An Interview With Maricel Catalan Hansen of Mary's Kitchen, Greenland
Mary Catalan Hansen opened Mary's Kitchen in Nuuk, Greenland in 2017 and closed it in January 2020. It was the first Filipino restaurant in Greenland, though Filipinos make up the largest non-Danish immigrant group in the territory. I spoke to Maricel in Greenland in October 2019. I don't usually publish interviews in full, but this one was too good not to share. — J.F.
Can you spell your name for me?
My name is Maricel. M for Mike, A for Alpha, Romeo, India, Charlie, Echo, Lima. The last name is Catalan, like the Catalonian language, and the last name is -- because I'm married to a Danish guy -- it's Hansen. Shall I spell out Hansen?
Hotel, Alpha, November, Sugar, Echo, Nancy.
Military alphabet. Do you have a background in the military?
Yes, yes. I had 3 years military training back in college, to get some scholarships. So I have to go through that.
How did you end up here in Greenland?
Well, my sister, she's been running some of the restaurants here in town, and she said she has been lonely for a long time, so. Back then, I was in Amsterdam. Actually, my home base was Dubai, but because I had my own advertising company back then, I had different projects in Germany to meet software developer companies there. Australia. (laughs) It was very, very -- how do you call this? Good projects, and journey, back then. When I was single. (laughs)
Then I met my husband here. I flew all the way from Amsterdam to here. And then my sister said, okay. They're looking for Asian chefs in East Greenland. That's where I met my husband. He was the hotel head chef.
So I was very surprised, because I came from a very big city. They used to call me Dragon Lady, because back then I was, like, analyzing markets for different companies, and I have to work with a lot of Indians, designers, and sometimes it's too hard to explain, you know? Very profound things, when it comes to graphic designing, you know.
This was in Dubai?
Yes. So I was like, motherfuckers! (smacks fist) So I was a very straightforward person, and I think when I came here, they hated me. (laughs)
Here in Greenland?
Yes! Because it's like a laid-back community, you know? Like, everything just going so slow. And since I was a teenager, I was working with American people, and Germans, when I was in Dubai, as well. You know, time, time, time. (smacks fist) You have to respect time. Time is gold. And here, it's just like, it's you could just do whatever you want to kill your own time. And it's just like, killing me!
So when you first came here to Greenland, it was in the east? What city?
It was Tasiilaq and Kulusuk.
What year was that?
What hotel were you working at?
And you met your husband there?
What drew you to your husband? What made you connect?
He's very smart. He's a -- well, there are lots of scientist people from USA who were there, investigating migration of whales and stuff like that. And maybe I'm the only Filipino who is atheist. So I love talking with scientists and stuff like that. And my husband was there, showing off how fat his brain was, or he is. Like, fuck, he is just awesome, you know? He's very intelligent. I think we're at the same wavelength. And he's very humble as well, a down-to-earth person. And I just said, oh my god, I have to trap this man! He's just so awesome!
I never really planned on getting married back then, because when I found out -- Ok. I love Greenland, I have seen Northern Lights, icebergs, beautiful people, warm-hearted, very raw -- they're very authentic people, especially East Greenland. But at some point, I know that I would be more useful outside, back to earth. (laughs)
So I was like, I was planning to fly to Australia to take an economics course, because I really wanted to be someone else back home in the Philippines. Because in the Philippines, they're stereotyping with certain jobs. Like, are you a graduate from San Beda, you know, like big-time schools. You can't just land a job, even if you have this logical thinking, they won't hire you because you're not from a prominent family, or you did not graduate from a good school. So I really wanted to fly to Australia to finish an economy course.
But then I found my husband here. He did not want to fly to Australia. He said, it's too far away! Maybe we can try Greenland. So that's why I settled here.
What was your position at Hotel Kulusuk?
I was actually just the assistant chef back then. But then the new chef that was coming, that I am assisting with -- (laughs) It's very funny. She doesn't know how to cook! So I was like, okay, I'm going to train you. No problem. (laughs)
So you ended up being the boss.
