Wild In Siargao: How one restaurant adapted and soared during COVID
Wild Restaurant opened in late 2019 in General Luna, Siargao. In 2020, when the COVID pandemic hit the nation, and everywhere went in to strict quarantine, the owners took a unique approach to not only adapting their own business but also supporting local out-of-work chefs.
Like many others, the guys behind Wild adopted a take-out delivery approach to try to survive the lockdown effects. But then they did something really inspiring. They opened their kitchen to other island Chefs, whose Restaurants were also closed due to the COVID Pandemic.
21 Takeovers, 15 Island Chefs, 1 Wild Kitchen Takeover!
MY RANGGO spoke with Andrew Malarky; Chef, Entrepreneur and one of the people behind Wild Restaurant’s concept and food.
MY RANGGO: When did Wild Restaurant first open?
Andrew: The soft opening for Wild Restaurant was late 2019. We didn’t really have an official grand opening but we were already operating before the COVID pandemic.
MY RANGGO: What is Wild Restaurant’s concept?
Andrew: Wild works to give a fresh, creative spin on dishes made with native ingredients found in, and around Siargao and the Philippines. Lately we’ve focused more on Filipino cuisine, but we also offer a variety of unique Chef-driven dishes
MY RANGGO: Who came up with the Wild concept?
Andrew: Wild is the brainchild of myself, Jove Schrottman and ‘Felipe’ Gene de la Cruz and all three of us are alumni of Boracay. We have used our experience and individual talents to come up with something that we feel is fresh and interesting.
MY RANGGO: How long have you been a chef?
Andrew: I’ve been cooking professionally for about 18 years now. I started with an Internship at a Hilton Hotel before attending Culinary School at George Brown College in Toronto Canada
MY RANGGO: What other restaurants have you worked in?
Andrew: I’ve worked in quite a few restaurants In Canada, Australia and America. In Toronto I’ve worked in ORO, Valdez, Fuzion Restaurant, Globe and most recently Cluny Bistro.
In Montreal I’ve consulted for Junior Filipino and in New York I staged* at Alder, which is sadly now closed.
I’ve worked at My Mexican Cousin and The Post Office Hotel in Melbourne. And in the Philippines my tenure has been at Dos Mestizos and now Wild Siargao
Over the years I’ve done quite a few ‘pop ups’, and I really enjoy hosting them as well.
MY RANGGO: You left Boracay in 2018. Why did you choose Siargao as your next location?
Andrew: I really liked that Siargao had a ‘new frontier’ feel to it. There’s plenty of opportunity, and Siargao is a blank space to spread ones wings and grow
MY RANGGO: When did you first think of the idea of a Kitchen Takeover for Wild Restaurant?
Andrew: During lockdown and quarantine many restaurants had closed and I noticed many talented chefs hustling from their home kitchens. I wanted to give them an opportunity and a platform, not only to cook but to showcase their talent and passion and earn from the fruits of their labor.
I gave them my space, my team and my expertise. We have grown this concept into quite an event, featuring many of the islands premier chefs
MY RANGGO: Was there anything in particular that inspired the idea?
Andrew: We just felt the need to do something different. Something exciting. Especially during such an exceptional time, when everyone has been affected by the same thing.
MY RANGGO: Which chefs/kitchens have featured at Kitchen Takeover?
Andrew: We’ve featured a real range of cuisines with the Kitchen Takeover. And not all of the chefs were working in a restaurant before the quarantine period.
For example, Bird Pinggoy would sell her food at the weekend markets that we had here. Of course, with the quarantine, the market stopped so it was great for her regular customers to be able to come to Wild and enjoy her food again.
Wild Restaurants featured Kitchen Takeover Chefs:
- Alec Santos of Zicatela, showcasing New York Italian cuisine
- Bird Pinggoy, Filipino cuisine.
- Claudine Mendoza, who works for a food business called Spice Grounds Siargao. Claudine showcased Coastal Italian cuisine.
- David Del Rosario, of CEV Siargao. Showcasing Seafood and Ceviche
- Gene De La Cruz, Wild Restaurant who did a Moroccan Kitchen Takeover
- Gino Ortiz of Haole Surf Hostel & Restaurant, offered a night of Hawaiian cuisine.
- Agnes Sanchez of Greenhouse, Kook Cafe, Emerald House and Kaimana
- Luis Mas from Alma Siargao, who featured Spanish Mediterranean cuisine
- Ram Pastelero of Lotus Shores/Wabi Swabi who hosted a night of vegan food.
- Erwin Theiler & Ivo Zwicker, from Bliss Restaurant, with Swiss cuisine.
MY RANGGO: Are there any chefs or kitchens that have featured more than once?
Andrew: Many of the Chefs have been featured multiple times at Kitchen Takeover. Not only on their own but to support and back each other up too. It’s been quite inspiring working together with such talented individuals
MY RANGGO: What tips or ideas have you learned from the other chefs?
Andrew: Each Chef brings a set of unique element to their Kitchen Takeovers.
My staff in particular have had the opportunity to work with, and learn a wide array of cuisines and techniques, getting excited and learning along the way.
My kitchen team is predominately female, and giving them the opportunity to work under, and with Chefs such as Agnes, Bird and Claudine has been inspirational for them.
Some of the delicious dishes (below) served during Kitchen Takeover nights
MY RANGGO: Having gone through a closure (Boracay) once before, were there any lessons you learned then which helped you during the pandemic closure?
Andrew: Plan. Budget. Execute.
Just because the island is shut down it does not mean there aren’t people here wanting to eat delicious food. Like Boracay, there are plenty of people here that call Siargao home. And we all need good food to eat and places to celebrate.
Even more so during times of crisis, when feelings of normalcy can go a long way against the contrast of reality.
MY RANGGO: What chef, living or dead, would you most wish to spend a day with and why?
Andrew: My old Chef Troy Payne.
He’s currently doing amazing things in Dubai. He is a great mentor and one of the Chefs I know who is truly fueled by a love for his craft. He enjoys it and this not only translates into the amazing food he presents but in the way he treats others and those who work with him.
I’m looking forward to working with him again in the future, as a stage and student
MY RANGGO: Do you have any words of advice for other chefs or restaurants struggling during this pandemic?
Andrew: It sucks. It’s hard. An industry, with such meager margins, is in complete crisis.
Adaptability is key. Don’t be afraid of change, be creative. If for no other reason than to keep yourself sharp because it will, eventually subside and you need to be on top when it does.
Support each other, our brothers and sisters in hospitality. Support other chefs. Collaborate, work together, learn from each other.
Wild Restaurant can be found at Ronin Resort, Tourism Rd, General Luna, Siargao.
Don’t forget to check out our article Why You Need To Perfect Your Restaurants Near Me Ranking, for tips on ensuring you’re at the top of Google searches by tourists who don’t know the destination well.