A dinner conversation with… Clemens Guettler

From humble beginnings in the small town of Lienz in Austria, Clemens Guettler has carved out a lasting legacy as a restaurateur in the Cayman Islands since 1970. During a conversation over dinner at The Wharf Restaurant and Bar, which he will have owned for 25 years this month, Guettler shared some of his secrets for success and some of his remarkable stories from a bygone era.  

 

The autumn of 2012 was a high time for Clemens Guettler, owner of the majority share of The Wharf Restaurant and Bar.  

On 25 October, at the Out of the Kitchen Dinner in The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Royal Ballroom, the Cayman Culinary Society presented Guettler with a ‘Lifetime Achievement in Culinary Arts’ award for his contributions to Cayman’s restaurant industry.  

The very next month, Guettler flew to his native Austria where he received ‘Austrian Abroad of the Year’ honours at Rolling Pin Magazine’s annual culinary awards gala. 

“It was my year for awards,” said Guettler during a dinner at his own restaurant.  

But for Guettler, his overnight success in the Cayman Islands was 42 years in the making and he’ll be the first to tell you he couldn’t have done it without a little luck and a lot of good people working on his team.  

 

Beginnings  

A young Clemens Guettler came to the Cayman Islands in December 1970 at the age of 22. 

He was enjoying working in Freeport, Grand Bahama, along with his longtime friend, Johann Guschelbauer. 

“Unfortunately [Bahamas Prime Minister] Lynden Pindling made a campaign speech saying Bahamas [was] for the Bahamians and he sent everybody packing. We lost our work permits and so did some of the bankers.” 

Some of the banks in which those bankers worked headed to the Cayman Islands. 

“I said, ‘If they’re going down there, there must be something there’. I said, ‘Follow the banks’. And I came down here by luck because my good friend Johann, he came here before me and he needed some extra help at the Caribbean Club for the winter season. So I said, ‘Well, count me in’. And that’s how I got here.”  

Although he had worked as a bartender in the Bahamas, that wasn’t the position he got at the Caribbean Club. 

“This was the funniest part,” he said. “Willie Meyerhofer was the head chef… He said, ‘I see you had some experience in the kitchen. Why don’t you work with me in the kitchen? I’ll pay you $15 more and maybe you’ll take the job as my assistant chef’. And I said, ‘Well, why not?’ 

“I still have pictures of me with him standing behind the buffet, New Year’s Eve, at the Caribbean Club in my chef outfit.” 

Guettler’s days at the Caribbean Club started early every morning. At 6am he would drive the hotel’s Volkswagen bus to West Bay to collect the morning staff. 

“In those days there was no [public] transportation, so we had to pick up the staff,” he said. 

Sometimes, his days would start even earlier. When the air cargo flights came in – an old DC3 propeller aircraft – with meat and vegetables, he had to go to the airport to collect the shipment for the hotel. 

“You would get there at 2.30 in the morning and you’d drive the Volkswagen bus right out on the runway and situate yourself next to the plane.” 

Guettler said the crew in the plane would then throw the boxes of goods out the door, some 10 feet off the ground. 

“They would throw the boxes out and shout ‘Caribbean Club’, ‘Lobster Pot’, ‘Grand Old House’, ‘Galleon Beach’…” he said. “Sometimes when we ordered… cherries, they come in one-gallon glass jars, if you were not there on the bottom to [catch] the box, it would be smattered on the ground.” 

In other cases, those who weren’t there to collect their goods when the plane arrived would find them missing, Guettler said, adding that in those cases they’d have to drive around to the various other restaurants to find out who had collected their goods by mistake. 

“So the key was always to be there when the goods arrived.” 

Guettler said that most of Cayman’s supermarkets didn’t carry institutional-sized canned goods of things like mustard or ketchup, but H.O. Merren and Co. did. 

“Their store was right smack bam on the Front Street, but in the back there was a little wooden shed and there was a gentleman called Ainsley Bodden there who was sitting at a mahogany desk with a little notebook, like a school exercise book and he had written down what everybody picked up and that would get charged to the account,” he said. “But the best part of it was in the back of it, in the ceiling, were hanging sides of turtle… to be dried for… a French cannery that made the real turtle soup in France from turtle that was dried in the Cayman Islands.” 

After working at the Caribbean Club for the high tourist season of 1970/71, Guettler liked what he saw of the Cayman Islands; as undeveloped as it was. 

