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HRM graduate turns restaurant experiment into ‘hit’ food place

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita June 03,2018 - 08:37 PM

Josemaria “JM” Ylaya prepares one of his dishes at his Fat Dois restaurant along A.S. Fortuna St. in Mandaue City.

Who says you can’t play with your food?

For 26-year old Josemaria “JM” Ylaya, having fun with your food is the first step to a hearty and satisfying meal.

And this is exactly what you’ll experience in his quaint little restaurant Fat Dois.

Located along the bustling A.S. Fortuna St. Mandaue City, Fat Dois has been a hit since it opened around a year ago.

It only opens from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. every day except Fridays, which explains why a long queue of people would wait outside the restaurant. But more than the limited store hours, what really draws people into Fat Dois is their food.

Their menu is simple and straightforward, and they offer only three main dishes — cheese and ribs, cheese and chicken (which comes in spicy, barbecue, or garlic soy flavors), and spicy noodles with Spam and cheese.

“What I learned is that dapat crave-able imong food. I also wanted that you can play with your food. And I see that our customers are having fun with the cheese, they would pull it up, wrap it around their food,” he told Cebu Daily News.

Fat Dois started out as an experiment for JM who earned a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of San Carlos and later on studied culinary for two years at the Academy for International Culinary Arts.

Before he opened the restaurant last May 2017, JM thought he had his career planned out. He was preparing to work in the kitchen of a cruise ship.

But he had problems completing his requirements. His visa applications for the United States and Australia were also denied.

That was when he decided to stay in Cebu and try opening a small restaurant at a building right in front of their residence in Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City.

An initial capital of around P300,000 helped JM buy kitchen equipment, an oven, and refrigerator, and repaint and upholster the space. The rugged, industrial feel of the restaurant’s interiors was achieved through recycled roof sheets, pipes, and railings while the chairs and tables were put together by himself.

When it opened, Fat Dois only had a maximum seating capacity of 20 people. And in just two months, JM was forced to put up an extended area, doubling their capacity to 40 people.

Hands on

JM employs ten staff that includes a cashier, kitchen help, dishwashers and servers. Most of them are doing part-time work for him since they work during the day at the barangay hall, which also explains why the resto only opens on evenings.

But it is JM himself who prepares every single dish that is served to Fat Dois’ hungry horde of customers.

After spending the previous years traveling a lot, partying and attending events left and right which left him waking up in the afternoons, JM now wakes up as early as 8 a.m. every single day. He would go out himself to gather the ingredients he needs for the day, although just recently, he has also hired a purchaser.

His previous stints at the kitchens of Marco Polo Cebu Hotel and the Abaca Baking Company also helped him learn where to source good ingredients.

By around noontime, he would take some rest and then start preparing for opening in the afternoon.


According to JM, he got the whole concept of Fat Dois’ food from a popular restaurant named James Cheese Ribs in the busy district of Myeongdong in South Korea during his visits to the country before.

The resto only serves cheese and ribs as their only main dish yet it is one of the most popularly suggested places by tourists and locals in Myeongdong.

“I enjoy Korean food. I also crave Korean food from time to time. Korean food is really delicious,” he said.

For his own take, JM also included the cheese and ribs in his menu. But in order to suit the typical Pinoy and Cebuano palate, he also added the cheese and chicken where pops of boneless chicken are drenched in three kinds of cheese.

Each table would have its own portable stove were the dish is heated and diners can see for themselves as the cheese melts. They would be the ones to also dip, wrap, and pull up the cheese on their food.

The last item, spicy noodles with Spam and cheese,was also inspired by another place that served a similar dish also in South Korea. Fat Dois also offers sides like kimchi rice, plain rice, french fries and extra cheese. They serve soft drinks and water.

Since opening Fat Dois, JM has not really embarked in any serious marketing or advertising. He only uses a Facebook Page to post photos and updates.

It has really been word of mouth that brought people to the place.

In a night, they would be able to record up to 40 groups in their waiting list. This translates to about 250 to 300 people. Some would even wait up to one or two hours outside just to get a taste of the much raved about food.

Seats are provided outside for those who wait. Those who are way below the waiting list would opt to just come back after going around in nearby places or malls.

They do not accept reservations, in order to give way to those who would line up as early as an hour before store opening.

Expansion plans

After celebrating its first anniversary last May 27, JM is now making plans to expand Fat Dois.

He is already in talks of acquiring an apartment adjacent to the resto in order to add more space for tables and chairs. This would double the existing capacity from 40 to 80 seats.

Hopefully, it would be opened by August this year.

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TAGS: food, hit, place, restaurant, turns

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