FILIPINO-INSPIRED MA’NHU KITCHEN EMERGES AS A VIBRANT HUB FOR AUT STUDENTS.
By Ricky Matthew
cover photo: Chef Freddie Jr. Casinas. credit / Migrant News
AUCKLAND – In the bustling heart of Auckland CBD, a new culinary gem named Ma’nHu Kitchen has quickly transformed into a central hub for AUT students, offering a delectable fusion of Filipino-inspired dishes alongside mainstream favourites.
Chef Freddie Jr. Casinas, the culinary maestro behind this venture, shares insights into his diverse culinary journey that traverses the globe – all the way from Dolores, Quezon Province in the Philippines to Dubai and finally landing in New Zealand and the unique offerings that set his eatery, The Ma’nHu Kitchen, apart.
Chef Freddie, who honed his skills over 15 years in Dubai as an international chef, climbed up the ranks from dishwasher to head chef. His culinary journey continued as he ventured into New Zealand in 2019, sponsored by an esteemed establishment in Mission Bay and then going on to work at an airline catering company.
Now at the helm of Ma’nHu Kitchen, his venture into owning an eatery, Chef Freddie blends his international expertise with a touch of Filipino flair.
Chef Freddie took over from the previous owners of the stall, who were also Filipinos. “We got to know them and they said they run a food stall in AUT,” said Freddie. “We ended up taking over the stall. We spoke to AUT and told them our business plans. They thought they could trust us with the stall and here we are.”
Ma’nHu Kitchen, with its name originating from the Hebrew word for manna, is located within the AUT Campus in Auckland CBD and is open from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. They offer mainstream classics with Freddie’s own unique flair.
One of their best sellers is the beef satay with cheese sauce. It comes with rice, egg and bacon. Other popular offerings are the Wagyu beef burger with onion rings, mac n cheese “with heaps of mozzarella”, nibbles, the chicken sandwich, and interestingly, ‘Embutido’.
Embutido is a Filipino pork meatloaf. It typically consists of ground pork, a mixture of diced vegetables and raisins. Chef Freddie slices the Embutido into rounds and serves it with rice and an egg.
Rice and egg are a pattern across many of Chef Freddie’s dishes, likely deriving from ‘silog’, the combination of Sinangag (garlic fried rice) and Itlog (egg) that can be found in dishes like ‘Tapsilog’, (beef) ‘Tocilog’ (pork) and ‘Longsilog’ (pork sausage). All of which are combinations of meat, rice and egg.
Silog is known for its hearty and satisfying quality, which is why it is traditionally eaten in the Philippines for breakfast but is served throughout the day at The Ma’nHu Kitchen.
The dessert menu is once again a mix of Filipino classics like Brazo de Mercedes and Chessy Ensymada as well as the Nutella crepes, a mainstream favourite.
One of the challenges Chef Freddie highlights is competing against the long-standing stalls within the AUT Campus. “The two stalls beside us have been here for eight years and twelve years. So it is difficult to persuade their loyal customers.”
Chef Freddie marched on despite the setbacks, proudly stating: “It was difficult at the start because of the competition, but after a month the sales tripled and people began trying out Ma’nHu Kitchen.” Freddie further explained that “when the food is good, they’ll come back again. That’s why we didn’t have many sales in the first few weeks, because they didn’t know our business and our food yet. That’s the challenge for a new business.
“Running a business inside in a university setting means that you will have off seasons, like the semester breaks, for which we have to plan ahead for to cover our costs when sales are not at peak level.”
As AUT students indulge in the Filipino-inspired offerings at The Ma’nHu Kitchen, it’s clear that Chef Freddie’s vision of creating a vibrant, inclusive hub for both local and Filipino palates is well on its way to becoming a reality.
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