“There was really not much here in the Cayman Islands in 1970,” he said. “It gave us all the pioneer spirit; being part of something. I for one did not mind. Yes, there were mosquitoes… but I think it was just the pioneer spirit. We were all here trying to help make this Island happen.” 

Guettler was hooked, not only by the place, but also by a young Caymanian woman named Lucille Ebanks, who would eventually become his wife. 

“Lucille worked for Jacques Scott as bookkeeper and that’s where I met her,” Guettler said. “I remember asking Lucille out on a date on numerous occasions when I used to go in there to place the order for the Caribbean Club. But she said, ‘no… maybe later’. But one day I had this opportunity… there was a wonderful sailing vessel – a 64-foot sloop – called the Schooner Russell. Absolutely beautiful. It had a gorgeous green hull, mahogany deck, wonderful sails. I asked David Foster, who was the manager at Jacques Scott, if [he] would please be so kind to give Lucille off from 1.30 on Saturday so… I could take her on that afternoon sail on that wonderful boat. I still have the picture when I took her out and that sort of sealed our courtship.” 

Guettler decided he wasn’t leaving Cayman. 

“The Caribbean Club only needed me for the winter season, so I stayed there for the winter season, finished in May,” he said. “May 15th, I decided to go and try to find employment elsewhere on the Island for a couple of months because I wanted go on to Cornell University to go and do my summer school there, to take a couple of courses in food and beverage and further my schooling.” 

He found that employment just down the road at the old Galleon Beach Hotel, on the site where the Westin Casuarina Resort now stands. 

“I helped out for three months…and then I went to Cornell University for summer school in July, until the end of August,” he said.  

 

Greetings from the kitchen  

The Wharf Restaurant offers a variety of settings from which to dine. There’s the seaside deck, the upper deck, the bar area and even a strip of beach. Clemens and I dined in the small gazebo. 

Guettler is now in his mid-60s, and although he has always been known as a friendly guy, he is also known for sometimes getting grouchy. Not this evening though; this evening he is in high spirits, aided no doubt by the flowing wine. 

After we have a drink by the bar, during which time the popular tarpon feeding occurred right off the small dock, we sat down at the table and Clemens asked for a menu, not knowing I had already spoken with his general manager, Reno Mancini, about a tasting menu. 

The Wharf’s bartender/sommelier, Eric Marroix, broke it to him gently.  

“Clemens, Chef make a surprise for you,” said the native French speaker Marroix. “He make a set menu surprise.” 

“A set menu surprise?” said Guettler. 

“Save you some time to choose,” said Marroix. 

“OK, fine,” said Guettler after a momentary pause. “But can you let me know what it is going to be?” 

“Yes, I will let you know.” 

Shortly afterward, German waitress Corinna Benz came out to tell us about the four-course menu that would start with chicken liver pâté. A few minutes later, Benz came back with something that is definitely not chicken liver pâté. 

“Here comes the wonderful food and we’re having here,” Guettler said when he saw the plates coming. “It’s looking very exciting.” 

“It’s a stuffed lobster with vegetables and herbs,” Benz said 

“That must be a greeting from the kitchen,” he said. 

“It is.” 

“And after that comes our pâté, I suppose?” 

“Yes,” she responded. 

Marroix was back, too, this time with a bottle of wine. 

“We’ll have a little Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to combine with the fruitiness and exotic flavour of this dish,” he said.  

Just like a good host at home dinner party, Guettler is a consummate restaurant host. He is constantly looking around, making sure all of his diners have what they need. Now that there is food and wine in front of me, he is happy. 

“Here’s to all the Kiwis who send us all this wonderful wine,” he toasted as we drank our first sip.  

“I wish he would have picked one of the Austrian Grüner-Veltliners so we could have had an Austrian white wine,” Guettler said quietly, but not so quietly that Marroix couldn’t hear. 

“Maybe it will still come?” Marroix said with a smile. 

The Wharf serves continental and Caribbean cuisine and it purposely leans heavily toward seafood dishes because that’s what Guettler has always believed people want to eat in Cayman.  

“That’s the number one formula,” he said. “You need to cook what people want to eat. They come to an island, [seafood is] what they want. The fresher the better.” 

It’s local lobster season so the lobster was fresh, it was a work of art, and it was delicious. Some formulas just work. 

 

Early Days  

On 10 September, 1971, Guettler returned to the Cayman Islands after his summer studies at Cornell University in New York. 

“I started working for Grand Old House,” he said. “Jeanne Brenton and Mr. Brenton hired me as maitre d’. 

