Zamboanga's Lechon Craze Got Crazier


Ulysses John Almocera
Ulysses John Almocera | Jul 11, 2016
Zamboanga's Lechon Craze Got Crazier
Benj Villalobos and three of his trusted cooks during the opening of BigBens Kitchen. Photo by Abby Palencia of bAbby Studio

Seven months after Benjie delivered his first lechon, Zamboanga City is still going crazy over Bigben’s Kitchen lechon belly and organic whole lechon. When Choose Philippines published an article which was later shared by ABSCBN facebook page, Bigben’s Kitchen lechon delivery service got more attention. But it doesn’t stop there, the lechon craze got a lot crazier. Being a friend to his customers, Benj always listens to their suggestions and he just couldn’t say no when a lot of people were demanding for him to open up a restaurant! From their humble home kitchen in Barangay San Roque, BigBen’s Kitchen opened a bigger “kitchen” at Governor Ramos, Sta Maria, Zamboanga City where they will cater to dine in customers starting June 28, 2016. The expansion was not a choice but a must! What started from a home kitchen of five people, Benj hired 11 more crew to help them with the operations.

Chicken cooked five ways. Served during their opening day buffet. Photo by Abby Palencia of bAbby Studio
Part of the buffet during the opening day. Photo by Abby Palencia of bAbby Studio

Every time I talk to Benj, he can’t find the right words to say how happy and overwhelmed he is with the acceptance of his new concept. He never expected the success of his lechon delivery service. Their dining area can accommodate up to 50 people, this however, was full during their opening day. People from different walks of life flocked to BigBens Kitchen to enjoy their buffet. They are open daily from 10am to 10pm. However, it is important to visit their facebook page because they are sometimes close to accommodate catering services. Benj does not want to compromise the services for his dining customers.

Blessing of BigBens Kitchen. Photo by Abby Palencia of bAbby Studio

A buffet of items from their delivery menu which includes the flavorful pork ribs, cornish pastry filled with a lot of meat, breaded fish fillet, uber cheesy pizzanadas, dinuguan, pancit guisado, Singaporean crabs, chicken five ways, creamy prawn with mushroom soup, garlic butter mussels, kalkag rice, shanghai rice, and unlimited organic lechon, let me say that again, UNLIMITED ORGANIC LECHON for only 345.00 pesos was served during their opening day!! Living in culturally diverse Zamboanga, Bigben’s Kitchen prepares, cooks, and serves their pork and non-pork dishes separately!

Dessert is admittedly not their specialty and I did not mind their biko or sticky rice with caramelized coconut milk which looked really ordinary at first with its brown color and the darker crusted top. Little did we know that it was topped with a generous spread of nutella which brought the dish to another level of awesomeness which was a very pleasant surprise. Different flavors of iced tea and fruit shakes are available too. Buffet will be served occasionally and will be announced on their facebook page.

BigBen's Surf and urf Platter. Kalkag rice, grilled chicken or pork ribs, garlic mussels, garlic prawns, grilled suid, and slices of fruits.
Chicken Galantina with cheesy sauce.

Bigbens Kitchen owes their success to their loyal customers who encouraged Benjie to expand from a delivery service to an on location caterer and finally to his own restaurant. Dr. Ivy Saavedra-Iturralde, one of BigBens loyal customers, had ordered countless times for family occasions, office celebrations and to satisfy her cravings. When asked why she keeps coming back, Dr. Ivy answered “Because their foods are very very delish at very affordable prices! We also share the same principle of healthy cooking. No artifical flavoring like MSG”.

Fried lechon.
Buttered garlic shrimp.

Progress was fast for BigBens Kitchen because of the support from friends and customers who would encourage him to push further. Despite his rise to fame in just a span of a few months, Benj remains to be humble and has not changed his perky attitude in entertaining his customers. “Benj sets Big Ben's apart. I've never met a restaurant owner who is friendlier or more hands on than him!” says Jannie Joshelle Parel, another loyal customer.

Benj always accompanies his staff during catering services and sometimes delivers the food by himself if his tight schedule would allow. Their facebook account is also updated and it is advisable to check their schedule before going to the restaurant as they are sometimes close to cater to big events. Benj does this to ensure that their services are not compromised.

Mixed Vegetables in Charsiu Sauce.

Everything happened so fast but this certainly did not happen overnight. Bigbens Kitchen is a product of a young cook who turned his hobby into a business and poured everything he’s got for his passion. The love for food and cooking has brought them to greater heights. Bigben’s Kitchen started form a small delivery service and expanded to a catering service then to a restaurant.

My plate during the buffet. 
First batch of diners during the opening buffet. Photo by Abby Palencia of bAbby Studio

Oh wait, did I mention that they can also send lechon to Manila, Cebu and Davao? Contact them at 0916-794-5878 to make the necessary arrangements to fly Zamboanga’s best lechon to the rest of the Philippines.

Read Related Stories: 

Best Pig: Cebu's Artisanal Lechon


The Star of Every Pinoy Fiesta: 3 of the Best Lechon Roasters in Cebu

Lechon at Your Doorstep: How a Young Farmer Created Zamboanga's Latest Craze

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