tektite. We would walk by San Miguel, JMT, Tektite, The Philippine Stock Exchange with fliers.”

Their patience, coupled with word-of-mouth reviews about the quality of the food they served, paid off. Soon Jill was getting inquiries from big-time clients.

“And then I got my first call from a giant telecoms company to do a seminar: three meals for five days, morning merienda, lunch, then afternoon merienda for about 50 people. So it started there,” recalls Jill, a mother of two.

Pasta pomodoro.

Delicioso became popular for its lemongrass chicken, lengua, paella, chorizo in cheese corn cups, whole wheat ravioli in pomodoro sauce and béchamel sauce, Hickory spice spareribs, fillet of fish in tomato cilantro salsa. Jill was also swarmed with orders for her caviar pie and smoked salmon cheese ball (which she originated). For Filipino-themed buffets, she serves a palabok pasta bar — a smorgasbord of all the palaboks that go into pancit palabok. The noodles, the sauce, the flaked tinapa, the chicharon, the shrimps, the toasted garlic bits.

And at the end of that year when she “seriously” went into the business, she was asked to cater for the birthday party of a CEO who lived in the south of Metro Manila.

“The income was very small and I had to wake up at 5 a.m. to go to Alabang. But because of that, I had breakfast with the CEO and his wife, and I remember her saying, ‘If you do diet food, I will be your first customer.’ So I fixed the menu and in a month’s time she was my first customer.”

So now, Jill has menus tailor-made for the South Beach, Cohen, Dukan and HCG diets.

From rich pastas with creamy sauces, to healthy salads, trust Jill to make the choices delicious.

Fish with tomato salsa.


Her versatility is perhaps the secret ingredient to this chef’s success. She has specialties, but adjusts to her clients’ preferences — and most importantly, their budget.

“You can talk to us about budgets. If you want to do it, you tell us what you want and then we’ll find something that matches your budget without compromising taste. I also don’t want to ruin the name so I won’t compromise,” says Jill, who went to Assumption Convent for high school (where she was my student in Literature) and to the University of the Philippines to major in Hotel and Restaurant Administration. Then she went to The Culinary Institute of America in New York (whose alumni include Anthony Bourdain) for further studies in culinary arts.

“We started with basic culinary courses. Soup stocks, then we moved to breakfast, different cuisines, then garde manger, butchery then charcuterie. That’s making the smoked stuff like bacons, and all that. And then we trained in restaurant management. I spent three and a half months doing that from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with only weekends off.” To augment her allowance, she worked the lunch shift in restaurants in the Big Apple.

Jill came home to the Philippines armed not only with knowledge but also with discipline. She had no maids or drivers to make her job easier in the US, but she stuck to a schedule and a system of doing things.

Chorizo cups.

That, plus her own touch, has helped her scale all the hills that a struggling chef-entrepreneur faced in the ‘90s.

Jill has since moved out of her kitchen in Ortigas (to the delight of her husband, who thought they had too many refrigerators humming there at one time!) and into a bigger kitchen in Quezon City. She has a regular staff of about 15, excluding waiters, whom she outsources.

“The only days that I don’t accept work is on Good Friday, Black Saturday and New Year’s Day because I give my staff the days off. But we work Christmas!” says Jill. It’s one of the trade-offs for the success she enjoys now, and for the success of the people she gives employment to.

Hickory spareribs.


Jill was one of the very first women to make a career out of being a chef in the Philippines and she is happy that culinary courses are much sought after in the country.

“I think it’s also because people are more exposed to travel, they want to try new things. A lot of people also like to eat. And because they like to eat, they think they want to get into it,” she observes.

But she warns that, indeed, there is heat in the kitchen. “A lot of people also unfortunately do not want to study and think this is an ‘easy’ way to earn a living. But you have to study this, you have to learn it, and you need to love it. If you don’t love it, you don’t last.”

So, that’s how Jill went up the hill, and so far, the view from the top has been delicious!

Cinnamon crepes.


(Delicioso may be reached at 0917-8983619.)

(You may e-mail me at

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