Even though a lot of restaurants are now pet friendly, there aren’t too many places that actually have a separate menu for dogs. So Filipino chef and dog lover Giannina Gonzalez decided to fix that with her unique Whole Pet Kitchen – a small café that caters to dogs as well as humans.
Located in San Juan city, Whole Pet Kitchen is the first pet bakery and dog café in the Philippines. Gonzalez, 29, said that she wanted a job where she knew what went into her dog’s food, and she also wanted a place where she could share a table with her four-legged pet. She started the place in 2011, and it’s been doing pretty ever since.
“We wanted to reach out to a niche market; that’s why the place is small,” she revealed. “When Whole Pet Kitchen was opened, there were so many dog lovers who checked out the place, and now, the café has its own set of regulars who hang out and spend bonding moments with their pets.” The café has two sets of menus – one for pets and one for humans.
Photo: Teddy Pelaez/InterAkcyon.com
A range of dishes feature on the pet menu – from birthday cakes to ‘pup’cakes, biscuits to muffins, biscotti, chews, ‘paw’stas, savories, and even a nutritious doggie yogurt cooler. She makes sure that all the nutritional needs of a dog are covered, and everything is salt-free, sugar-free and preservative-free. And they are apparently very tasty as well, as her four-legged guests usually lick their bowls clean.
The human menu, on the other hand, offers iced tea, salads, lasagna, and sandwiches. Diners are seated at tables, and are encouraged to feed their pets as they eat. Pet food is generally served on a tray with two ceramic bowls – one for the main course, and another for the drink. Pets that aren’t toilet trained wear diapers, and in case of a mess, owners help the staff clean it up.
Gonzalez has been cooking for dogs for a really long time, and her interest in canine gastronomy spiked when a couple of her dogs suffered from stomach-related disorders. So she decided to take a scientific approach by consulting veterinarians and the Bureau of Animal Industry to create a unique menu that catered specifically to canines.
To begin with, Gonzalez bought a whole lot of dried and canned dog treats to figure out what the problem was. “I just had to know why these foods and treats were driving my dogs crazy,” she said. “Taste-wise, they were okay, but it was gross.”
Photo: Teddy Pelaez/InterAkcyon.com
After a lot of analysis, Gonzalez figured out that it’s best to use fresh, all-natural, organic ingredients when cooking for dogs. She developed a range of tried and tested recipes, all approved by vets. “I would make batches of biscuits and muffins, and give them to my vet, aside from me trying them,” she revealed.
She also tested her trial-menu on eight pooches, of which her dad’s shih tzus were the hardest to please. If they did not like it, she would go back and modify the recipe until they ate it. Soon, she was giving away free food to other dog-owners, in exchange for valuable feedback. Everyone loved her stuff, and it wasn’t long before she was running a full-fledged dog-food business.
Some of her bestsellers include the banana, oat and liver-flavored muffins, and the paw-shaped turmeric biscuits. Her signature dish is Jack’s lasagna, featuring a medley of beef, liver and veggies layered in lasagna sheets and topped with low-fat yogurt and cheese. The premium doggie biscotti is twice-baked the Italian way, for extra crunch and the muffins are made with human-grade protein.
The Brown Rice Risotto is also popular, with organic VCO (virgin coconut oil), veggies, herbs and homemade low-fat yogurt. You’d expect these exclusive dishes to come with a hefty price to boot, but surprisingly, everything is reasonably priced. The lasagna, for example, costs only P88 ($7), while the risotto is also quite cheap at P78 ($6).
The response to Whole Pet Kitchen has been positive – people seem to love hanging out with their dogs at the café and it’s a great place to socialize with other pet-owners. Sometimes, people without pets also come in, just to look at the dogs. The concept has become so popular that Gonzalez says she plans to start a café for cats in the near future. Cats aren’t allowed inside for now, for obvious reasons!