‘Lechonero’ – Delivering that great treat for the palate

It’s in the blood. Or it’s in the palate; or in the cooking style. Who else can make great authentic ‘Cebu Lechon’ but one who has grown up being Cebuano – one accustomed to the culinary delights and traditions of this historic city in the south.

One day, sales executive Will Mahusay who worked in a Forbes 500 company, ditched his suit and tie for an apron and kitchen gloves. He started roasting pigs just the way mum and dad did it. Their Cebu Lechon specialty has become a favourite in not a few Fil-Aussie parties and family gatherings around Sydney.

“It has been in the family. I was young and I used to see my mum and dad prepare Cebu lechon. The time came that I realised I really love making our brand of lechon too,” Will tells AK who recently visited him

“At first I didn’t find it too interesting because of the labor involved. But after working around 18 years for a company, I thought maybe it’s time to work for myself, to do something I love.

“My dad has been doing it (Cebu lechon) for more than two decades so it was actually a no-brainer – I asked myself: why not continue this legacy?” says Will who has remained almost purely Pinoy, purely Cebuano despite growing up in Australia.

Will now acts as the proprietor of Sydney Cebu Lechon, a privately owned business based in Blacktown. Will’s parents arrived in Australia in 1987. By the 1990s, the Mahusay elders thought of making Cebu lechon because they missed the taste of the authentic delight back home. From then on, they started receiving requests from friends to make more of the authentic Cebu lechon until it became a full-blown business.

They have three ovens for making the sumptuous Cebu lechon which means tastier, juicier, crispier – the perfect all-time Filipino favourite. It helped a lot that Will’s father specialises in metal fabrication. The father himself fashioned their ovens with electrical rotor grills to help in the production.

The quality of their product rests on the passion of the Mahusays to keep alive a culinary tradition. It means a lot of perseverance and dedication too. Will relates his leaving the corporate world does not mean less hours of work for him. He pours in practically the same hours as he did when he was working for a company.

The only big difference now is that he really loves what he’s doing. He’s gone to a full-time ‘lechonero.’

It can take at least four hours to roast one Cebu lechon. Will says they are very meticulous with quality limiting their lechon size to its ideal weight.

“We don’t go beyond a 20-kilo roast because we don’t want to sacrifice the quality. That’s the ideal weight for a Cebu lechon.”

Will says they get around six to eight orders on a typical weekend but there’s a deluge of orders during peak seasons especially Christmas and New Year – the most important Pinoy holidays. Orders sometimes will have to be placed months ahead before pick-up date.

The company is currently working on improving their lechon ‘factory’ fronted by a planned store where they can sell Filipino products.

For Will, the ultimate prize is of course the satisfaction of bringing an authentic Filipino dish that makes Pinoys happy in a country away from home.   The lechon, after all, has become not only a dish to be devoured. In the most important Pinoy family gatherings, the lechon has become a centerpiece symbolising a great feast day of joy, abundance, and Filipino barrio-style mateship.

The company sees a bigger market in the years to come. There’s still little aggressive marketing (they’re present in Facebook) but the name is fast spreading. Indeed, a lechon that tastes good in the mouth becomes word of mouth.

“We’re happy that our long-time customers keep on coming back. They always do and it continues to attract other customers as well. We can say our customer base is about 80 per cent Pinoy and 20 per cent non-Pinoy,” he says.

“It is all worth it.”

DID YOU KNOW? The Cebu lechon has been around for some 500 years. In history, according to account of Pigafetta’s chronicle of Magellan’s voyage to Cebu in 1521, the locals offered “black pigs” to roast with cakes of rice wrapped in leaves and roast fish. This is the real meal of the locals and with the abundance of coconuts, their by products such as vinegar blended as a “sawsawan” for the inasal and roast/grilled fish to go with the rice wine “tuba” for “sumsuman”. Lechón, is the Spanish word for suckling pig. The production of lechon to this day is a thriving business in Cebu which also claims to be the lechon capital of the Philippines. [A. Steele; bisayabulletin.com]

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2 Comments on this Post

  1. Any contact numbers? How to order? How much is a whole lechon?

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