This is not a society column piece. Although the page is filled with photos of people who matter in government, business, and yes, our society.
This is about the birthday dinner that Rikki Dee hosted for his wife Beng Dee last week. More like a metaphor, the event was a celebration of good food, well-planned and successful, just like the life that the couple has led.
I first met Rikki and Beng around 1986 when they showed me their first restaurant named Chin Chin, a small nondescript room located behind a building along Pasay Road. You had to walk through a small pathway to reach it. But the food was so good, no wonder it was a favorite of Henry Sy Sr.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Dees and their children now have over 200 restos/stores and 15 brands, both homegrown and franchised. That’s getting ahead of the story, but to simplify, let’s just start from the pandemic. “That’s when we re-started our life,” says Rikki.
“We lost practically everything we built when COVID came, and we had to close 38 stores. But we made good use of whatever we had then, we fed a total of 40,000 people during the pandemic,” narrates Rikki.
It was pure young love when Rikki and Beng married when they were both 19. What followed next were decades filled with hard work, sacrifice, patience,wise spending, and Rikki adds: “taking calculated risks and thinking outside the box.”
Now that the food industry is sizzling back to normalcy, the Dees can very well celebrate with good food and family travels (as seen in the FamiDee’s IG posts by Mrs. FooDee—that’s Beng) with the help of their four children who have been trained with a good work ethic and nurtured in business discipline and creativity.
And good taste. As you enter the Dee home, you see a black sofa setting designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, flanked by two sculptured murals by Jinggoy Buensuceso. Their house designed by Andy Locsin’s architectural firm shows simply modern vibes and an appreciation for Philippine artists.
Their sit-down dinner with dear friends served the best of Kai Restaurant and their typical flair for beautiful table settings. In his speech, Rikki paid homage to Beng, “my roommate, my ex-girlfriend, the person with whom I have spent two-thirds of my life.”
His motto: “Happy wife, happy husband.” Rikki now runs their FooDee stores, established malls outside Metro Manila, opticals and a few start-ups. The couple can relax now that their kids with their spouses help run the business.
Cheeno and his wife Kidd are on top of the restos such as Mesa, Tim Ho Wan, Cerveseria, Hawker Chan, Terraza Martinez and Pound, to name a few. “Now more than ever, I understand and appreciate the things you have done to keep our family close. Thank you for teaching us that family is an integral part of success,” Cheeno tells Beng in his speech.
JR with his wife Bea cites how Beng “took me under her wings—or is it high heels—to go around 80 stores every day, teaching me the ropes and importance of costing.” JR and Bea are now in charge of Sunnies.
Erika with her husband Patrick Gonzalez describes Beng as “my confidante, mentor, best friend, number one phone pal on random and even the silliest of things… who made sure we eat, travel and even drink together as family.” While Patrick is with Sun Life, Erika takes care of Llao Llao, the famous yogurt from Spain, and their food courts.
Erica with her beau, Ateneo schoolmate Ged Poe, remembers how she and her mom would “play dress-up and try many outfits at a time, telling me the rationale behind each outfit… Mom is really the original DIY Queen.” Erica now runs their Singapore franchised stores, Editor’s Market, and the vintage clothing Nirvana (“sosyal na ukay-ukay”) which contributes part of its profits to Caritas Manila.
What a beautiful family that remains humble and down-to-earth. Guests went home satistied with good food (and more fire) in their bellies, memories of laughter and love .