Yes. But then I came here. I moved to Nuuk. I was working in different companies here. The challenge here is how to keep the working force, you know? A lot of people, they just don't know how to keep the job, and it's quite challenging. And coming from a very strict working environment, I was kind of bitchy. I was not happy working with other people. But then, I have to calm down, you know? I have to kill myself and reborn like a phoenix, and be a totally different person to adapt.
So I worked in Sarfalik, in Hotel Hans Egede. I don't know if you heard about it, the hotel here. So I was a lunch chef there. I really enjoyed it. I loved the cuisine and stuff. But then I've been here for like, almost 3 years, and I've been eating around the town, and I think the food is kind of boring. It's the same food everywhere. And it's very expensive, you know? Like, you can eat different burgers and quesadillas and pasta, whatever, and it's the same taste. It's just very big portions, and you just eat very small, and they throw it away. And it will cost you maybe 280 kronur. It's like, fuck, there's so many people not eating back in my home country! And they just throw away the food that was just being shipped, you know? And it's very expensive. So I was like, okay. I have to do something about it. And also, so people won't misinterpret that I'm so bossy or bitchy, just because I want to do things right.
So I've seen some opportunities here to open a new one. While working for other companies, I started analyzing the market, what the people want. Because Greenlandic people, they are very much like Filipino people. They have our blood. They're Asians, you know? They're from China or whatever, and they just migrated here. And they love rice. Maybe they eat rice more than Filipinos.
So what did you see? What did the market need?
So I can say that because a lot of Asian people, when they cook food, even when it's being owned by a Danish person, like, the business, they still don't know how to cook the meat properly. They will just kill it, like, double dead. Because they think that if there's blood, there's maybe some bacteria when it's uncooked. And when they cook it, it's very strong.
So I was like, maybe I should meet in between European and Asian standard. Like, Asian taste, but a little bit maybe lesser, and the meat is just according to -- If it's medium, it's medium. It's well done, it's well done. And also, it's a good karma to patronize the local products. You will never see any local restaurants here in the town using that much of local meat. They're very expensive, yes, but also I'm here in Greenland, so I just wanted to get connected to the community, you know? Like, I was targeting the local market, because tourists, they come and go, and they are not here for all the season. So you have to see what they are eating, basically.
So I was like, okay. I want to do lamb, whale -- this is the only restaurant where you can eat whale, I think. What else? I have some moskus [musk ox], if it is in season. I have reindeer, because moskus is not in season anymore, but reindeer is. So whatever it is.
And it's innovative Filipino dishes, actually. The way I make it, my food, it's Filipino style, but Greenlandic raw materials. Let's say my caldereta. In the Philippines, you just cook it with rice and you just put this stew on the rice. But if you can see my caldereta there, the Greenlandic moskus caldereta, right at the very bottom (of the menu). I put it in a tortilla wrapper, put a little bit of rice and vegetable and then the stewed thing, and I put some mozzarella. I clip them, and then I put some cheese again on the top, and baked it in the oven, and put a little bit of greens on the top.
Like a burrito, almost?
Yes, exactly! With my sisig -- have you heard about sisig? It's their favorite here. I don't just make it like sisig. I manage to make it as a shawarma, and also pizza. So I have sisig pizza and sisig shawarma, and they love it.
Can you tell me how you decided to make the shift from what you were doing in Dubai to cooking here in Greenland? It seems like a big difference.
Well, the thing is, I was not really planning to do so. But my husband is a really, really good-hearted guy, and I didn't want to lose him, and I wanted to give it a shot. And then here, it's because I don't speak Danish, so I cannot really exercise my expertise, what I was doing for almost a decade in different countries. It's a language barrier, I would say.
