Chefs Gene and Gino Gonzalez: Cooking up collaborations

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOEY SANCHEZ FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE WEEKEND kind of roasts. All the good meals at The Alley.


September 3, 2022

Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start,” said the late chef, author and TV host Anthony Bourdain. And he may be right, as buffet restaurants are back in business and the masses are just hungry to come together and dine out in restaurants again.

Chefs Gene and Gino Gonzalez know this and have given the popular The Alley by Vikings an upgrade, creating by far the most premium buffet feast in the metro today at attractive fares.


Chef Gene is, of course, among the country’s distinguished culinary figures; he founded Café Ysabel and the Center for Asian Culinary Studies and authored several books, among others. Chef Gino, on the other hand, has carved a name for himself as chef, teacher, and founder of Gino’s Kitchen. Together, they are also in demand in the industry as chef-consultants.

At The Alley by Vikings’ relaunch last weekend, it was clear that the father-and-son team has cooked up the perfect recipe for satisfying the Filipino “revenge” diners’ appetite for no-judgment, eat-all-you-can consumption again.

Already known as the “ultimate eat all you can food hall,” The Alley has always stood out in the metro’s smorgasbord of dining options with its 15 or so themed stalls offering local and international appetizers, main courses, desserts, and drinks. So how else to up the ante for returning diners and new patrons?



BETTER tastier versions. A peek at The Alley’s new dishes.

As the original consultants of the first-ever Vikings food hall, Chefs Gene and Gino reevaluated the existing menu, improved it, added new dishes, trained The Alley’s culinary team, and the result is a delicious, well-made buffet that places freshness and no-scrimping-on-ingredients in the spotlight.

CHEFS Gene (left) and Gino Gonzalez with Stella Co-Sy of the Vikings Groups.

The result of The Alley partnership is an affordable five-star spread (P938+ on weekdays and P1038+ on weekends for adults) featuring all the items that one would find as well in Manila’s well-known top-tier hotel buffet restaurants. The new and improved The Alley will surely get its pricey counterparts a run for their money.

“When we were first approached by the Vikings Group back in 2011, the challenge posed to me by the owners was how to democratize the buffet,” said Gene.

“The good thing was that the owners really put their heart into it, investing in the proper equipment and training of their chefs and the rest of the staff,” added Gino.

“We love to eat, we love to travel, we try to bring in that knowledge about cuisines on the table and put ourselves in the shoes of our customers as well,” continued Gene.

ROAST Beef with gravy.


THE return of the favorite. The food hall’s popular colored sushi.


PAELLA Negra black rice.

“For The Alley, we enhanced the existing recipes, made them into better versions,” said Gino. “So for Ocean XI, we expanded its seafood base, sourced only quality ingredients, and added new items like, for instance, a cold seafood platter with sauces like Cocktail Sauce, Red Wine Mignonette, and Wasabi Ketchup.”

Exciting dishes to taste include roasts like Brazilian Roast Beef, Lechong Baka, Chicken Barbecue; Asian delights like Tom Yum and Pad Thai; Spanish favorites such as Paella Negra; and desserts like Burnt Basque Cheesecake and Brownie Yema Cake.

“What we’re really introducing now is offering varied experiences to diners,” explained Gene. “Whichever stall one goes to, there’s always a different taste and experience to enjoy.”

Better, more delicious versions

Stella Co Sy, business development consultant of the Vikings Group, said they invited chefs Gene and Gino “to re-engineer and reconceptualize The Alley to make our food better. At the same time, we also took it as an opportunity to retrain our team, improve our service — in other words, create a better version of The Alley.”

The bestselling Dinuguan is now Dinguan with Crispy Bagnet, Sy pointed out. Another favorite, Kalderetang Kambing, has been given a richer, more flavorful taste profile.

Over at the Japanese section, all items have been improved as well with the return of its ever-popular colored sushi — among the food hall’s signature dishes during its early years. The salad section has been enlivened with more homemade dressings and quality ingredients.

“Vikings has always been the benchmark for buffets here, not just for the food but for the quality of our team as well,” shared Sy. “In fact, those who are looking towards a career abroad in the culinary field consider the restaurant as an important training ground to upgrade their skills and hone their talents.”

It also starts with a well-trained team to understand the why’s and how’s of creating the buffet and sustaining it, explained Gene: “A good buffet has to start with good ingredients and a good staff. You need to motivate the team, otherwise the entire exercise will just be routinary. That boredom will pile up and possibly reflect on the dishes.”

At The Alley by Vikings, chefs Gene and Gino are definitely serving up the total package of good food, good service, and good times.

• Enjoy The Alley’s new buffet at UP Town Center, BGC, Cloverleaf, Ayala Malls by Area.

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