In the days of the early 1970s, business was slow for most of the year. 

“It was difficult at times because… we had winter tourism, but that was only over the Christmas holidays until about the 3rd of January and then practically for the whole month of March,” he said. “The rest of the time there wasn’t really much going on.” 

That started to change as more banks and trust companies established on Grand Cayman, leading to more corporate business that lasted all year long. 

While he was working at Grand Old House, Guettler got married.  

“At the age of 24, I married Lucille on the 28th of August, 1972,” he said. “I was in love with the lady; she was wonderful. We’re still married today.” 

During his tenure at Grand Old House, another expatriate culinary pioneer, German Ottmar Weber, was the head chef of Grand Old house. The two began talking about starting their own restaurant, something that Guettler looked into, eventually finding an offer from Captain Charles Kirkconnell to lease the restaurant at the Coral Caymanian Hotel in 1973. 

“The deal was 20 per cent off the top,” he said. “So every dollar I took in, I had to give him 20 cents. I paid my own electricity bills, my own water bills, the whole staffing – labour – advertising, glassware and everything I needed to buy for the restaurant as far as food and everything.” 

Around the same time he started the restaurant, two men, Mike Kirkconnell and Mervyn Cumber, opened Coconut Car Rental in front of the hotel. Cumber would eventually become the most important business relationship in Guettler’s life; one that still exists today. 

Guettler said that Weber, at the last minute, decided to leave Cayman and go to work for German company in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. 

“He told me two months before we were supposed to open that he’s not going to be part of it and that really threw a spanner into my works,” he said. 

But Guettler went ahead with the restaurant anyway. 

“I had to go and look for a replacement chef,” he said. “The scary part really was, where do you find somebody? So I was talking to one of the cooks at the Holiday Inn and a guy called Fischbacher said he was going to finish his one-year contract with Holiday Inn and he would help me out for three months. He was a really nice guy, but not really suited for a position as single, alone, chef. I had a very extensive menu for a little place and I helped him make the preparations [with] three Caymanians ladies that were with me in there. It was tough!” 

Eventually, Guettler advertised in a Swiss restaurant magazine and was able to hire Urs Billeter as his head chef, someone he calls “an amazing guy”. 

Even so, running his own restaurant proved much harder than Guettler had imagined. The lease agreement he had signed required him to keep the restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.  

“So I had multi hats on. I started in the morning, opened for breakfast, go inside, cook the breakfast, then go outside, serve it and then go back inside and cook some more,” he said. “In the summer when you only had one guest staying in the hotel, I still had to be open. And in order to be very cost efficient and not to lose your shirt, I had to be very, very… frugal and make sure that I’m doing my job properly.”  

With such a small staff and such demanding hours, Guettler got very little time off.  

“I did not think it was going to be that tough to running your own restaurant,” he said. “I wanted it to do well, so I spent literally 18 hours per day working in the restaurant.” 

During that time, Guettler said he made a timing mistake. 

“The only thing… I made a boo-boo – I started my family at the same time,” he said. “My wife was five months pregnant when the winter season started, so my daughter was then born in April. From then, all hell broke loose. I brought my mother, who did not speak one word of English, to go and help my wife. That didn’t work out because I could not translate. So, when my wife decided to go back to work, we got a nanny to look after the little one. It was tough. I mean obviously, if I had the opportunity to do this one more time, that definitely I would plan differently.”  

During his time at Coral Caymanian, Guettler handled just about every task of operating a restaurant at one time or the other, learning a great deal as he did.  

“I was basically chief cook and bottle washer,” he said with a laugh.  

Guettler was helped tremendously by one particular customer. 

“At that time, the number one driving force in the Cayman Islands was a little bank called Interbank headed up by Jean Doucet,” he said. “Jean Doucet used to throw a lot of lavish parties and he also supported the Coral Caymanian restaurant with Christmas parties and other functions and even catering that I used to do. So that really helped me.” 

When Interbank collapsed in 1975, Guettler knew immediately he couldn’t go on with the restaurant at the Coral Caymanian. 

“I had a two-year lease. I decided to finish the two-year lease and not renew it,” he said. “Basically, I made the decision after Interbank closed on the 15th of May. My lease was up on the 15th of June, so it was a no-brainer.” 

 

Pâté  

Some restaurant owners sit in an office and oversee things, but don’t get involved much in the actual operations of their restaurant. That’s not Guettler; he’s not only a worker, he’s the personality of the Wharf restaurant. 

