Pinoy chef finds joy in exquisite cuisines

Chef Felix R. Pontejos II

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 He was a team member of the second opening of The Exchange Grill Steakhouse (Fairmont Dubai) which won the best steakhouse in Dubai for two consecutive years is so far a great achievement for this young man who’s day is not complete without hanging out in the kitchen.

Chef Felix R. Pontejos II has extensive background in steakhouse and buffet service operations and capable of handling responsibilities with dedication and hard work. He was able to successfully hurdle the trade test to be considered as Baker (classified as B+).

Pontejos, 37, studied mechanical engineering but the love for food propelled this man to work his way to become one of the respected chef at the world-famous Atlantis the Palm. His story is typical – from being server to chef – but what makes him admirable is for us to know.

EXCELLENCE AT SAFFRON

In February 2010, he was hired as Specialty Sous Chef for the Saffron Restaurant at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai. There’s nothing extraordinary in his daily routine if you like to come and observe him. “I just monitor the daily functions of the kitchen including providing support and guidance to the culinary team with the end view of a positive guest experience.”

But never underestimate this guy. He has extensive knowledge on food production, ordering, cost, and quality and consistency on a daily basis not to mention his ardent desire to einsure proper safety and sanitation of all kitchen facilities and equipment.

He was part of a team that successfully launched strategies for Saffron to be recognized for three years in a row. Saffron was awarded the Best Brunch Restaurant by Entertainer in 2011, by What’s On in 2012 and by Time Out in 2013. Caterer Middle East also presented the Highly Commendable Team Restaurant Award 2013

Needless to say, the chef, known for being strong in staff management and development, is on top of the commitment to establish and maintain an efficient and effective Integrated Management System comprising of Quality, Food Safety, Environmental and Energy management systems based on ISO 9001 & 22000 Standards.

Chef Felix believes that “teamwork, honesty and integrity are our shining tools to success in the organization.”

FAILURE AT FIRST

Born in Naga City in 1976, his dream was to become a seaman. He studied mechanical engineering at FEATI University in Manila. Unable to finish his course, he briefly worked as server at the Mayflower Chinese Seafood Garden in Manila.

Thereafter, he attended the Basic Seaman Training Course at the Famous Academy in Mandaluyong in 1993 hoping that he will land a job in one of the shipping companies. He also finished the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) at the Philippine Seafarers Training Institute in Manila and attended Shipboard Training at William Lines in Davao City.

He ended a baker at Dunkin Donuts for nearly four years from 1994 to 1998. He was molded to become a highly organized individual with the ability to handle numerous tasks at one time if you know what it means to follow strict policy and standards in a fast food chain. He then transferred to Village Baker in 1999 before making a decision to go abroad.

DESERT WANDERER

His life in the kitchen can be compared to that of a wanderer in the desert. “People might see me busy and looks serious when I wear my uniform, but they don’t know that I am cheerful and funny.”

In September 1999, he was hired as Shift Leader at Burger King International in Kuwait after which he went home and worked as Quality Food Controller at Florence Food Corporation in Manila. He handled export product, canned goods, bottled good and pre-packed snacks.

In July 2001, he moved to Dubai and worked at Spinneys as Baker until 2003.

Then, he worked as Demi Chef de Partie at The Fairmont Dubai from 2003 to 2008. He was opening team member at The Exchange Grill, a multi-awarded food outlet which was awarded for Best Steakhouse of the Year by Time Out Dubai in 2007 and 2008. It was also presented the Silver Medal for Best Fine Dining Restaurant in 2008 by Middle East & North Africa Travel Awards and the Restaurant Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine in 2007 and  2008. The Cincin Wine Bar was also mentioned as Highly Commended Wine Bar by Time Out Dubai in 2007 and 2008.

While assigned in the banquet kitchen, Felix made sure the smooth operation and responsible for over-all kitchen operations by applying his knowledge of international and local cuisine, working in hot and cold section. He ensured proper receiving and storage of food products so as to comply with HACCP Standards.

He moved to the Atlantis the Palm in Dubai as Chef de Partie of Seafire Steakhouse from November 2008 to January 2010.

Becoming a full-pledge Executive Chef is his greatest goal in life. “I am still striving hard to attain this goal.” This man, unique in many ways, looks at life with deeper understanding of the three most important things – God, family and work. “I face all the challenges in life with positive thoughts and wide smile on my face.”

o0o —————– o0o

IMG_3984THE BLOGGER. Ulysses Espartero is a journalist, historian and book author who traces his roots from two Philippine jewels – Laguna and Antique.  While in Dubai, he enjoyed his expat life documenting the struggles and victories of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. In 2014, he released Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold, the first and only coffee table book about Filipino achievers in the United Arab Emirates. Connect with him on facebook.

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