IT ALL STARTED WITH AN IDEA, says Lourdes "Chingling" Tanco, Managing Director of MIDA (originally, Management Investment Development Associates), a name closely associated with brother, former Philippine agriculture minister,
Bong Tanco, but which now has hardly anything to do with its founding objectives. "It just rings a bell, so I decided to use it (the acronym)," she laughs. MIDA is Chingling's seafood trading and distribution business that counts around 15 years of servicing many of the country's top fine and casual dining spots.
Ask the edgy chefs behind Le Soufflé, Cibo and Ilustrado, to name a few; throw in some five-star hotels, like the Shangri-la group, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Peninsula Manila, caterers, like Miascor and Philippine Airlines, resorts, like Tagaytay Highlands and Island Cove, and the more accessible dining places, like Cabalen, Jollibee, Don Henrico's, TCI Fridays, Fish & Co., Dencio's and Goldilocks, and you get the picture. Through the years, MIDA has acquired a roster of satisfied customers coming from practically all market sectors, including, as Seafood Product Manager Lynette Jugueta affirms, small cafeterias and even private households.
"Chingling Tanco and Mida Foods are the best seafood purveyors in town," says J Camboa, executive chef of El Cirkulo. "We've been working together since 1995. They have consistently provided quality and unique seafood for El Cirkulo and our other restaurants (Milkyway Café, Tsukiji and Azumaya). Chingling even calls me while she's on a buying trip in Europe or the States to ask if I am interested in a particular item. Now, that's service!"
"Chefs are always looking for something new: I wanna have something special that only I have, that you can't find in any other restaurant. The ideas come from them or from us. That's why I love attending those monthly chefs' tables, where we talk about food and new ideas," explains foodie Chingling, who is no stranger to the trading business.
From college, she joined an American company that traded feed ingredients and fertilizers in the USA and Asia. In 1985, she moved into shrimp trading, her old company being acquired by ConAgra, the second largest food company in the USA and owner of Singleton Seafood Company, the largest shrimp processor in the US. In 1986, she went to Indonesia as country manager for a joint venture trading company between ConAgra and a private banker to capitalize on Indonesia's promotion of its non-oil! gas exports. In 1990, she was assigned to the Philippines to start a trading office that would source shrimp for Singleton and other ConAgra seafood companies. She left the firm soon after to put up MIIDA Trade Ventures International, Inc. and MIDA Food Distributors, Inc.
"In 1997, seafood was getting scarcer in the Philippines-not much to export. We noticed that the products that we were buying from Indonesia could be brought to the Philippines and sold for profit. We started with tuna pangu and tuna belly, sent them by air from Bali to Manila and sold them directly to restaurants in the Philippines. The cargo sold like hotcakes and we got enthused. We did this for several shipments before we gathered up enough courage to bring in a whole container of stuff."