Negros-town kid becomes head chef in popular Filipino restaurant after moving to Dubai


Like limitless iced tea, this city is full of tales of foreigners who have tried their luck and succeeded. Warlito "Lito" Sevilla, 49, is one of them. He comes from Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, a town whose population is just large enough to contain one of Metro Manila's largest barangays.

It's a fascinating tale how he succeeded in Dubai. These days, Sevilla, who struggled to finish his secondary education due to poverty, is busy in the kitchen preparing meals for Kusina Natin 'To's predominantly Filipino patrons, an all-day dining establishment in Satwa.

Satwa is a residential area and among Dubai’s Filipino enclaves. “I only studied till second year high school,” Sevilla shared in fine conversational English.

“But that did not hinder me to what my love is. My humble beginnings pushed me to follow my dreams, and that is to be a chef by profession.”

Sevilla, who arrived in Dubai 13 years ago, said it all began when he was 14 years old in 1987 – at about the same time he was in second year high school.

“I have a relative (uncle Felix) who owns a restaurant in our place. He got me to work there as he needed someone to assist him in the kitchen,” Sevilla said.

And so began his journey “Uncle Felix taught me how to cut veggies and meat. I worked also as a dishwasher. One day, he told me to cook. As I always watched him cooking, I tried preparing a dish. And it turned out great,” narrated Sevilla.

The compliment elated Sevilla “I felt really happy when he said: ‘You are a fast learner. You have the skills for cooking. Someday, all the things that I have taught you about cooking will be your craft.’ “I just smiled,” he said.

Sevilla said he owes what he has become to his uncle. Looking forward, Sevilla said he plans to someday go home for good and run a restaurant just like his uncle Felix did.

Kusina Natin ‘To is popular for its range of Filipino comfort foods – from beef pares to calamares, palabok, sinampalukang manok, Bicol express, kare-kare and balbacua, among others.

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