MANILA’S BEST 2014: Revealing The Nominees

MANILA’S BEST 2014 organizers and authors Ines Cabarrus‐Habayeb and Elian Habayeb reveal this year’s MBKRS Awards nominees. Dubbed “the Oscars of Manila’s restaurant industry” and inspired by their bestselling coffee‐table book Manila’s Best Kept Restaurant Secrets, the MBKRS Awards determine the city’s best restaurants in a grand, bi‐annual celebration.

Representatives from every major network and publication covering the city’s dining scene gathered at Chihuahua Mexican Grill’s newest Fort branch to discover who made the final cut. There are 30 award categories in total divided into the following groups: cuisine, specialty, hotel restaurants, and individual achievement.

These nominees—five per award, are chosen by an “academy” of judges made up of individuals distinguished in the restaurant industry and other related fields.  These include restaurant owners Conrad Alcantara, Erik Cua, Margarita Fores, and Louie Ysmael.  They include celebrated chefs Gino Gonzalez, Carlo Miguel, Cyrille Soenen, and Colin Mackay.   There’s also food writers Stephanie Zubiri, Erwann Heussaff, and Clinton Palanca; top bloggers Spanky Enriquez, Anton Diaz, Cecile Van Straten, and JJ Yulo; and magazine editors Cheryl Tiu (Lifestyle Asia), Georgia Schulze‐Del Rosario (Metro Society), Audrey Carpio (Esquire), Marilen Fontanilla (F&B World), and Nana Ozaeta (Food).

Not enough?  How about Ayala’s Rocio Lobregat, Nestlé’s Alex Ong Oh, Bistro Group’s Josh Boutwood, Enderun’s See Cheong Yan, and Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez?  There are over 150 of them and they intimately understand Manila’s food and beverage business like nobody else.

These esteemed judges go on to vote once more throughout the month of  October to determine who indeed is Manila’s Best. And their decision will be announced at an Oscars‐like by‐invitation‐only gala, held this November 25 at the country’s premier hospitality school Enderun.


It all started one night in 2006 when Inés and Elian decided over dinner at a hidden restaurant in Alabang that the city needed a beautifully laid‐out coffee‐table book featuring Manila’s most loved restaurants.  Two years later, their dream became a reality, and their book Manila’s Best Kept Restaurant Secrets a success.

On their book tour at various restaurants and bookstores, they were struck by the number of times they were asked this singular question: “which is the best restaurant?”   Confident there must be a way to arrive at a satisfactory answer, they surveyed restaurant industry leaders they met in the process of writing

their book, and concluded that an Oscars‐style awards event may very well be what the city needs.


The rest is history. This year, Manila celebrates its fourth MBKRS Awards (a.k.a Manila’s Best 2014), recognizing excellence in the city’s dining scene. “It’s an awards show of the industry, by the industry, for the industry,” says Elian, who along with his wife Inés manage the growing Chihuahua group of restaurants.

In previous years, representatives of the country’s top accounting firm SGV & Co. have handed the sealed envelope to presenters like Spoon’s Janice de Belen and Congressman Johnny Revilla, who announce winners like Martin Wisniewski (Manila’s Best Emerging Talent), J Gamboa (Manila’s Best Chef), and Juan Carlos de Terry (Lifetime Achievement Award) to a madly cheering crowd of fans.

There are some ground rules, however.  First, reigning champs do not compete this year. They sit this one out.  They will be eligible again in 2016. Second, MANILA’S BEST is all about homegrown restaurants. International concepts and restaurant brands are not eligible for nomination. Third, except for Manila’s Best Newcomer, restaurants may only be nominated for one award category.

What’s new this year? Some new award categories such as Manila’s Best Mexican Restaurant (from which Chihuahua naturally recuses itself), Manila’s Best Modern Casual Dining (replacing Best Bistro), Manila’s Best Pizza, Manila’s Best Bar (replacing Best Restaurant/Bar), Manila’s Best Nightclub, and Manila’s Best

Coffee Shop.

What’s also new is Manila’s dynamic restaurant industry, which seems to be in the midst of a culinary revolution, with innumerable new restaurant concepts, foods, and talent.  With foodies becoming the norm, rather than the exception, and technological advances making it possible for people to share information like never before, there’s one burning question on everyone’s mind: who is Manila’s Best?


2014 is brought to you by major sponsor Nestlé Professional, bringing creative food and beverage solution to Manila’s restaurant industry, such as the new NESTEA® House Blend and NESTLÉ

Docello®, a versatile range of high quality dessert mixes.

Special thanks to official sponsors Zing Rewards and City Delivery.

Zing Rewards is the ONE card you’ll ever need! With a growing number of stores and unique, truly amaZing rewards,  you can bid your other cards goodbye!

City Delivery, a Food Runner company, is the first multi‐merchant delivery service in the Philippines, with 400 restaurant partners in Metro Manila. Order online at or dial 87878.

MANILA’S BEST 2014: Revealing The Nominees  

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