SPAIN – Even the world’s oldest restaurant, Restaurante Sobrino de Botin, which can be found in Madrid, Spain, has Filipino employees whom are highly valued for their service.
The restaurant, popularly known as Botin, holds the Guinness Book of World Record for the oldest and still operating restaurant in the world.
Located in Calle Cuchilleros, 17, near Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, the restaurant is still in the same place where it was founded in 1725.
It was first opened by French Jean Botin and has been owned and managed by the Gónzalez family since the beginning of the 20th century.
Ten percent of Botin’s employees are Filipinos, who help in preparing traditional Spanish cuisine and running the restaurant’s day-to-day operations.
One of them is Roel Alim, who hails from Pampanga and has been working at Botin for 16 years. Alim mans the almost three-century old wood-fired oven and prepares the centenary restaurant’s signature dish—cochinillo asado or roast suckling pig.
“Pumasok ako dito wala akong kaaalam-alam. Sa Pilipinas may background ako ng pagluluto ng cochinillo. Inihahambing ko rito, ito kayang kaya natin ‘to. Ito maliit lang, sa atin malaki. Mahirap lutuin yung malaki,” explained Alim.
Despite not having any formal training in the culinary arts, Filipinos are well regarded in the service sector in Spain because they can provide world-class service and can learn to cook for various types of restaurants whether for a Japanese food chain or a fine-dining restaurant.
“I have to say, to my satisfaction, they have delivered perfectly in the way they relate with their colleagues, with the clients and in their professional capacity. They have always been very responsible and hardworking,” said Botin’s managing director Antonio Gónzalez Gómez in Spanish, in an interview with The Filipino Channel’s Balitang Global.
One of Botin’s head chefs is Celso Salisi who for almost 25 years has been cooking Castilian dishes for the restaurant’s international clientele.
Spaniards and people from all over the world flock to Botin not only to try its no-frills, authentic Castilian dishes but also to appreciate more the history behind the restaurant, which is considered as one of the Spanish capital’s historical monuments.
American novelist Ernest Hemingway frequented the restaurant and formed friendship with Emilio González, father and grandfather of the current owners. The author’s love of Botin and Spain was depicted in his novels ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and ‘The Sun Also Rises’.
Famous and influential personalities like Spain’s former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, Tom Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro Sanz, Henry Kissinger, Nancy Reagan, among others have also visited the restaurant.
Another Filipino staff Joven Cruz is already familiar with the wines usually ordered by politicians and affluent guests.
Alim recounted that there were Filipino politicians who visited the restaurant. He feels proud every time Filipinos who visit the restaurant find out that there are fellow kababayans like him work at Botin.
“Siyempre po maraming mae-encounter natin dito na mga famous din na pumapasok dito, actually parang famous ka na rin…,” Alim added.
And so is Francisco de Goya, who worked as dishwasher at Botin before becoming one of the world’s famous and greatest painters.
Watch the related TV report in Filipino aired on The Filipino Channel’s Balitang Global report