Cafe Ysabel’s History by Chef Gene

I opened Cafe Ysabel twenty five years ago as a little neighborhood restaurant in Wilson Street Greenhills, San Juan with the kindness of my charming landlord couple Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr.; who rented out a small section of Tita Susan’s family home.

It was a wonderful area to be in, having affluent, well-traveled, young patrons who delighted in personal dining and a chef that overseered, not only their meals, but even their snacks or after-dinner libations. The path was difficult and it seemed that every dedicated 14-hour day was well rewarded with praises and smiles by the guests that, sooner or later, I all got to know. Cafe Ysabel became San Juan’s best kept secret and eventually been constistently in the top 100 restaurants list of selection organizations such as HRAP and Tatler. It also has become a foodie mecca for visiting tourists who are taken by their expatriate friends in Manila.

The past nineteen years, and after several restaurants that formed the Cafe Ysabel group of restaurants, Cafe Ysabel, found home in an authentic, 1927 ancestral home, furnished with turn of the century tables and lamps. Though I am now, head of a culinary school and a consultancy group, Cafe Ysabel is still closest to my heart, having been my very first business venture.