Food-Loving Entrepreneur Charles Paw Goes From Grit To The Grid: See How He's Reinventing The Ubiquitous Food Hall With His Newest, And Yummiest, Venture To Date
Who was once a grade school student selling toys to his classmates to earn a meager allowance is now a powerhouse of a restauranteur behind big league names like Ping Pong Diplomacy, Scout's Honor, The Beef, PizzaExpress, Hanamaruken, Bad Bird, and more.
From grit to The Grid
We're talking about no one else but Charles Paw, a jovial business owner whose sunny disposition conceals the tough layer of grit that lines his character, the true source of his growing list of successes. Formed by a childhood, adolescence, and an early adulthood of constant uphill climbs, Charles can now officially call himself a self-made man, conquering not one, but two major industries in the Philippines.
Before becoming a stalwart in the local food and beverage scene, Charles made it big with two names in retail which many can easily visualize in their minds: Digital Walker and Beyond the Box. The stores that specialize in tech items and gadget accessories are a testament to Charles' humble beginnings as a part-time teenage employee in a computer shop where he learned how to assemble desktop units, provide tech support, and supply computer parts.
What seemed like a menial job at the time proved to be the key to allowing Charles to open several of his very own computer shops in the next few years, the income and stability from which would give him the freedom to chase another pursuit he truly loved: food. Learning from the handful of bosses he had along the way, Charles was introduced to the boundless arena of entrepreneurship that he would eventually come to call his own.
Tsuke-Men ramen at The Grid
From digital to dining, Charles has proven himself a force to reckon with in the business world, with his eye for gadget trends and taste for fine food matched only by an appetite for risk-taking and resilience. Grit and positive thinking, as it seems, were the two secret ingredients in Charles' recipe for greatness.
Today, the dad of two and husband to the equally hard working Anna is now the proud owner of 16 Beyond the Box branches, and 30 Digital Walker stores. When it comes to food, he's the founder and CEO of the Tasteless Food Group, a merry band of fellow food lovers behind tasty concepts like Le Petit Soufflé, Cuba Libre, Kushikatsu Daruma, and famed food hall, Hole in the Wall.
King of the food hall
Speaking of food halls, they're the apple of Charles' eye at this very moment, and he's brewed up something very, very special with that in mind. Take our word for it—we had the pleasure of experiencing his newest venture, and we already can't wait to go for a second round.
This July, Charles opened the doors to The Grid, an original food concept housed in Power Plant Mall's new wing and the first of its kind in the metro.
Not to be confused with ordinary food courts, The Grid is a curated food hall that brings together Manila's culinary giants in one place. Those that come are diners with an appreciation for wide-ranging international flavors both familiar and novel, a fresh spin on local delicacies, and even meticulously crafted beverages and sweets. There are 15 stalls at the Grid, some of which are already open and ready to serve eager diners, while others are set to start operations in a couple of months.
Edsa BDG's original creations to quench all thirsts
Elaborating on his latest hunger-busting project, Charles explains that The Grid is a considerable deviation from his usual style. Design-wise, it's sleek and minimalist rather than hip and loud, and when it comes to food options, it places an emphasis on recipes expertly cooked up by the best in the business instead of over-the-top edible inventions. Here, diners get restaurant quality dishes and impressive service in a relaxed setting conducive to great conversations and as encouraged by Charles himself, food stall hopping.
Of the 15 tenants at The Grid, five are Charles' own restaurants and others are owned by celebrated chefs and professional foodies. You'll find anything from lesser known Tsuke-Men ramen whose recipes were personally approved by a Japanese food consultant to make-your-own lechon platters by Happy Ongpauco-Tiu, Spanish tapas and pintxos brought to you by the Las Flores group to chefs Miko Aspiras and Kristine Lotilla's decadent award-winning desserts, and even Thai-style pork chops and wings, Bun Appetit's to-die-for lobster rolls, and a deli whose wine and cold cuts you can enjoy on the spot.
Charles' favorite is the ramen. He loves it not only because it's filling and delicious, but because it holds sentimental value.
One of Workshop's 17-layer cakes by Chefs Miko and Kristine
In the beginning of this journey, Charles opened Ramen Bar, his very first food venture, in 2010. Upon sampling ramen in Japan, he found that there was no one offering authentic bowls of the noodle-pork-broth creations back home. Ramen Bar was a so-so business at best, and eventually closed shop as it was unable to compete with foreign chains that arrived when the ramen trend exploded in Manila.
Most entrepreneurs might look back at an experience like this with disdain, but not Charles. Much was learned from the failure, and he even manages to chuckle at the memory of his less experienced self who believed he had struck gold. Even The Grid's very name is proof of how much looking back at one's roots means to Charles; The Grid was called as such because of Power Plant Mall's name. It's a nod to the Rockwell property that afforded him the opportunity to shine, yet again.
Fast forward to present day, as Charles sits comfortably in a quiet corner of The Grid that's welcoming its first customers of the day, something in his aura suggests that the food hall is, in fact, an accurate reflection of how far he's gone.
Garlic noodles by Iya Jimenez and Lawrence Cua of Bun Appetit
Just as Charles has become a more discerning restauranteur—he no longer jumps on the bandwagon of passing food fads—The Grid is likewise mature and more refined. He says it himself; he's moving forward from food concepts whose marketing and designs are more memorable than their menus. These days, the keywords for Charles are longevity, familiarity, and building on the basics. He's pleased the Instagram crowd in the past, and now, it's time that he wins over the picky palate as well, diners who are in it for the perfect bite, and not just the perfect selfie.
With all that The Grid has to offer, it won't be long until Charles hits the mark. And with his hunger for success—and for yummy food—Charles Paw is only bound for more good things to come.
“Come and try The Grid. It’s a different experience. It’s a food court like no other,” he concludes.
Produced by Christina N. Lopez and Grace Libero-Cruz
Photos from Vanessa Lumaque
Special thanks to Sab Lee
Shot on location at The Grid, 2F Level Expansion, Power Plant Mall, Makati