But in the Philippines, you are raised to be a chef, you know? In order to find a good husband, you need to be good in cooking, you know? From 2 years old, you are already cooking rice. And also, I've been traveling a lot. I love food, you know? So when I eat something, I just know what are the ingredients and stuff like that, and also, I know how to cook my own food. And my husband, he loves my cooking. And I was just like, okay. Let's do this. Because I've been seeing, I'm working for someone else and I'm only earning a drop of the water. Like, I want the faucet! I want the whole water tank!
The faster I could save money, the faster I could bring my husband back to his homeland, and also I could start investing in the Philippines, or even in Denmark.
Where did your husband grow up?
He grew up in Esbjerg, and he never really planned staying here for a long time. He's a free-spirited person. He never stayed even in Denmark. But he will come here to Greenland with the scientist people, camping, and then he will work there for maybe 3 or 6 months, and then we will fly to Asia. He was living with the locals and seeing their culture, stuff like that. He was in Mongolia, he was in Thailand, I think, Laos. I love traveling, as well.
Can you tell me a little bit about your life in the Philippines? Where were you born, and when did you leave?
Ah. It was a very sad story. I was abandoned by my mom when I was 7 months old. She's a nurse, so she moved to USA, never came back. But she managed to get in touch with us through Facebook back in 2009, when I was still in Dubai. So I've been seeing her since then over video chat. Never met her in person.
Where in the USA is she?
In Ohio. I got three siblings over there. It's very tough in the Philippines, you know. It's very, very hard life. My dad died when I was 7 years old. I was really doing good in school. I don't know how, because I never really focused on studying. When my teacher discussed, I was just listening. When I get home, I go straight to -- you know, there are sports in the Philippines. They call it pool. Like this flat ball. Because the other one is billiards with the round ball. We call it pool. It's like a table, and it's like this [smooth], and then you put some powder on it. And when you hit the balls, it's very slippery.
We have that in our home. That was the livelihood of my grandparents. Because they were the ones who raised us, me and my other 2 siblings. My eldest sister, who is here right now, she was separated when we were kids, so we didn't really know each other. Only when I came here.
Why did your sister come to Greenland?
She's a singer. So back then, she opened her own company as well in China. So she's supplying manpower for the music industry. Like, pianists, the entire band. And then here. But then, she did not manage to find -- because she has a lot of projects, you know, like in Korea, in other countries. So she didn't have this one. But she googled, and she said, oh, it looks good! Maybe I should send myself.
Is she still doing that work?
No. Now she is recruiting staff in other restaurants here, and she's also managing a cleaning company.
Sounds like your sister is kind of an important person in this town.
Yes, she is. I would say.
When did you start this restaurant?
Actually, it was the end of 2017, like December, like the 3rd week of December.
What was the process of getting it started like?
Well, the first day it was fully packed. So many people. We were new in the town, so everybody was very excited to taste. And back then, I had like 2 locals and myself, and then my husband. And he's working in the Brugsen [supermarket], so it's just too hard for us. And then, there are times that I don't have any employees at all, because maybe they just got their salary and they're having some good times. And I'm alone most of the time. Now, I have permanent (staff), but back then it was really hard because when I'm full, I was locking down the door. Because I was the cashier, I was the chef, you know? I would just announce to everybody, if you want to go out, you're done eating, just call me. I will let you go.
And then, in the evening, after my husband's done with his shift from his company, then he will come over here and help me out. Make pizza and stuff like that.
What was the biggest challenge in those first few weeks?
The thing is, it's because the building owner -- I don't speak Danish, so he let me sign a contract that I didn't fully understand. And then back then, I was really, really depressed when I got fired from the hotel, and I really wanted to open this desperately. It's because in the hotel, I'm this person that before I go home, I want everything ready and organized, so tomorrow I don't have to bake a frozen meat. So I want everything for three days defrosted and marinated, so when the time comes I just need to put it in the oven marinated the whole night.
