This stranger-chef is now Manito’s favorite son!

One is never too old to become a chef. Meet Lhemuel Alandy, who fearlessly explores the world of food and coffee. He eventually graduated – with honors, at that – with a Culinary Arts degree at the ripe age of 35!

Fourth among five children of farmer father Philip and housemaid mother Ludylyn, both from the island province of Marinduque, young Lhemuel assisted the family matriarch in the preparation of a variety of Pinoy merienda. They sold it at the local market since he was five years old.


Photographs courtesy of Chef Lhemuel Alandy
From the dough will rise Chef Lhemuel in his element.


Pride of place Chef Lhemuel at PitoGo Cafe by Chef Muel


Hear ye, hear ye Chef Lhemuel Alandy


Fast track to three decades after, he completed his collegiate course from the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. He then pursued short courses at the Italian Food Style Education (IFSE) in Italy. Through hard work and determination, he never thought he would be able to travel to Europe.

To pile on to his culinary career boom, he secured an intensive internship stint at the Michelin Star Restaurant Marc Lanteri Al Castello Grinzane Cavour, which is housed in a castle that once belonged to the nation’s nobility.


Admirable trio Mayon Volcano, the sea and prized goodies.


Helping hands With reliable aides.


Oven-ready Signature empanadas waiting to be baked.


Welcome Rustic dining table setup


Do-It-Yourself The chef personally assisted in the construction of the restaurant


Flash of inspiration Self-designed logo


In March 2020, as he began a new job, the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world and forced the shutdown of many a service. This became a turning point in his life.

Lhemuel, who decided to ride out the pandemic out of Metro Manila, then discovered Pitogo in Manito, Albay—a small municipality situated beside the sea with mangrove forests and boasts a majestic view of the Mayon Volcano, a place you would write home about. With all these under his belt, he soon dreamt to have his own Filipino restaurant.

And thus, on new year’s day 2022, Chef Lhemuel finally opened the doors of PitoGo Cafè by Chef Muel, the first of its kind in the area, to the small tight-knit communities of the province. “Now, residents around Manito are very happy and grateful for a venue to celebrate special occasions,” he admitted.

What started as a humble Café quickly expanded to 350 square meters, which now includes his kitchen and an outdoor garden.

When asked on one ingredient he can’t live without, he quickly responded “Flour! It is the main ingredient of my PitoGo Homemade Empanada.” Meanwhile, he considers his Chef’s Knife from Italy, which symbolizes his hard work in the kitchen, his favorite tool.

During his free time, Chef Lhemuel enjoys bird watching for he is a nature lover. He likewise engages in cross stitching, photography, landscaping and carpentry — in fact, he himself manually contributed to the physical construction of his café!

We sat down with Chef Lhemuel to learn more about his hidden gem of a Café and his motivations:


Start them young The baker invites the youngsters to prepare empanadas.


On bestsellers

Our PitoGo Homemade Empanadas such as Pork Humba and Bicol Express flavors are the foundation of the Café. We likewise sell a lot of pastas, from Carbonara to Mutya ng Bicol — seafood pasta. Coffee, both black and latte, are popular.

On ingredient sources

Most of my ingredients are sourced from markets both from Legazpi City and Manito, Albay. I also have my own garden with herbs like ginger, lemon grass to name a few.

On his staff

I’m so blessed to have my staff who have become my family. We help each other to fulfill our mission, run the Café exceptionally well, all while assisting the community. We continue to hire young students to earn and save for their educational expenses. I let them work at the Café to gain more knowledge and encourage them to be successful someday

On inspirations

Aside from my Mama, the youth inspire me most to fulfill my advocacy. Through PitoGo Cafè by Chef Muel, we constantly aid our new Grade V girl scholar who needs support for her studies.


On future plans

I wish Pitogo Café to have outlets around the Philippines. I’m so happy to announce that a branch in Balete, Batangas City, is soon to open!


On advice to aspiring chef-bakers

To all aspirant chef-bakers out there, don’t stop discovering and adopting new learnings. Reach for your dreams. Non arrendersi mai! Ciao!


Check out PitoGo Cafè by Chef Muel on Facebook @pitogohomemadeempanada.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *