September 12, 2015
Guerrera held its first and only soft opening today on a bright sunny day in Camiguin. I flew in earlier that day and was so excited to get started that I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before. I had planned to grab a cat nap but when I arrived at the restaurant, I knew those plans might be in jeopardy–everyone had been working so hard for weeks, but with hours to go, there was still just so much to do.
But we made lots of coffee, put on the music, and soon the tasks starting getting done, one by one, and the place took shape.
Jay was busy stringing the lights I had bought and his size 10 feet were pounding the hardwood upstairs so loudly that we thought the volcano may have finally popped.
Chef A was getting her goi con wrapped and sauces done but faced a crisis because the market was out of chicken ( due to a fiesta!?)–but somehow the birds flew in just in time. As I arrived, she was writing the first ever Guerrera menu on the chalkboard.
RC was taking some rust off the kitchen equipment, some of which had been left to the sea air for over a year. Vinegar+time>Rust. Everytime.
And the construction crew was working feverishly to get the all important bamboo walking path built, which we designed to go right over the rice paddies. By 10am, they had about 30 meters to go By 2pm, 20 meters and by 5pm, ( the hour of reckoning), still about 5meters. The project was dubbed the ‘bridge over the river kwai’ given the sweat these gentlemen put into it and the high stakes of failure. Well they finished it, at about 7pm, and we even had a guest mistakenly walk over it even as they were putting in the final poles.
We had planned to open without waiters, not a good idea looking back on it. But no one had applied in a while and the task just got lost. But by some stroke of good luck, 2 bright and sunny kids came blowing in at 1pm and next thing you know, they were given aprons and off they went. The young man even came up with a few solutions to problems that I would not have delivered, and overall, they did great.
Our first customers were local resident Rainer and daughter, lisa, and they chose the table over-looking White island. He is a former cook , from Germany and apparently a big fan of spicy food. The first ever order at Guerrera: 2 pad thai’s ( one extra hot), 2 san miguel pilsens, 1 rice wine, 1 ice cream and for lisa– bacon and eggs with a bottle of Royal. After drinking the soda, lisa could not sit still for one millisecond and was often seen bounding through the rice paddies.
After rainer, it was a steady stream of local residents , one table at a time, and the flow was smooth.And customers seemed pleasantly surprised, mostly pleased, and often a little tipsy -by the end of the evening -as those Thai-tini’s were flying out of the kitchen.
Camiguin is a small, warm island and despite our long overdue opening, ( which people had been waiting for since 2014) , we were made to feel very welcome.
Chef A in her new gigantic kitchen, and Jay fresh off the construction crew, did great on a tight 6 dish tasting menu…heavily studded with vegetables and herbs from the Guerrera garden. What a nice change of pace from running to the market or shelling out cash to the veggie guy.
Exhaustion gave way to celebration by 9pm. I think we drank half of our profits, but it didn’t matter. We have been working for this day for 4 long years and it finally came. Nothing was going to ruin it. Day 1 at Guerrera was finally in the books.