And my colleague there, I think she feels like I'm a threat or something, or like, you're a small Filipina. I just can't go under your wing, you know? It's because the waitresses, most of them are Asians, so they really love me, because I'm quick and this. And then one time, she was preparing all the stuff, and then the Asian old woman, she came to me and said, can you help us? What I understand is because for waitresses that are not chefs, the kitchen could be like a big market for them. They don't know where to pick it up and stuff. Can you please do the same thing like what you're doing? You organize it by volume and with name on it and stuff, and we don't know where to pick them up. But we're late now, and stuff like that. So I tried organizing it, and then she screamed at me. Like, on the next mountain you could hear her. It was like "gaah!" And then I screamed back. I just said, you're the most stupid chef I've ever met! Fuck you!
Sounds like a clash of two strong personalities.
Yes, maybe. Or maybe I was just -- I don't know, because in this country it's too cold. There's not too much place to go. I'm not a hunter. It's too small, maybe, so it's too easy to be sad and stuff like that. So sometimes it's like that.
But we were really, really busy at that time, so we really need to be organized. If you're not organized, then you're just going to kill each other the next day. But at that time, I was just so tired of following that messy system. And then instead of being appreciated, then it will feel like -- At some point, I think they have that racism. Like, I couldn't be angry.
But at that time, the head chef was very new here as well. And even the owner of that hotel, he didn't know that I got fired. They were calling me the next day and offering more money to come back, but I just said, you can suck your own dick! I'm such a bitch, I'm telling you!
So you decided to start this place instead. You can keep it as organized as you want, right?
Yes, exactly. It's not big, and it's not that beautiful, because it's very expensive to fix a kitchen here. But at least it's my own kingdom. And I don't overprice the people. And also, I pay locals a good amount. A lot of companies here, they pay locals very less, maybe 40 kronurs less than the foreign people. I feel bad about it. It's because they also go home to Ilulissat, and their provinces, and they will run out of money. It's because it's the same price. Air Greenland will not tell you, are you local? Okay, your bill is lesser than foreign. They won't do that. So even though a lot of them are not that much good at keeping the jobs, also it's a way of encouraging them that it's okay. You will get there. It's because they came from different provinces, they are hunters, you know, and they were just colonized. They're still transition, this country, from the hunting age to civilization, I would say.
What similarities or differences do you see between the culture here and in the Philippines?
Well, the similarities: they're very warm-hearted people. They love being with friends and family. They see you in the corner -- Here, because they love my food, everybody just hugs me! It's like, hey Mary! Everyone is just saying hello. In the Philippines, we're pretty much the same, you know? We're family people.
I know a lot who are working really hard. Especially the younger generations. I have 3 young ones here. They are playing violin right now in summer in the other cities, so they're not here. But they are very responsible. They come on time. So I can see that they are changing and becoming more and more integrated to a working environment.
Filipinos are hardworking. We're the most hardworking people in this town. (To Filipino chef:) Right? (Filipino chef: Right, unfortunately. It's in our genes.)
In the Philippines, there are so many beautiful things that I really love, but there are so many crappy things as well that I have to unlearn. It's like, back home in the Philippines, you have to lick your boss's ass. It's too many politics. But here, they come as they are. They're very authentic. Like, they don't have to lick my ass just to be nice to me, or to get what they want. And I think at some point, Filipinos -- when it's the white boss, they're very like -- (pants like a dog) They're dogs, you know? But when it's just other Filipinos, they're a little bit, like (looks stuck up).
Especially, my orientation here is like, we're all the same, you know? I'm not a boss. We're colleagues. But I'm still the owner, right? But locals here, if it's their job, no hard feelings. It doesn't matter if Mary is a little bit of a bitch right now. She really meant well.
You mentioned that you had foster kids. Where are they?
6 kids. Well, it's because my second eldest sister -- I couldn't blame them because we're a broken family. We're a product of a broken family, broken home. So when she got pregnant, maybe she got scared. She's been in hiding for 15 years. So she left her kids, too. And I was working for an American company back then in the Philippines when I was a teenager, 19 I think. That's why I got my name Mary, because Americans don't understand Maricel. So my boss told me, you have to get an American name that they can understand. That's why I got Mary, and then I just live with that.
