S & L Fine Foods is a purveyor of large wedges of cheese from Europe, capers, sun-dried products, olive oil, and pastas from the Mediterranean, cookies and short breads from England and quality meat from Australia and Italy. S&L has products mostly from Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Spain, Australia and the UK.

You’ll find S&L at 135-B Yakal Street in San Antonio Village in Makati, somewhere behind the Makati fire department and squeezed in between Sinan’s Butchery and the Brera Delicatessen. The Brera is its retail arm where you find imported cheese, Italian cold cuts and other gourmet items out on display. This is good news because up until a few years ago, you would not have gotten S&L items in retail amounts. (You can check out The Brera nearest you: at the Acacia Town Center in Taguig and three others opening soon in Alabang, Greenhills and Baguio.)

At Sinan’s Butchery, you’ll find various slices of beef, lamb, veal, and poultry freshly chilled following strict food safety standards.

The main man who makes it happen is celebrity chef, mentor, “troubleshooter” and a recent recipient of the PLDT MVP Bossing award: Philip Golding of the Golding Culinary Group. “I wear two hats. I run my consultancy training group. We are the largest in manpower – training 42,000 employees in 41 ships.”

The other hat is his seat at the S&L. “S&L started 10 years ago. But I came in here as a culinary consultant and within six months I made COO.”

Meat is presented as the main course of a meal. It graces the most elaborate and celebratory meal of the day – dinner – and as such would have to be of great quality: succulent and tender to satisfy one’s palate, and processed with high quality standards. A good or bad piece of meat can make or break the occasion.

S & L provides Italian and Spanish cold cuts and Australian meat products from John Dee.

Through the years since he arrived in the Philippines 18 years ago with his Filipina wife, Golding has come to be known for his tough stance on excellence and performance. He demands thus from the people who work under him and more so from the food that they cook. “Being a chef is all about the ingredients. Good organic ingredients, honest ingredients. This is important because in the food industry you are dealing with customers that have high expectations.”

Unfortunately in a region where the terms “double dead” and foot-and-mouth disease have made the rounds, volume amounts of professionally processed, quality meat is difficult to obtain. Golding wishes there were more local legislation to ensure safer practices in the processing of local meat and that government would work hand-in-hand with the farmers. But until then, S&L will continue to source out quality beef from Australia and Europe.

To meet these expectations, S&L mainly sources out their beef from John Dee’s, an Australian cattle farm that started business in the late 1940s. The John Dee company is known for highest quality products served to Asian markets for almost 70 years. The quality of their meat is maintained by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) and the Authority of Uniform Specifications of Meat and Livestock (AUS-Meat), to ensure safety.

“Mostly our beef is from John Dee’s. They are one of the most notable companies. They have been in the business for a long time. We really look for long-term relationships,” Golding says.

John Dee’s products are derived from premium British cattle breeds like Black Angus, Murray Grey, Hereford and their cross breeds. Most of the cattle are processed at an average 32 months. This time period is important in producing premium beef; there is a depth of flavour not derived from cattle processed earlier than that.

It is then aged 30 days, delivered from Queensland.There are no antibiotics or hormones in the beef, Golding says. “In the code of ethics with the people we surround ourselves everyone is very transparent,” he says. “We all pride ourselves on the product. It would drastically damage our business and our name if it was found out to be otherwise.Therefore, we push very hard on that.”

The box arrives in a temperature-controlled environment. The meat never arrives thawed. There is an actual monitor from the time it leaves the port in Australia or Europe. “They are very very specific about temperature control.” Cordex is a local authority that comes to test the meat and checks the facilities.

When it comes to specialized meats that require particular handling, S&L made provisions to serve a growing Muslim sector by acquiring halal certification, and using cryogenic casings not used for pork. They have people (provided by the Golding Culinary Group) who specialize in handling these items.

Kosher meat – or meat prepared according to strict adherence to Jewish food preparation laws – is another product S&L will bring into the market.

A little-known fact in the Philippine culinary community is that there is no kosher chef in the country. For instance, there is a huge Jewish community in Salcedo where 350 meals a day are served at the synagogue. Golding has been asked to produce the first kosher chef in the Philippines. “We are looking at getting someone young and enthusiastic and put him through kosher cooking. That would be one of the first in Asia. Can you imagine the Philippines supplying kosher chefs?”

