Before I decided to go back to school, I worked in the corporate setting for four years. I thought that since I was finally out of school, I no longer had to deal with horrible cafeteria food, and that I would finally have the resources to actually order something fancier, not to mention healthier and better tasting. Boy, was I wrong.

I was a late bloomer and experienced Freshman 15 during my first year as a ‘working girl.’ Food served in the office wasn’t any more appealing than what I had in the college cafeteria, so I had to resort to nearby food places which were mainly fast food. There were those fancier, healthier choices around, of course, but since I had other more important bills to pay, i.e., rent and transportation, food had to be the least of my concerns, whether I liked it or not.

When I started unhealthily gaining weight and getting sick, I told myself that I’d start cooking my own food. I lasted three days, I just didn’t have enough time to do that!

Addressing all these concerns seems impossible to pull off, because what food business person in their right mind would invest on spoiling clients like a celebrity chef would, while keeping it affordable to the regular office employee?

Have you ever heard of office food vendors serving grilled salmon and pastel de lengua (ox tongue pie)?

Impossible, you’d most likely say. Or if they do serve this kind of menu, you might as well order the same thing from a specialty restaurant and get the same tab. Well, I was lucky enough to encounter a real office food vendor during my last corporate stint that did not only pull it off, but they exceeded my expectations as well.

Almost Gourmet (or ALGO for short), is a Manila-based food service that serves a variety of freshly cooked meals that are delicious, nutritious and budget friendly. Their main clients include office workers and private residents who appreciate, or, like me back then, pined away for good food at affordable prices.

Each week, ALGO founder Joyce Romualdez, who was actually my boss, would send out the following week’s menu to the entire office via e-mail, and each employee would respond back with their orders. They are carefully encoded into the ALGO database. All orders are then freshly prepared and labeled each day by ALGO power cook, Dora.

Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Not only was it incredibly convenient since you need not leave the office to buy food, but I always felt as if I had my own personal chef, who would prepare what I wanted the way I wanted it for the day. For instance, when I wanted a meat dish without the meat, I would simply e-mail my preferences and Dora would substitute the meat with, say, more filling veggies or tofu, all for the same price and tastiness. Or if I wanted something grilled rather than fried, ALGO‘s always happy to respond to each special request.

Vegetable Curry with Steamed Rice

The weekly menu consists of international flavors that suit every craving – Italian, Japanese, Chinese, American, Indian, Filipino, and sometimes, even a fusion of two or more of these great cuisines.

Shrimp and Olive-Pesto Dressed Tomatoes and Steamed Rice

Everything is fresh, healthy and homemade. Of course, don’t expect your ‘almost gourmet’ lunch packs served in china or porcelain chopsticks. All meals are quaintly served in lunch-on-the-go containers.

Teriyaki Mushroom Salad

But since ALGO also believes that you eat with your eyes first, orders are always nicely garnished and neatly prepared.

Fusilli with Spinach and Cheese

Joyce writes, “The food is superb and comparable with the dishes served in your favorite chic restos. And of course, it’s called Almost Gourmet because the cook wears a hairnet instead of a chef’s hat!”

Me with ALGO founder, Joyce

What’s great about ALGO is that they not only serve individual orders – they have the greatest party packs as well, if you want to feed by the bulk! Apart from lunch packs, ALGO also provides party trays for family and office gatherings. They’re perfect for birthday parties, corporate functions and family get togethers. Visit www.almostgourmet.com.ph to download their Party Menu.

It’s the holidays, so what better way to satisfy your guests than serving them gourmet meals at a non-gourmet price? Nobody has to know. :)

For inquiries about ALGO‘s lunch packs and/or party menus, call (0917) 810-0110 or (0917) 823-0153, or email almostgourmet@gmail.com.

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