Some days, not all, that is for sure, owning a beach club and restaurant is the best job in the world. Having a great staff of people to help me make it that way, sure makes the job much easier too. Over the years, our personal way of working with people has allowed some, like my concierge Jorge for example, to become an internet rock star. His photos are all over the internet, the chicks all dig him, and more important, he is in many, many peoples personal vacation photos and memories.
The waiters, because they are out actually working with our guests and having fun, get the most notoriety, and who doesn’t love the bartender, so all are stars now. But on every team, there is always that guy who does the quiet, but hard work that makes all the others look good. At the Tropicante, that is my Head Chef, Perdo Zaragoza. He and his staff’s incredible meals make us all look good. If we are the Beatles, he is our George Harrison; quiet, talented and a pretty interesting guy as well.
Chef Pedro, like most of my staff, has been with me for years, almost since the beginning. He came to Mahahual originally to cook at the cruise port. I heard he was the best in the place, so wanting the best, we offered him more money, and that is when he came to the Tropicante. His recipes and my recipes became “our” recipes after just a few weeks and we have worked together since. Together, in that he runs the kitchen, and I stay out of his way. Over the years he has impressed me with his culinary skills, and he never ceases to amaze me and my guests with his work. Lucky me, because he is also a master concrete and stucco guy when I need one, as well as a pineapple farmer on his Mom’s farm, a jungle hunter of deer and wild pigs, and if that isn’t enough, he is also a great husband and father. He is also typically a very quiet man but the sort of man that when he speaks, people listen.
One such occasion was several years ago when late in the cruise ship day, we had what had to be the drunkest man ever to be still walking and talking, come into the restaurant. He was funny for a minute or two, and all the staff was just watching and laughing. He then began to yell and curse, so I did the gentle guiding him out and tried to get him to take a taxi back to the port. He refused the taxi and went instead to sit on a bench on the malecon, where he just kept yelling obscenities. At this point, I took the “screw this guy, he’s not my customer” attitude and walked away. When his wife finally walked up, she too tried to get him into a taxi, but had no luck. He just sat there yelling. All of this was taking place in English of course, and Chef Pedro, who was one of the spectators, watched quietly.
Pedro does not, to this day, speak a single word of English, so I’m not sure he even knew exactly what this guy was saying or even what this guy might be about for that matter. Or so I thought. Finally the wife and I tried again to get him in a taxi and when he refused, she got up and headed for the taxi alone. I threw my hands up and also walked back into the restaurant. Quietly, Pedro got up, walked over the man and sat next to him on the beach. Chef Pedro is a very big man, but is a very gentle soul and has an equally gentle way about himself. He began to speak to the man in his usual quiet but smiling way. The drunk man suddenly stopped yelling and began to listen to whatever it was he was saying. After a minute or so, Chef Pedro and the man got up from the bench and walked together over to the taxi. The man climbed into the back seat with his wife and Pedro patted him on the shoulder and closed the door. As the taxi drove away, the drunk old man turned and waved goodbye, smiling the entire way. As he walked back into the restaurant past me, I asked in amazement, “Pedro, qua pasa?” and he said with a grin, “nada”. Again, the quiet hero!
So you might never see him when you come to the Tropicante, but when you enjoy the food, remember his name. Ask, and he’ll come and take a quick bow even, but don’t expect a long chat. And if they ever have an election for the best chef ever, I say “Vote For Pedro”!!