In a recent trip to Australia to attend the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2012. I met the Puzon family, who owns and operates a hip and trendy Filipino restaurant called Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge (Dahon). The head of the family, Romeo Puzon, hails from Bataan and his wife, Fe, from Cebu. They migrated to Australia in 1977, when their eldest, Cherry, was only four years old and their second child, Edward, was three. Upon arrival in Melbourne, Fe was seven months in the family way with their third child, Roy.
THE HEART OF A FILIPINO KITCHEN
The early years of the Puzons in Melbourne is a wonderful story of a real family struggle to earn a good living in this country they decided to call home. Every day after school, the Puzons together with their three siblings gather in their family kitchen and for a couple of hours, prepared ‘Pinoy’ delicacies like longganisa, tocino, tinapa, chicharon, and atchara. On Saturdays and Sundays, the whole family would hop into their car with all the goodies in the trunk and do the rounds of Filipino homes knocking on their doors announcing “bili po kayo ng longganisa, tocino, tinapa at chicharon, masarap na, mura pa”!
They would take every opportunity to join Filipino fiestas and festivals all around Australia. Edward Puzon, currently Dahon’s Restaurant Manager, remembers fondly how he would get so tired at the end of the day because of never ending orders of halo-halo, therefore never ending kaskas ng yelo. It was through the family industriousness that all three kids were able to finish schooling and eventually start their own careers. In 2007, the family decided to buy a franchise of one of Australia’s popular Portuguese food chains Nando’s. They closed down this restaurant in 2011 and then set up Dahon, which opened in August last year. Cherry Puzon Moore, the eldest who is in charge of all the buying requirements for Dahon, says majority of their clientele are the Filipino community and their Australian families and friends. They are seriously encouraging more Australians, as well a nationalities, to try and hopefully like Filipino food. They intend to continually study the Melbourne market and introduce new items to their current menu to keep their loyal customers coming back.