Elegant white swirls beam overhead as you enter the room. Look up, to a high ceiling with chandeliers and elaborate décor. Bottles of delectable wine adorn one corner, and the sweetest cakes and pastries sit beautifully on their carousel by the counter.
It is like finding yourself in modern-day France. But no – this is Candy’s Café.
First opened in 2003, Candy’s Café has managed and thrived to become a local favourite in Cagayan de Oro. This of course is no less thanks to its owner, Chef Candy L. Lu; who mastered her culinary and pastry arts at the Le Cordon Bleu in London. Chef Candy created the business mainly out of passion and rigor for food that will infuse new flavours to the city. “I built this restaurant out of passion and hobby. ‘Yun yung intention over the business. It’s the passion side of me. I wanted to show to the people of Cagayan de Oro the healthy way of eating good food.”
Such good food is found all over the Candy’s Café menu; most of which are of European origin. You may find there that the restaurant offers exquisite dishes much like the Osso Bucco of Italian origin, or the Ratatouille, which hails from the Provence region of France.
Such dishes may have come from different parts of Europe, but Chef Candy’s cooking technique has always been one and the same: French. The French technique of cooking is more long-cut – essentially, no shortcuts. To put it into perspective, one good example of a classic French food is the onion soup.“To make an onion soup, a very good one, normally it takes a whole day of boiling it. Yes, that’s how it is. It is not like, for example, the Chinese way of cooking wherein you mix all the ingredientsaltogether – and then just stir-fry,” shares Chef Candy. She adds, “If I serve steak – the steak, that is so easy to do; but the sauce (to accompany it) will take a long, long time to do it. You need to do the reduction stage. Then you do the stock. Then you reduce it with the wine.”
In sum,Candy’s Café dishes are simply not prepared in a mere steps one, two then three – it is steps one through ten to produce the delicious dishes we have been experiencing.
But infusing new (and often unfamiliar) flavours to the city also meant facing challenges. If you happen to find yourself in the Cagayan de Oro that was almost 13 years ago, it was but a simpler city. During the early days of the restaurant, Chef Candy’s technique of cooking found a bit of difficulty being welcomed by the city’s residents; as much as it was also quite a challenge to set aside the Filipino habit of having condiments (e.g. catsup, soy sauce) with the food. Because to truly appreciate the French technique of cooking – one must delve deep into the layers of flavour in each dish, discover the harmony of its ingredients and savouring every bite. “With French technique of cooking, when you eat you have to taste the meat. And the sauce, because the sauce you spent a lot of time doing it.”Condiments, therefore, are no longer necessary.
To her memory, Chef Candy recalls it took about three and a half years for Candy’s Café to finally penetrate the Cagayan de Oro market, to let the locals understand and be educated of the kind of food she creates.
“They didn’t understand (at first). But even though we had a hard time, and (as I said) I opened the restaurant out of passion – I never surrendered,” and Candy’s Café still stands beautifully up to the day.
Now located at the Ground Floor of the Ayala Centrio Mall, Candy’s Café continues to delight customers with food made only of top-notch ingredients (as the restaurant outsources all the way from Europe for some), and a dining experience that amazes with the interiors of modern French architecture. Their menu continually evolves, now with an award-winning piece – the Spinach Pizza, to cater an ever-flourishing market. With its new location, the changing times, and a growing set of clientele (from all over the Philippines, even the world!), Candy’s Café is poised to be Cagayan de Oro’s most regal restaurant.