“Because I love my job”

Sunny de Ocampo is known as Chef Sunny by all and sundry, but spend a day with him and you’ll find that it’s a moniker, which is way too narrow for the duties he actually performs…

THE affable and ever-smiling Chef célèbre is a man for all seasons, an all-rounder, a Restaurant Consultant who controls everything from top to bottom, and, having spent half of his life in Australia, he decided to return to his homeland a couple of years ago, “in order to give my kids a taste of what I grew up with”. He chose Boracay as the setting for this new chapter, and he’s now in charge of three separate venues, taking control of everything from the design and layout of the restaurant, the menu, the stock, the staff, decorations, training, and probably checks the speed the fans rotate at too. Yet he somehow manages to do it all in a languid and ever-easy manner. A day in the life of…

7-8AM. He oversees breakfast at Villa Oceana, the high-end group of villas where he’s Food & Beverages Manager, before setting off on his daily whistle-stop routine.

8:10AM. He starts off at D’Talipapa Bukid market, checking the current stock of produce, especially the fresh fish, working out what he’ll need for the day. “If I see a good fish I like, then I buy it. For the normal stuff, I’ll phone the kitchens, check the budgets, and then phone my marketer to give him specific instructions on what to buy later…”

8:35 AM. He arrives at Wahini on Diniwid Beach and quickly gets to work, but not, as you’d expect, in the kitchen, but rather on the restaurant floor, closely examining and consulting with his Tablet, knee deep in layout plans and surrounded by carpenters. The restaurant is going through somewhat of a facelift, which he’s in charge of, and he’s busy sketching out precise architectural plans on his notepad, organizing the workers, and consulting with his Head Carpenter, before sliding off.

9:10 AM. He saunters, in his own inimitable style, to the end of the cove to Mama’s Fish House at Microtel. He breezes into the kitchen and talks to the breakfast staff, observing them at work, giving direction, pointing out minute details from glazing to adding sprinkles of fresh basil on a dish, helping to plate up, making sure that standards he’s set at training are still being met. He then goes over last night’s sales with the Restaurant Manager, all the time interacting with the customers with a simple smile and a friendly ‘good morning’. He studies the menu, which he is in the process of re-designing, as well as checking out the kitchen equipment, which he’ll soon be updating for newer swisher models, before finally heading out and back to Wahini.

10 AM. He’s back in deep conversation with his Head Carpenter, going back and forth on improvements and alterations, as well as working on the style of the new café he’s tucking into the corner of the restaurant, before going through to the kitchen and checking on stocks.

10:35 AM. He finally gets to cook, taking charge of the latest orders to come in and also using the time for training, constantly talking to the chef assisting him, pointing out the little details, always teaching, “little by little” as he puts it, before walking out to the front and dealing with customers, warm and presentable and taking time to explain the menu to them.

11:45 AM. He goes back to Mama’s Fish House to meet with his Marketer, fresh back from the market, going through the day’s shopping and checking on the quality of the produce. Then it’s back to Wahini.

2 PM. The afternoon crew arrives and he sets up a meeting, gently discussing the day’s plans and forewarning them of the things coming up during the week, like his new cooking class show, and giving out encouragement at the same time as relaying instructions.

2:20 PM. He dives back into the construction work, taking pictures with his Tablet and talking to the laborers, before really getting hands-on, climbing on chairs and stapling material onto the bamboo roof, hanging decorations, creating swags, making the place look pretty and interesting.

3:05 PM. Time for a break. He dives into the sea and relaxes, taking time to “enjoy the island life”, swimming and paddling out on his native style outrigger canoe.

3:50 PM. He strolls back to Microtel to check up on the preparations for the evening service, then back to Wahini.

5 PM. The sun is setting and the whole place starts to sparkle, illuminated. Time for the evening barbeque to be set up. He brings out the charcoal, the grill, the fish, lights the fire, starts to cook, totally at ease and in his element, in the zone, enjoying himself, barbequing fresh fish on a beautiful beach, exchanging banter with the customers. And grinning ear to ear.

7:15 PM. No rest for the wicked as he has to leave Wahini and get back to Villa Oceana at the request of one of the guests to cook up a private dinner for two. He waltzes into the kitchen and unassumingly gets to work, chopping, frying, boiling, plating up, not a bead of sweat on him, all so effortless and graceful, so casual, but again coming up with a dish that can only be classed as fine dining.

8:45 PM. He finally calls it a day and gets out of work mode. Tomorrow he’ll do it all over again.

Tired? Not a bit of it. The reason? “Because I love my job”. Nice.

By Daniel Leemon


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