Filipino cook finds his 'second home' in Hopedale

Emmanuel Gutierrez spent more than 15 years in Saudi Arabia so he's still adjusting to the cold of Labrador's north coast, but says the welcome is warm.

Meet the cook at the Amaguk Inn in Hopedale who moved to Labrador from Saudi Arabia

Roxanne Frieda, Emmanuel Gutierrez and Vanessa Gauntlett share a laugh in the kitchen at the Amaguk Inn, where they work. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Emmanuel Gutierrez is affectionately known as "Manny" in the kitchen at the Amaguk Inn in Hopedale.

He's already made a strong impression since moving to Labrador's north coast to work as a cook.

"He's just funny and comical and just keeps everyone going," said Vanessa Gauntlett, who works in the kitchen with him.

"Three of us [in the kitchen] right now are all related so he's like an adopted cousin."

Gutierrez has introduced Asian dishes to customers at the Amaguk Inn, but he says he's been learning how to make local fare since moving to the town. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Since arriving in May 2016, Gutierrez has introduced Asian dishes and popular specials such as chicken souvlaki to the community, although finding ingredients can be challenging.

The 51-year-old is also learning how to make local fare — and getting to know some Inuttitut words, too.

"I wish I could try moose souvlaki, " he mused.

Grilled souvlaki with buttered veggies and fried rice is just one of the many dishes Gutierrez serves up at the Amaguk Inn. He says it's called shish tawaqoo in Saudi Arabia. (Submitted)

Family first

Before coming to Labrador, Gutierrez worked as a cook in Saudi Arabia for more than 15 years, spending only his vacations with his wife and three daughters.

I want to be with my family. That's the first thing I want to do in my life.- Emmanuel Gutierrez 

His wife Domelita and their youngest daughter were able to join him in Hopedale last November, and they are settling into life there.

Gutierrez marvels that residents even pick his nine-year-old up at school on snowmobile, and she's already gone to a sleepover with her classmates. She's now asking for a bunkbed so her friends can stay over.

Marie Emmanuelle Gutierrez, 9, rides on a snowmobile for the first time in Hopedale. Manny Gutierrez is grateful that residents in Hopedale drop his daughter off at school because the family doesn't have a snowmobile. (Facebook )

But Gutierrez misses his two other daughters, who are still living in the Philippines.

"That's one of my dreams. I want to be with my family. That's the first thing I want to do in my life. My priority is my children," he told Labrador Morning.

"My dream is to be with my family because I've been away from them for almost 20 years, and my daughters grew up without my guidance, and I'm not with them and they're growing apart from me." 

Labrador's north coast, with its bone-chilling winters, is a world away from the sweltering heat of the Middle East, where Gutierrez worked for more than 15 years as a cook. (Facebook )

Gutierrez saw the job in Hopedale posted online, and applied for it from the Middle East.

After doing an interview via Skype — and getting the job — he found out just how long a journey it is to Labrador. He also didn't know what to expect flying on a small Twin Otter plane along the coast.

"I was shocked. I even threw up on the plane," he said, laughing. "Yeah, there's a lot of stopovers. So when the plane will have to land, I was perspiring, sweating a lot. I said, 'How many more hours?'"

Adapting to life in Hopedale

Gauntlett says it's interesting to see her co-worker experience all of the firsts in Hopedale.

"Even just when he saw the first snowfall, something we take for granted, but he'd never seen snow. It was kinda neat to watch like someone come from another culture and adapt to our culture," she said.

Gutierrez worked in Saudi Arabia for more than 15 years as a cook before moving to Labrador's north coast in May 2016. (Facebook )

Bundling up for the extreme cold on Labrador's north coast has been part of it; the bone-chilling –50 C temperatures are a world away from the sweltering 45-degree heat Gutierrez experienced in the Middle East.

He's just funny and comical and just keeps everyone going.- Vanessa Gauntlett

But it's all part of embracing life in Labrador.

Gutierrez says he's happy the community has accepted him, especially when he felt homesick and lonely.

"When people comes and hugs you, that's the best thing in Hopedale," he said. "It is a small community. Everybody knows each other."

Gauntlett said she's happy to hear that living in Hopedale has been a positive experience for Gutierrez, that he feels welcome and comfortable in the community.

"This is my second home," he said. "I call it my second home because this is where I live now."

About the Author

John Gaudi

CBC reporter

John Gaudi reports from Happy Valley-Goose Bay for CBC's Labrador Morning.