So she left them. But I feel so bad about it because I had the same experience and I don't want them to. You know, in the Philippines, life is really hard. When you don't have parents, everyone is like, do this or do that. And if you don't money or you don't have parents, it's like you're the slave of everybody in the clan.
What city were you living in?
Northern part of Luzon. Nueva Ecija. So people treat you differently, back then. Even now. Because my nephew is gay. My aunt is like, you have to be a man. You have to get another woman pregnant. I was like, fuck you motherfuckers! Don't do that. If I have to send him to makeup school to teach him to learn how to do proper makeup, I'll do that.
How many siblings do you have?
In the Philippines, originally we are only 3. I was the youngest. But then my father got one son before he died. Then he has 4 children. My brother, he had some mental illness when my grandfather died, so he didn't go to school. So he's not that strong. But then he managed to get a wife, and then they produced 4 kids for me. Haha. My god!
He's a good hearted man, and he also works, he's just not that smart like me. And in the Philippines, you can work for many hours, you can kill yourself, and you will still earn very small. Maybe my brother, he's earning 100 kronur -- maybe 50 kronur a day. How could he raise kids? I feel so sorry. And they go to the neighbor and ask some food. I can't allow them to do that. And I just told myself that I need to start with my family and the circle of my family to get educated, get a better chance, and then I will train them to do the same thing with other children, starting from my village, so they can start getting better educated.
Because in the Philippines, we have 60 percent beyond poor, 30 percent poor, 7 percent people like me, average and above average, and maybe 2 percent or 1 percent rich people, and 2 percent beyond rich, like filthy rich. Can you see the difference? I just wanted at least 50% of the people in the Philippines to be average, so we can take back the control of our country. And you know, these filthy rich people, they just kept everybody blind so no one will oppose them, so they could just do whatever they want. And I know I cannot do that much, but I can start with these children.
And I'm earning really good here right now. Like, maybe if I open more in the Philippines one, and then one in Denmark, then I think I can open a school where I could teach them. Because my husband is an educated chef. We could open a culinary school. It's a restaurant and then culinary school on top, like just for theoretical classes. The practical would be there. And then we could find different companies that could take students and then give them a job later.
And I think I wanted to because back home, every fricking year, ah, the onion is rotten, so overproduced. The price died down, you now. I want to teach the people how to do small businesses, or make one factory and then see these people who could learn small businesses, you know? We need to do something about it. I will start with my family.
Those 6 children, your brother's four and your sister's two, where are they living? How are you supporting them?
In the Philippines. I send them to school, and also their allowances for food and clothes and school supplies. And I always speak to the teachers, whatever they need.
What are your hopes for their future?
Well, I don't really want to force them what they want to do in life, but I'm treating them like -- I won't give them everything they need. I want them to go through hardship as well. Good enough that they will realize that I need to work hard, but I also want my aunt to feel proud about me. So I'm sending them to school, make sure that they don't miss any payments in school. And I kept telling them, see? There's beautiful Northern Lights and icebergs, and you can go here if you work hard!
So sometimes, when they do really good at school, I send them a lot of money to shop, so there's a reward when you do good. And they're still telling me, our relatives are like this. I just always told them to never, never get angry with anybody. No one can hurt you. You just come here and get out. So even though I'm not there, I always see them on video chat.
The eldest is 16 years old, the gay one. I think he's taking education. But he said, maybe he would like to try in cooking too, so he could follow me soon. So he could help me. It's really good. That's what he was telling me.
Why do you think you were able to succeed and get out of that system?
It's because I grew up in a very, very bad environment, and I got sick of it. And then when I was 12, I was adopted by a pastor, a born again Christian. And I was very genuine back then. But I was seeing all my worship leaders that I was practicing with, they got pregnant each other and just flush out the baby. I was like, this is so fake. I look back and said, how can I help this if I just stay here?
