How To Run a Business With a Sibling, By the Owners of Sarsa

Sister-and-brother team Tracie Anglo-Dizon and Chef JP Anglo talk to T&C about the challenges of working with each other, how they learned the ropes in the restaurant industry, and Sarsa's new menu.

With its Filipino fare and cozy interiors, Sarsa Kitchen + Bar feels like a family home. The Negrense cuisine brings with it a feeling of familiarity, one that evokes memories of simple meals with the family, but in a more innovative way. To learn more of its vision and itspeople, we talk to the restaurant's sibling tandem, Chef JP Anglo and Tracie Anglo-Dizon.

What do you do for Sarsa?

Tracie: I do marketing and branding for Sarsa. 
JP: I’m the chef.


What was the vision behind Sarsa?
Tracie: We wanted to serve Negrense cuisine in a casual, bistro setting. We also wanted to serve really good inasal, the way it really tastes in Bacolod and not some watered down version. Along the way—it's been four years—we have evolved and now it's about elevating that Negrense bistro experience from the food to the plating, branding, service, music etc. 

JP: I really wanted to bring Ilonggo food to Manila—that’s the basic premise. I wanted to make it as a chef and a restaurateur in Manila. That was the vision but now it’s evolved, along with our menu.

Do you have any secret to keeping customers coming in?

Tracie: We listen to our customers and at the same time, we strive to always be better. 

JP: Yes, I pray to God because I know the feeling of an empty restaurant. I had empty restaurants back in the day and not every day is a good one. I also really make it a point that the food and flavor are good.

What is your favorite cuisine aside from Filipino?

Tracie: Japanese.

JP: Chinese.

What do you like most about working with your sibling?

Tracie: I like that we bounce ideas off each other, we're on the same page, there's mutual respect despite being siblings, and that we have a lot of fun working together.

JP: She always pushes me and challenges me.

What is the greatest challenge of working with your sibling?

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JP: My greatest challenge is to please Tracie and the other business partners, because they’re very well-traveled and their palates are very sharp so even if we’ve been working together for four years, it’s still a challenge to please them when presenting a dish.

How do you two bond?

Tracie: We meet once or twice a week for work. Sometimes JP comes over to my place and we cook for him at home. He likes it when we cook Italian. We're also always on Viber or calling each other.

JP: Through debate and through lectures. She’s so ate. We also bond always with food. Yung bonding naminis when she critiques me, although it’s always constructive.

What trait do you admire most about your sister/brother?

Tracie: When I'm panicking, he's calm. He is very good with people and can be very funny. He's hardworking and driven and very passionate about what he does. 

JP: She has good taste and style. I also like that her principles and values are pretty intact. She always reminds us as the ate to be respectful, fair, and to be good people. Plus, her resilience. She’s from New York so she’s tough.


Where do your ideas come from?

Tracie: Travel really inspires me–I get to see and experience new things. Also, brainstorming sessions really help generate ideas. 

JP: Everywhere. I mostly learn from traveling, meeting new people and talking to them, seeing new things, and from street vendors. I like to learn from street vendors because they’re the masters. For example, the guy that sells batchoy has been selling the stuff for two decades and that’s all he does. I’m always in awe when I watch them and I always pick something up.

What's the best way to learn about the restaurant industry?

Tracie:  The only thing I knew when we opened Sarsa was that my brother could cook. Other than that, I knew nothing about the industry. I'm still learning. I guess we learned by trial and error. 

JP: You learn through your failures and your mistakes. It’s hard and costly but that is the best way. Of course, I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else but you learn best when you do it and you try. There’s a saying “You’ll never know until you try” so you have to try.

Do you have any kind of management style or business philosophy?

Tracie: Stay humble, stay hungry, and always be afraid. Keeps me on my toes. In terms of management style, I believe in empowering people. 

JP: I’m firm, strict, direct, but empathetic. Even though I’m a bit of an asshole, I still empathize.


What do you do to prevent gaining weight from all the food that comes with your job?

Tracie: I do zumba, boxing, and walking, and I try to eat healthy on weekdays. 

JP: I eat often but not that much. For example, when I worked on the 11 dishes on the new menu, I didn't eat an entire dish. I just tasted each one a bit to understand it and then I stopped. If I went on a diet, it would really screw up my palate because I would eat less salt, and that would mean less flavor, so it’s not ideal for chefs. As a chef, my palate is my number one weapon. I also exercise a lot and go surfing but that doesn’t help as much now that I’m older.

Today, four years since its first opening, Sarsa introduces 11 new items to its menu. Inevitably, chicken inasal makes the list, but in two variations: with coconut infused in one and an added spiciness in the other.

Spicy chicken inasal pa-a

While the three types of isaw (pork, chicken, and beef) make great appetizers, some of the notable newcomers that pack a lot of flavor into a single dish are the sinigang fried chicken, kansi rice noodles, and the crispy fish fillet that comes with a very Asian-inspired peanut sauce.

Pork isaw

Sinigang fried chicken with bell pepper gata sauce

Crispy fish fillet with peanut sauce

Sizzling monggo with lechonkawali

Along with the other new offerings, these dishes prove that the siblings behind Sarsa are far from complacent.

Sarsa Kitchen + Bar, 122 Joya Lofts & Towers Rockwell, Makati City, 625.5166.

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