MIGUEL Angel de Alba always dreamt of becoming a doctor when he was still young. Being a sickly boy that he was, he got inspired to pursue a career in medicine to help those who are of the same plight as he is.

But fate may have its joking way of pushing him far from his childish fascination as he is now the executive chef and general manager of Alba Restaurante Español, a family business that was started by his father Don Anastacio de Alba, more commonly known as Señor Alba in 1952.

Family business

Becoming a chef was far from the vision that de Alba had for himself. Brought by his sickly nature, he thought of gaining more knowledge in the field of medical arts to alleviate, or at least lessen, the pain felt by those who are physically unfit.

“I [really] wanted to become a doctor because I wanted to cure others who are sickly like me,” he said.

But as years passed by, he was slowly influenced by his father’s dedication and compassion in managing their family restaurant despite having no formal education in the culinary arts.

“My dad was always at the restaurant. Before going home, we make sure to pass by it. I guess that was what brought me here,” de Alba said.

He also related that his father’s work ethics had an indirect impact on him and ironically, never pressured any of his siblings to work for the family business.

“I saw that what he was doing was equally fulfilling as any profession that involved service. And it would be a shame if none of his children would take over,” de Alba said.

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As he was growing up, he recalled how his father gained popularity among the elites. This fame was brought by the La Mancha restaurant they owned, made famous by the delectable Spanish cuisine it offers to its patrons.

“As a child, I remember my father’s glorious days. The elitist members of the society went to our restaurant. It was a glamorous time, but more than anything, what mattered was how much these personalities honored and appreciated my father and his food,” he said.

But due to the construction of the Magallanes overpass complex that made the de Alba family go back to Spain, La Mancha suffered a severe loss. De Alba, together with his father, then returned to the Philippines after two years.

Thomasian days

Working his way up to where he is now, de Alba recalled how he started working in the family business. He was still a student of the University back then.

“While I was majoring in Accounting, I was already helping my dad. Being a Thomasian was tough since I work in the morning and have classes in the evening that would last until 9 or 10 pm,” he said.

It was also during his Thomasian days when they were reviving the family business in the country renaming La Mancha to Casa Colas.

“La Mancha was renamed after my father who was fondly called ‘Colas’ by his colleagues,” de Alba said.

Despite establishing a new restaurant by the name of Casa Colas, de Alba maintained a low profile and never bragged about their family business.

“When I was in school, nobody knew except my close friends that we own a restaurant. They (my friends) used to tease me to bring them to Casa Colas for free meals,” he said.

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But more than all of the lessons his college days taught him, it was the certainty he gained to follow the footsteps of his father that mattered the most.

“[UST] has enriched my life. It has taught me that your life finds purpose in anything that you place your heart into. In my case, it is the love for business and food in general,” de Alba said.

Keeping the tradition

At present, de Alba also works as the president of Alba International Inc. According to him, it is quite difficult to follow the footsteps of his father because of the many things the latter has achieved.

Because of the great expectations of the people around him, he finds motivation and inspiration to the undying support of his employees and patrons.

“There is also a pressure in keeping the name strong and the standards excellent. I always remind our staff to be on their toes and to keep the needs of our guests a top priority,” he said.

Keeping with the tradition of their business, de Alba is very hands-on and particular in managing their restaurant just like his father.

“The name has earned respect with our clients. We try to achieve our main goals of excellence and consistency. Basically, working here to cope with what he has done is my day to day work,” de Alba said.

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