Filipinos are big meat eaters. If you’re born one, pork is probably your middle name – or beef, or chicken, or fish. Taking away meat from one’s dietary limbo is like stealing his fondness for coin-operated videoke machines with matching ice cold San Miguel beer.
Vegan Alessandra Lanot has set these beliefs to hibernation with her restaurant, Pipino Vegetarian.
A vegetarian since high school, Alessa’s idea of opening a vegetarian restaurant of her own became a dream when she was living in a foreign land.
After graduating from Ateneo de Manila, where she studied Communications, Alessa moved to New York to continue her studies in Parsons School of Design and New York University.
“Living in the city opened up my eyes (and taste buds) to a whole new vegetarian lifestyle. I came from a family than ran restaurants, so I knew that dream could always be a possibility,” she recalled.
|The Pipino team|
When Pipino was launched as a six-item vegetarian line as a part of the Pino Restobar menu, which was then just being started by her husband.
After six months, the couple noticed that a lot of people were coming in for their vegetarian meals. That was when they decided that it was time to open a restaurant.
In 2010, the first branch of Pipino opened on the second floor of Pino in Malingap, Teacher’s Village.
Healthy meets delicious – this is the Lanots’ tagline for their non-meat restaurant.
In spite of the Filipinos’ enormous appetite, regardless of food groups, Pipino knows how the way to their customers’ stomachs.
“Our portions are plated for a guy in mind. We have male partners in the business and they always say that if a girl can finish a dish, then it’s not enough for guys,” Alessa said.
Pipino is known for serving creative, delectable vegan dishes. A few of their best-sellers are the Cheeseless Vegan Lasagna and Portobello Inasal with Red Beet Puree and Salsa.
They also serve a strange but scrumptious dish – the Watermelon Steak, which Alessa described as “a grilled slab of watermelon that’s served with green beans and taro miso mash.”
Together with Alessa and PJ, the Pino team is comprised of Star Jose and Chef Edward Bugia.
|Pipino Vegetarian at Jupiter Makati|
Looking at the bigger picture, vegetarianism is not atypical to Asians, who have been practicing it in their diets for countless of centuries. Authentic Filipino cuisine has a number of dishes that are only beans and vegetables.
Asked about the perks of being a veggie junkie, Alessa said, “[They are] better sleeping habits, better skin, and feeling good in general.”
Having said this, her unending supply of energy probably comes from being “meatless.”
Unlike generic super-heroines, who wear tight leather jumpsuits and cat-eye masks to rescue dames in distress or defeat other mean-hearted villainesses, Alessa has her own painstaking way of saving the world, not only through serving delightful veggie dishes, but also through arts and crafts.
Alessa single-handedly authors a website named Life After Breakfast. To her, blogging is an outlet for her several creative pursuits. She likes providing original content to her increasing followers because this also benefits her creative process.
She has also contributed to Punchdrunk Panda, where she designed a watercolored ‘Eat Your Veggies’ camera strap, and to Craft MNL, where she conducted some craft workshops last year.
Watercolored typography makes her meditative. Her recent illustrations have attracted the attention of brides-to-be.
Her works mirror the trademark of the Filipinos as she believes that the Philippines should be known as the best place to make and learn traditional and modern handmade crafts.
According to her, personal pride naturally develops after producing a handmade piece.
“Encouraging people to go back to the handmade lifestyle will not only educate them, but will make them appreciate the country’s diverse natural resources,” she added.
Leisure-wise, travel does not only fuel her creativity. It also has a special spot in Alessa’s heart.
|Design to Travel, Travel to Design|
“I design (work) so that I can earn money to travel, and I travel so that I can find new inspiration to design. I'll probably keep this on loop all throughout my life,” Alessa declared.
As if running a restaurant and doing crafts is not enough to keep her very busy, Alessa still finds time to appreciate her happily married life.
She shared with contentment, “I’m lucky that my husband supports my dreams and ideas 100%, and it also helps that we work on the restaurants together, so we spend a lot of time together.”
Of all the things that Alessa does, she conscientiously chose crafting as the most rewarding activity for her.
“Design is my profession, Pipino is my business, but crafting and my blog, Life After Breakfast, are really just hobbies! But even if I wasn’t paid for it [crafting], I’d still be doing it,” she confessed.
Alessa’s followers should look forward to a lot of more inspiring projects happening this year. They will be having Craft Camp in May, a Craft Fair and Exhibit and a series of Bridal Crafternoons, both taking place in June.
She will also be collaborating with Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm and Bea Gomez for a Veg+Crafts+Yoga camp as well.