“So, stressed out ako up until I realized, ‘I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna go home to where I’m most comfortable. I’m gonna go home where I love the food most.’”
Chef Fern is a native of Bacolod, Negros Occidental—hence the restaurant's Negros-centric menu.
“It is where I’m most comfortable to cook. It is where I’m most confident to serve. It is my identity, and from there, doon ko na inipon, ‘Ano pa ang mga gusto ng Pinoy?’
“Nag-aral ako sa UP sa Maynila, naalala ko iyong mga Assumpsionista kong kaklase, nagtutusok-tusok ng fishballs. Iyon ang ginawa ko.
“Pero iyong fishballs namin dito, we make from scratch. I don’t go to the grocery to buy fishballs. We really get pieces of fish, pinu-puree namin, ginagawan ng paraan.
“I think I owe that not only to myself as a chef, but also my clients who come here, because I want to give them the best.
“You give them what you can make from what God has given you between your two ears, between your two hands.
“Iyong bagoong namin, ginagawa din namin from scratch. Lahat ng puwede naming gawin in-house, gagawin namin.
“Why? Because this is the way you celebrate the joy of eating Filipino food.”
Showcasing his creativity in making Filipino dishes more appealing to a global audience is not his chief concern, says Chef Fern.
His foremost objective, he says, is to create a dining experience that Filipino families can enjoy and be proud of.
“Ito lang iyong filling na art form. Ito lang iyong art na kinakain mo. Culinary arts is the only art that uses all five senses.
“You take this [food], you enjoy this, you come together for it, and you celebrate it. And you really remember it. May babalikan ka and you can talk about it for a long time.
“So, iyong gusto kong ma-experience ng tao dito is more like...more than the food. You can have a great dining experience here.
“We want families to come here for lunch, for dinner. We want the late night crowd to have a seat outside and have a nice cold beer or a nice mojito made of lambanog.