There were so many pains that I been through. No one believed in me. Even if you go to call center jobs that I was trying to get into, because I was trying to help my family back in the barrio, even the recruitment people there will belittle you, you know? Because I look like a barriotic. (laughs) I don't look pretty enough or white skin enough, or I don't look rich. And their standard is higher than Americans who are actually hiring you! It was just very tough back then.
But then, when you have this strong determination to be better and better everyday, my heart was so thirsty to excel. When I go to bed, I want to fucking (snores) snooze, because I did good today. I did my best. And it makes me feel good to do that. And then people started to respect me. When I go back to my village, people started to see something in me. And I don't need to preach the Bible. I don't need to speak good to them. But for them to see that I'm supporting my broken family, it's enough language for them to see that there's hope in life.
Because in the Philippines, a lot of people are members of a massive cult. Religion. God, god, god, god. And they just don't do any shit, because god's forgiven them. It's just so bad. And I've been making research, I've been googling, and I've been reading, and it's just all --
And if you're not born again, my pastor will tell you you'll go to hell. And blah, blah, blah. I think it's wrong. So when I started working in an American company -- actually, that was the one that really made me strong and smarter, because every day I speak to Americans. They're funny and also smart people. I got to talk to them and chat a little. And I wanted just to -- I need to be like this, you know? It feels good.
I was earning good. I was earning 5000 kronur every month. I was just 19 years old. Because I was very good at talking, you know. I was in the billing department for Direct TV. If you want to buy some UFC fights on TV, we can book it for you. You can pay through us. They call us, and then we fix whatever concern they have.
But I remember when I started on that job, I was just doing like this on the computer, you know? (sits still) But I was like, fuck, I need this job. (mimes typing fast) It's like my motor neurons were following my terminal neurons. Everything just followed and followed. I have learned to value time and hard work. It's very important that you excel on a daily basis of your life.
My kids back home, I wanted them to be free, you know? I'm giving them money, I'm giving them love. And my gay nephew, my other relatives they are not even supporting him. They're always bashing him around. Why do you date? Why? I'm just like, it's okay. It's normal to be horny! And stuff like that. It's okay, it's normal, as long as you are responsible with yourself, and you don't need to ask people for food. It's okay. You do what makes you happy.
And I just don't understand myself, because I never had that much love back then, growing up. All I had was this blame and bad things. But maybe because I didn't want them to have that, that's why I have more to give today.
Is the American company the one that sent you to Dubai?
No. I earned a lot of money, and my sister -- she's there. And all my relatives are in Dubai, a lot of them. That's why I was just curious why they did not help us, because they're there the whole time.
So my sister said, do you want to come? Back then when she told me, she was in Russia, actually. She said, fix your passport and stuff like that. So I fixed my passport. But then I dreamt about this golden sands and stuff. I was like, you're in Moscow. Why did I dream about it? And she didn't tell me she was in Dubai. She said, no, you're not going to Russia. You're going to Dubai.
So I applied my job there. But then when I got there, I was a food runner, and I have to stand up 12 hours. It was so hard. I was still small back then, skinny, because I was only 21, I think, with this big plate that just came out of the oven, with lasagna. And then 10 beers! And I was like, I passed military training, this is nothing!
But then I was thinking, I need to go back home. Because I was earning nothing in that shop. They were paying me only 1500 dirhams. But it was free accommodation, but you live with other Filipinos. They are treating us differently. Americans and Europeans, they have their own flat if they hired them, but Filipinos, they put us in the cage and they pay us maybe just 10% of what white people are earning. It's just so unfair.
So again I was thinking, mother fuckers. How can I do this, you know? It's good that before I fly to Dubai, I have scheduled a lot of interviews already. Because I'm a very skeptic person, and I was just like, plan A plan B. I don't want to risk running out of a visa, that's why I took the job as a food runner. And maybe on my 3rd week, I got a job from this German couple, and they interviewed me. They didn't actually interview me. They just gave me some abstract problems and they asked me to solve it.
