The actor-turned-restaurateur used the pandemic downtime to innovate and—surprisingly—start new businesses
When his slate of already established restaurants (among them Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, John and Yoko, Sumo Sam, Dekada, Tai Koo Hong Kong Roast and Kondwi) temporarily closed on March of 2020, due to the implemented lockdown, there wasn’t much Marvin Agustin could do. Of course he feared for his businesses, but what could he have done when things were so uncertain? He was cooped up at home like most of us, finding ways to stay productive, and making the best out of his situation.
Like many quarantine chefs before him, he eventually turned to baking as a form of therapy and as a challenge. “I’ve never baked before, and I don’t really have a sweet tooth,” he shared with a grin. “I’m so intimidated by baking because of the precision—everything has to be measured. I knew my patience would be tested, but I had so much time [on my hands].” Marvin took to Google and YouTube to learn the basics of baking.
His first foray into the world of sweets was with banana bread, where he used flour from one of the closed restaurants (due to lockdown), and some old bananas he had at home. Marvin found it incredibly difficult to bake, but practice makes perfect, and he was eventually able to produce a product he was proud of. Without hesitation, he launched Mr. Vin Munchies, an online bake shop where the banana bread is sold.
He ultimately mustered up the courage to dive into more complicated recipes, and the business continued to grow from home. With the help of his sister May, the e-commerce store now offers confections such as the Agustin family’s version of Queso De Bola Ensaymada, classic cookies, and their best-selling Kerot Cake. Launching almost one year ago, Mr. Vin Munchies boasts an impressive following of over 52k hungry sweet-tooths.
You may remember a viral video of Marvin Agustin at home, at the height of the pandemic, experimenting with his new oven, and creating one of the tastiest looking cochinillos (Spanish suckling pig) ever. The video blew up, with thousands of shares in just a couple of hours. Although this video eventually led to the launch of Marvin’s well-received concept Cochi by Marvin, the former actor admits that the journey to his new business started purely out of a craving for crispy pork.
It all began when he bought a new industrial oven for Mr. Vin Munchies. Noting that it was a very pricey investment, he wanted to make use of it as much as he could, especially on the days where they weren’t baking banana bread. “I loved the cochinillo experience I had in Madrid in 2012,” he shared. “And I guess I was craving for crispy pork, so [I began] researching on suppliers of suckling pigs.” His chef friend assisted him with sourcing the pig, and then he was good to go. To season it, he randomly used his special herb mix, which he uses to rub his steaks at home.
As someone who knew how to casually edit videos through his phone, Marvin thought it would be fun to document the experience and share it with his followers. What he didn’t expect was for the video to become a viral sensation. “Last time I checked, it had 20 million views, and 25 million reaches,” he said with disbelief. “But I didn’t realize how big it was until GMA and ABS-CBN started picking it up. And then people started requesting to order it. I wasn’t interested in selling it, but [I got pressured] by the excitement!” He began selling exclusively to friends who all commented that the flavor of his cochinillo was very distinct compared to the others already available in the market. Their love and support lifted his confidence, eventually leading the successful launch of the new food concept to the public.
Photography ERWIN CANLAS
Text CHINO HERNANDEZ
Creative Direction NICOLE ALMERO
Fashion Direction and Styling DANIEL REYES
Grooming MONG AMADO
Shoot Coordination PATRICIA RAMOS
Shot on location KONDWI