Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pinoy Hospitality in Queensland - Meeting a World Class Chef and His Muse

At half past 3 on a sunny afternoon, I was famished and raring for a Fish and Chips. It was well deserved after a 45-minute hike from Helensvale's Oyster Cove to Monterey Keys.  I had covered 3 to 4 kilometers perhaps? The shop had an "open" sign by the door, but like its surroundings, it looked pretty much deserted. I went in and first saw a lady with a warm, welcoming face. She winced and I knew I stumbled onto something pleasant, but I didn't want to assume.

"Can I have one Fish and Chips please? A Dory?"

Then like a bottled up soda drink, the event fast forwarded into a fizzy. This was a Filipino shop selling very Anglican fare, and I found it in the middle of nowhere called Monterey Keys. Like long lost friends, there was a slew of revelry especially when a guy with an earnest smile joined us.

Salvador "Badong" and Nelia Littonjua left Manila's traffic-choked streets long time ago and fate has taken them to Australia as serendipitously as I've brought myself to their doorsteps.

Charming Filipino couple Salvador and Nelia Littonjua.
What's more impressive than this chance meeting was fraterniing with a world class chef, and if you think I'm fibbing, there's a framed collection of newspaper clips with headlines exalting a world class chef: "Chef's cuisine wins medals", "Pinoy Chef extra-ordinaire adds glitter to Ausie Chef's Ball", "Prize winning chefs", etc.

Badong - "Buddy in Australia", whispered Nelia - had in fact worked for Carlos P. Romulo, a former president of the Philippines, and for Senator Juan Ponce Enrile during the Marcos regime. The unstable state of political governance took the couple to New Zealand where Badong worked as Executive Chef for Hilton's several chains. This saw him flying over the Kiwi skies, hopping from one hotel branch to the next, overseeing the chain's culinary offerings. For 25 years, Badong and Nelly raised 5 kids away from their motherland.

In the mid-90's, they finally decided to hang down the culinary hat for a less stressful life. With the prodding of their children, the family moved to Australia's Gold Coast. They settled in Robina and opened a fish and chips shop in Monterey Keys. It has been 16 years since then.


Thus - the fish and chips I ordered (below) are made by a world class chef - and it cost me a mere Aus$5.20! This actually made me want to taste other stuff from their kitchen, like the spring roll at $2.30, the barramundi at a pricier $7.20, their steak sandwich and chips at $10.80, and the interesting-looking chiko roll. They even have a mini puto pup which looked like some drumstick fodder. Yum!

At some point, we were making a lot of noise that the blond-haired, next-door lady manning a pharmacy came in to check out the ruckus. She told us to pipe it down before ordering something. Several other orders came in groups so I was able to watch the couple prepare their burger meals. Yum again!

After a while, I had to say goodbye to meet Girlie in Oyster Cove - and it was going to be another long walk; one I wasn't exactly looking forward. To my surprise, Nelia and Buddy had prepared gifts for me: a huge and sought-after, 16-inch packet of DeLonghi wood-roasted coffee beans, and three pieces of giant loaves of bread! This of course took me by surprise. Meeting them was the prize! Besides, what would I do with 3 humongous loaves of bread? I went to look for a place and came out with a considerable stash, one that could feed half a village in Zimbabwe!

As if that wasn't enough, Nelia offered to drive me back to Oyster Cove! What did I do to deserve such red-carpet hospitality? And I am telling you, it's this world-class Pinoy Hospitality working overtime! But there's more! As we were pulling out from the parking area, Nelia started playing a CD of Badong singing something jazzy. And I am being serenaded too? Talk about the royal treatment!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

My dory fish and chips at $5.20.

Gifts from generous souls.

Buddy's Cafe and Takeaway Fish N Chips is located at Shop 14/175 Monterey Keys Drive, Monterey Keys, Queensland - 4210, Australia. Google them for exact location and contact numbers.

A phoned in order.

Menu and price

Proofs of greatness

Painting at the shop

Nelia's yellow Holden is Badong's birthday gift to his wife. He doesn't drive.

Holden is the Australian subsidiary of General Motors 


Ola said...

sometimes such things just happen - I guess they must be really good

eye in the sky said...


I love it when these things happen. It's serendipitous in a way. :)

Ramakrishnan said...

Nice rendezvous with a world class chef. And lots of delicious mouth watering goodies on offer :)

eye in the sky said...

It was a lot of fun, Ram. :) Meeting nice people always is.