Buddy has worked for 21 years at the Beaujolais restaurant in Abu Dhabi's Mercure Centre Hotel. Customers ask for him, and a pair of former patrons even call him every year on his birthday from the UK.
Salvador Toriano – better known to his customers as Buddy – has worked at Le Beaujolais restaurant in the Mercure Centre Hotel in Abu Dhabi for the past 21 years. He started as a waiter but is now the restaurant supervisor. Here he talks us through his day.
I get up at 10am and do a little exercise, drink black coffee, have a shower, freshen a shirt. I live in Mussaffah and the bus comes to pick us up at 11.05am.
I came here when I was 27. Now I am 55 — but nobody believes I am 55. I come from the Philippines and before leaving there I worked for a multinational company. Then my neighbours asked if I’d like to go out of the Philippines. I thought I would try that so I went to Baghdad – for Novotel. I was there for five years … I tried housekeeping, then they started to train me in the F and B [food and beverage] department.
In 1985 when I finished there I went back to the Philippines. Then I got a call [from Accor, which owns the Novotel and Mercure brands] asking for my CV and they helped me to come here in 1992. So I started as a waiter again.
The first thing I do is pass by the F and B office and speak to my boss. I check my log book for daily sales. Then I go to straight to my outlet [Le Beaujolais] and check on my staff, if there is anything unavailable, how many reservations we have. We are usually very busy – especially Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Tonight [Thursday] for example I’ve got four tables left – then we’re fully booked. I became the supervisor in 2007. The previous supervisor, a Filipina, left to get married and the F and B manager put me in charge. I was a bit scared to do this. But I had their support and my guests are very happy. They tell me I am always smiling and very friendly so I am happy. I supervise six staff: one Indian guy, one Egyptian lady and the rest are Filipinos.
On my day off, my guests often ask: “Where is Buddy?” They tell me that if I am not there it’s a different atmosphere. So I am very happy for comments like that.
After lunch I walk around the neighbourhood and I eat outside at a Filipino restaurant. I do some window shopping. At 5.30pm I take a rest – I have a small bed here – then at 6.30pm I get up and arrange myself and go back to work at 7pm. I had to learn about French food when I started; I mostly like chicken and the way of cooking in different sauces. I also learnt how to speak some French, even if it’s very hard for my tongue – “p” and “b” and “f” and “v” are very difficult to pronounce for Filipino people. I can take orders in French and the guests are very happy about that – especially the French guests.
I am often the one welcoming the guests – but I am not just a black jacket. I also give customers their menus and take their orders. Sometimes I help my staff with the mise-en-place, check the tables, see if the guests need anything. I sometimes start the requisition for the next day. Guests often ask for me. They say: “I need Buddy.” Because I’ve been here a long time I know what they need, what they want to drink and what food they want to order. It never changes. But I only have one body so I don’t know how to cut my body to go to every table. Occasionally, I’ll suggest something new for the guest to try. The most difficult thing is if the guests all come together; you have to prepare everything and the guests don’t [necessarily] have the same mentality – some are in a hurry. But mostly everything is fine.
We finish about 1am and wait for the bus at 2.30am. Sometimes we pass the time in Burger King. If you go [home] by taxi, it’s Dh60 – so it’s better we go there and eat something. Sometimes we go to a Filipino restaurant – me with my staff. When I get home I drink some water, watch a little bit of TV then at 3am I prepare myself for sleeping.
I know some customers from the first time I arrived here. Even now they remind me of dancing in the restaurant with Buddy [20 years ago]. My guests are very close to me. Every year an English couple calls me from the UK on my birthday – July 14 – and before my birthday I receive a card from them. Mr and Mrs Douglas – they never forget. My guests say: “We are a family, this is our second house, we are happy to come here and see you again.” That’s why it’s difficult to leave this place.