It’s an attitude Golding has about always pushing to be ahead of the market at least five to seven years. “We are always trying to predict demand and that is an investment in our behalf. We invest and pay for that stuff to come in.”

Watching Golding in action is like watching a whirlwind. He talks about one activity and abruptly concludes it with another. There’s the operations of S&L and the activities of the local chapter of the Ordre Internationale des Disciples Escoffier of which Golding is the president. He confides that an Escoffier school will be set up next year – with night classes, international certification and a more competitive price (“somewhere around the Php 50 thousand mark”). He talks about bringing young chefs and even HRM students who cook the best meal of the day to represent the Philippines in international events; opening restaurants with friends such as Madison’s at the Edsa Shangri-la and Desiderato; coming out with a cookbook, increasing S&L’s stocks; and setting up a food lab that uses sophisticated technology in growing fruits and greens somewhere in Baguio. Then, there is his advocacy for sourcing out local ingredients and mentoring Php7,000-a-month cooks into Php140,000-a-month chefs.

At the end of it all, you get the rationale: the best strategy is coming full cycle. “Everytime you look at an angle, we are there. You need a lot of thinking out of the box, a lot of dinners…otherwise your industry is here and supply is there. So how do you get them together to meet so there is an overlap?”

With his Golding Culinary Group and S&L, Golding achieves this meeting between supply and demand.

Since Golding joined the team, S&L has become the fastest growing business in the deli industry. His approach is a mix of aggressive networking, traditional sales and charity events. “I have chefs I’ve worked with or mentored over the years calling me for help, for advice, for this and that.”

S&L has nine walk in fridges – more than any hotel or restaurant in the country. They have nine to ten containers a month coming in from all over the world “and when it comes here I don’t intend it to sit in the warehouse,” he says. “The quicker I turn them over the better.”

As a wholesaler, there are many who buy from S&L, package and resell. Golding runs cooking demonstrations and master classes where they take the product and describe it. He also does charity dinners and benefit events. The chef gestures towards his mobile kitchen equipment behind his desk and you can spy a whole set ready to be grabbed. He has the same set up waiting in his car.

In any business, having a database is key. Golding has networked all the way from the north to the hospitality establishments of the Visayan region. On the wall of the S&L operations are plastered hundreds of business cards of customers, representing a mere one fourth of their database. “When I came on board, there were 400 emails, but only 250 were actually active. In three months, we are now 2,000. I built the database from Bohol, Cebu, Boracay, Palawan through social media, and getting four telemarketers to work on it.” He looks at the NCR map and at external support to build the regions and the different functions, then categorizes these into hotels, resorts and cafés.

But he specifies, “It’s not like the traditional sales call like ‘Hey, we have veal. Would you like to buy from us?’ We really do reach out. At the end of the day, people say, ‘ Where did you get your food? This is a nice dish’.”

Because what’s meat without all the other good things that go with it?

Address: G/F Great Wall Building, 136 Yakal St., San Antonio Village, Makati City.
Landline: (+632) 846-0368. www.slafinefoods.com
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Industry Trends in Meat

Chef Philip Golding identifies three trends that will influence meat lovers everywhere

1 Second class cuts. “With electricity becoming more expensive how would you handle expenses, your business and your hire? Chefs are becoming more creative by importing lesser known and more economic cuts like brisket, short ribs or sirloin flaps and using these.”

2 Pickling and drying. It’s not just for pickles and veggies but for meat too. Golding remembers: “When I was growing up in England, my nan (grandmother) had a farm or an allotment: people grew a lot of herbs; growing things and serving that in their houses. It’s like being the farmer and controlling how you store, slaughter,preserve and package the meat.”

3 Organic farms (as opposed to industrial or “factory farms”). Golding notes that more people are worried about obesity. These days people are realizing that animals humanely raised in “organic farms” make for tastier (and healthier) meat.

Meat Cuts 101

The three different kinds of basic steak cuts

Sirloin cut
Known to be among the toughest cuts of meats, which include the Sirloin Steak and Top Sirloin

Short loin
Includes the T-bone, Top Loin Steak, the Porterhouse and the Tenderloin, regarded as the softest, most flavorful kind of beef

Rib cut
The hardest of them all, consisting of the Rib Roast, Rib-eye Steak and Back Ribs