First, he took me into his car, and then he said, my wife is waiting for us to interview you. But because they are looking for a personal assistant, he just threw on my face the map, and then he told me, I want you to read the map and give me a direction. Military direction right? Left, right, U-turn, stop. He said, I have interviewed -- you're the 20th person I've interviewed, and all of them have brought me to my wife in 1 hour. Because that's how smart he was. I love this fucking German. He is awesome.
And then, I want you to bring me to my wife. No navigator and stuff like that, because back then the navigator in Dubai was messy. It's giving you wrong direction. I want somebody who can direct me, he said. So I took the map. I told him, turn left -- and then I brought him to his wife in 5 minutes. It's just around the corner!
So he really liked me already. And then he showed me something. He said, how many -- I don't know if it was squares or boxes -- you see in here. So I have explained to him how many boxes. And he was really amazed. And at that time he started talking to me. He said, if you didn't pass those two, I wouldn't even interview you, because that means you're stupid.
I said I have military training. So he said, I will give you a shot for a week. If I didn't like you, then I will just dispose you, because I need a really smart, logical, forward-thinking person. Then he gave me a car, and he gave me an apartment. He treated me like I'm a European. I really liked them.
He said, there was this bird that liked shitting on our roof and stuff like that. We love shooting birds. So he said, here is my gun. He has a gun! He said, I want you to shoot -- you know, this light with a cover on top? I want you to shoot it, the cover. So I was just, like (mimes shooting gun) shoot! Okay, done! No more talking. You're not going anywhere. He said, we need to go back to Dubai and pick up your stuff. You are with us.
And I really, really enjoyed it, because every single day he is calling me an idiot. Mary, you have a small brain! Fuck, fuck! That time, I know I'm not stupid. I just need proper exposure on the market. We were building a very big kitchen equipment. A kitchen factory for the sheik. And I earned 12,000 dirhams every fucking month! From 1500 -- it's like the same I'm earning here when I was unemployed, and no fucking tax! Here, you have to pay tax. There, it's like 0 tax. The government doesn't collect tax.
And then he said, how do you think we can sell kitchen equipment? Because this is a 200,000 square foot food factory. It's like the entire Nuuk, you know? I don't want to shop kitchen equipment from other companies. So he said, we can open our own company. I will send you to Germany to understand kitchen equipment.
So they sent me to Germany, in Hanover. And then I've learned it. And then I started organizing a live cooking show for them. Because they don't speak that much English. I was the one who set up the team, from plumbing, mechanics, electricians, you know. Like, I will find 20, 50 companies that my boss can have a choice. Have you seen Devil Wears Prada? We were like that! I was Anne! And my boss is like, fuck you, fuck you, stupid. But I enjoyed it, because they were very straightforward and I really learned a lot. I had so much pain, but I know I have to suck it up to learn, you know?
And my boss, I don't even have a day off sometimes for 3 months. Straight working, you know? Because sometimes, Indian people and Syrian people, you tell them to do things and they just -- there's so many holes on the thing because it's wrong. And my boss would just tell me, you're stupid, you're stupid. I did not do it, you know? But he said, I don't care if you didn't do it. You're not a good manager if you don't do it.
So I was a safety officer. I had to understand. Back in college, I was making case studies for civil engineers, so it was easy for me to understand the civil defense law back in Dubai to make sure that the building is according to the law.
I got a lot of money back then. My job was finished. So my boss told me, okay. You need to say goodbye now. So I went back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi. I started working for an advertising company. And they're paying me 3000! It's so funny! 9000 less. And then I picked up a beautiful apartment. Because I was already planning to open an advertising company. So that's why I started there. Because in that tower, when you just swim, a lot of people who run the companies live there, and I could just speak to them and tell them and they could just be my clients, as well. It's just an access to a society.
