Food

How to Survive a Restaurant Crisis, According to Chef Rolando Laudico

The celebrity chef faced the biggest challenge of his career this year, and lived to tell about it
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Guevarra’s is a buffet restaurant in San Juan owned by popular Chef Rolando Laudico that has been around since March 2013. This year, the establishment faced its toughest challenge yet when a customer alleged she and her family were rushed to the hospital for severe food poisoning after having had dinner there. The customer posted the incident on social media, leading to an investigation that involved local as well as national government authorities. 

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The San Juan government ordered Guevarra’s to shut down for a few days, until the city’s health department gave the all-clear. The restaurant has since reopened and is back in business. Throughout the ordeal, Laudico and his wife Jackie, who is also a chef, kept mum on the issue. But at an event to launch Guevarra’s Christmas menu, Chef Laudico finally broke his silence.

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“Many agencies, including including the health and sanitation agency of San Juan, inspected us,” he said. “They conducted regular inspections (since the alleged incident) and in the latest one, they gave us an excellent rating. Actually it’s 95 out of 100.”

Laudico says he stands by the food served in his restaurant, and declines to speculate what led to the whole brouhaha.

“Other than the local agency, the Department of Health likewise conducted tests and we passed them all with flying colors,” he said. “Also, we hired three private agencies to conduct their own tests. And all those agencies gave us a pass.”

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Laudico admitted that the incident had a profound effect on the business, and led him and his team to do even better to serve their clientele. He started by instituting changes in the restaurant, including improving the buffet set-up, installing a “sneeze guard” over the food to prevent “accidental contamination,” and retraining the kitchen and service staff to respond to various workplace issues. They even overhauled the restaurant’s electrical system and established food safety monitors to maintain the cleanliness of the food that they serve. “Even though the DOH (officials) said there was no incidence of cholera, we still made a conscious effort to improve our services,” Laudico said.

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While most food businesses may opt to keep a low profile so soon after a potentially disastrous incident like the one he went through, Laudico went the other way. His trust and confidence in the food that they offer convinced him and his team to introduce a Christmas menu following the negative publicity. The celebrity chef even invited national media to come and sample the spread of over 30 new dishes inspired by the traditional Filipino noche buena. “These are dishes that I loved eating when I was a kid,” he said. “Imagine going to your lolo and lola’s house and having noche buena there. That’s the exact meal you can experience here at Gueverra’s.”

Despite the setback, Guevarra’s seems to be as popular as ever. Undoubtedly, it’s a sign that Chef Laudico and his Guevarra’s team are doing something right.

 

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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