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Willmar woman's new Philippine food business expands beyond egg rolls

Cristy Gantinao-Rieland uses the commercial kitchen located at the Willmar Area Multicultural Market headquarters on Tuesdays and Fridays to prepare Philippine cuisine for her business, Cristy and Sons. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Many in the area are familiar with the egg rolls Cristy Gantinao-Rieland and her sons sell at the Farmers Market each summer in Willmar. Now, her homemade Philippine cooking will be available all year.

Gantinao-Rieland has opened Cristy and Sons, operating out of the commercial kitchen at the Willmar Area Multicultural Market in downtown Willmar. She offers full meals and egg rolls for takeout or delivery two days a week,

The WAMM kitchen was developed to help entrepreneurs get their small businesses off the ground. Gantinao-Rieland rents the kitchen on Tuesdays and Fridays.

She provides food for larger groups but does not plan to provide a full catering service. Catering would require more overhead, and she would need to hire staff, she said.

Each day she's in the kitchen, she prepares a meal that includes her trademark egg rolls and other traditional Philippine dishes. The meals are available to those who order ahead of time. They're available for walk-in customers as long as the supply lasts. She has menus prepared through the end of March.

Her egg rolls are available on Tuesdays and Fridays, too, and other dishes are available for special order. Gantinao-Rieland asks for a two-day advance notice for special orders.

Gantinao-­Rieland, 51, grew up in the Philippines and was staying with her sister in Germany when she met her future husband, a native of Minnesota.

She didn't even know how to cook when she got married, she said. She had come from a family that was privileged, and the cooking had been done by servants, but she had watched the cooks a bit, so she had that as a starting point.

She wanted to impress her new husband when they moved to Minnesota 18 years ago, she said, so she made him some vegetable egg rolls. It turned he was "not a vegetable person," so she kept trying and developed her own recipe for meat-filled egg rolls.

She discovered she had a passion for cooking and kept developing her own recipes. She cooks by feel and does not measure ingredients.

"Cooking is all about art," she said. She uses lots of garlic, ginger and onions, "and of course, always soy sauce." She doesn't use salt, preferring to use the other seasonings.

She uses olive oil in her cooking, and most of the food she cooks is quite low in fat, she said, with the exception of the fried egg rolls.

Philippine cooking draws from a variety of cultures, with Spanish, Chinese and other Asian influences. It would be rude to visit a Filipino home and fail to sample the host's cooking, she said. "You're not leaving until you eat; that's what it's like in the Philippines."

Gantinao-Rieland said she got the idea for selling her cooking when she lost her last job with the Willmar Schools due to budget cuts. She is currently single and needed to stay busy. "I'm not the type of person to sit and do nothing," she said. The food business also gives her some flexibility, and she likes being her own boss.

Her ability to sell 70 dozen egg rolls each Saturday at the Farmers Market made her think there might be a market for her cooking. Her sons Christopher, 12, and Patrick, 17, help her at the farmer's market. "My kids love cooking too," she said.

"I couldn't do it without this kitchen," she said. WAMM has allowed her to start her business and gauge the community's interest without a lot of overhead costs. "Tuesdays and Fridays are my experiment," she said. She rents the kitchen and has purchased insurance for her work there. She also uses her own utensils and equipment.

To reach Gantinao-Rieland,

e-mail or call 320-905-4643 or 320-262-6325

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340