But after 3 months, one of the pastors of the church said, maybe we can work together. Let's start our own company. So we started. I paid a membership fee for -- In Dubai, there's like a networking for the business owners. We meet up maybe once quarterly, 4 times a year. We pay the membership, and then, okay. They're from TV commercials, there are lots of Americans there who do TV commercials. And I'm in graphic designing and stuff, making branding and websites and stuff like that. So if I have projects, I give it to them. And if I have printing, like ones who make logos with me and brochures and stuff, one of them is doing the printing, so I give them the project.
So I make a lot of money. And then when I decided to come here, I had some savings already to start a business.
Does that company still exist?
Nein. Because I left. In Dubai, I liked it, but for me it's a big fake city. You don't get to work with locals, because they're also racist to Europeans. Because they're filthy rich. They have their own village, and no one can live there except locals. I didn't like it, because I don't know their culture. Unlike here. It's even better here, because you get to know the locals, and people are at the same level of salary, apartments and. It's real.
What are your hopes for this place in the future?
Well, actually, I am planning to sell it. That's the thing. It's because when I started last year, I earned a little bit already. Because they said usually, restaurants earn after a few years. And I didn't believe that. I always said, depends how you understand the market, and how you do you budget, your supplies and stuff like that.
So last year I managed to earn some good amount. And then this is my second year. And I earn really, really good now. And my husband, he's getting sadder and sadder every year, because he's a family person. He wants to be with friends. He never really settled down.
I feel a little bit sad about it, because it's my comfort zone already. People love me. They love the food. I have stable customers. But then he said, we have to leave.
So you're going back to Denmark?
Yes. I want to start a place there.
What are your hopes for your life in Denmark?
I want to open at least one in Denmark and one in the Philippines, where I could have a restaurant at the lower part, and small school, maybe 15 students.
Would you take students from the Philippines to Denmark?
Yes, exactly. It's because I want to live as an example, you know? It's just too hard to teach and then you have nowhere to send them. And also here. I'm thinking to supply manpower. It's because this is the most desperate part of the earth that really needs stable workers. So I'm telling my husband, we cater whatever they need. We teach them. Because he's the head chef there, and Brugsen is making millions and millions of money, and they don't have enough people.
So I told him, we speak now to the people, because we have good credentials. We tell them, we will educate the chefs back home in the Philippines, and then we will supply exactly what they need because we understand the market here. And then I don't have to invest with supplies and things like that, it's just people, to also support my vision in life.
Is there a large Filipino community here already? Are there gatherings?
Yes. We are 400 Filipinos. I only attend Christmas gatherings, but they love to attend Catholic church service. So I know that they've been meeting up. But this is one of the things that I don't like about Filipino communities, the gossip. Because it's a small country. And the crab mentality, you know. When I opened this one, no one has liked my page, but they like my competition! They are just so jealous that they've been here for 20 years, and I came here, and on my second year, you know? But I'm very nice to everybody, because I don't really care. I understand that sad people do that. But I'm good with everyone. But I don't meet up too much, because I'm not a hypocrite person. But if they need me, I give what I can. But I don't hug, I don't party. But if there's a very important thing and they need me, I come and I help.
While this place is still open, what do you hope people will feel when they come here?
I want them to be home! I don't like that it's business, you know? Because that's what I've learned from Americans when I was a teenager working for them. You need to make people special and get connected with them. I think I'm connected with most of my customers, especially when I had my own chef and I was here before. There are so many suicide cases here, you know? They have no one to speak to. So I'm very talkative! I was like, hey, how are you today? Just to ask them how they're doing and stuff like that. I want them to feel welcomed, you know? But I'm failing on that department right now, because I'm not here. I'm busy cooking. My chef, he was stealing from me, so I had to fire him. I sent him home.
Most of the time, I don't really have time. But I'm telling my colleagues to always smile and greet them. One of them is really, really good -- my cashier here. She's also talkative like me. I think she's doing a great job. Just say hey, you know? A real "hey." Not just, hi, what do you want. I don't like it. It's so fake.
Life is a bitch, but you just need to be bitchier! It's not easy, but it's not challenging, and it's not exciting when it's easy.Add a comment