It seems as if nearly everyone knows Guettler. During our interview, we are interrupted constantly by people coming to talk to him or to just say hello. One man, with a group of others, waves as he makes his way by the gazebo toward the parking lot.  

“Thank you, you have a wonderful evening,” Guettler said, ever the host. 

“So nice to see you again,” the guest replied. 

“It was indeed a pleasure,” Guettler said. 

Benz serves us chicken liver pâté with orange cranberry sauce and crostinis  

“How lovely,” Guettler said. 

Marroix is back with more wine. 

“I have selected a nice Chianti to go with the liver pate,” he said. “It’s a very European tradition.” 

Guettler is a little annoyed.  

“I’m really amazed that you haven’t given us any Austrian wine so I…” 

Marroix stops him. 

“Yeah, it’s coming, with the sea scallops,” he said. “I have a nice Grüner-Veltliner with the sea scallops.”  

“OK, that’s good,” Guettler said, relieved. 

He started to continue a tale he was telling and was almost immediately interrupted, this time by a young architect, who, after an initial greeting, stepped into the Gazebo to show Guettler a rough sketch on a piece of note paper.  

“I was going to show you the design for what we’re going to do with this place,” he said. 

“Well, let’s go,” said Guettler. 

“It’s 10 storeys. No, I’m serious.”  

“Can you buy this man and this lovely lady a nice glass of wine or a drink or whatever they like,” Guettler told one of the waiters. 

“So, we’re doing a design for Clemens,” the architect, who said he works for DDL, explained, showing me the sketch. “And this is it right there. The Wharf is right there. We’re doing a 10 storey… you haven’t seen this yet Clemens…” 

“You’re not allowed 10 stories, you can only go seven,” Guettler said right away. 

“OK, well luckily I only put seven storeys on the sketch,” the architect said. 

Guettler laughed. 

“It’s all on record,” he said, pointing to my recorder. 

The architect was not deterred. 

“And then the bridge connecting to the other side,” he said. “And we’re doing a thing with Selkirk over here. So it’s going to be a connected village. I told you I’d come up with something and I got it. So we’ve got to talk. Whenever you’re ready.” 

“Well, unfortunately, you’ve picked me at the wrong time tonight. I’ll call you,” Guettler said, and the young architect walked off. 

Guettler explained a little about what the sketch was about. 

“His name is Pedro,” he said. “I wanted him to… help me with redoing the restaurant because, if I want to be honest with you, big restaurants are no longer a good thing to have. We need to make the thing smaller – a 160-seater. You don’t need 300 seats anymore. It’s very hard to fill. The competition is fierce. In order for me to… survive in today’s market, I need to rethink the restaurant. Either I find somebody who will purchase the entire thing and redevelop it as something else or I definitely need to go and do this.” 

The problem, Guettler said, is that the Cayman restaurant landscape has dramatically changed since he bought the Wharf. 

“It’s like a completely different world,” he said. “In 1988 when I bought this, there was 64 restaurants on the Island, counting all the little ones. There were nine restaurants that made all the money when I came (to the Wharf).” 

Now, there’s more than 200 restaurant on Grand Cayman. 

The tale Guettler was telling, like a couple others during the evening, doesn’t get finished as a result of the interruption. But there are plenty more to tell. 

“How’s your pâté?” he asks. 

“Very good,” I said earnestly.  

“Thank you.”  

 

Fiji and the Lobster Pot  

After Interbank closed, things were not good in Cayman, Guettler said. 

“The Island went into a tailspin… commerce stopped, it was not a good scene.”  

At the same time, he had an opportunity to go to Fiji and work as restaurant manager at the Regent of Fiji Resort.  

“I said to my wife, ‘We’re going to rent the house out, sell the cars and go to Fiji for two years and then maybe two years later we can come back’,” he said. With their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter in tow, that’s exactly what they did. 

In Fiji, Guettler got a taste of managing a big restaurant with lots of employees.  

“The hotel was very popular,” he said. “It was beautiful; the property was gorgeous. To me, it was an amazing place to work. 580 employees; 340 rooms. I had 280 employees in the food and beverage department. The property was over 27 acres.” 

It was invaluable experience to Guettler, who turned 30 while he was in Fiji. But it was also quite stressful being the manager of such a large restaurant.  

“I lost all of my hair in Fiji,” he said with a laugh.  

After his two-year stint at the Regent of Fiji, Guettler was offered another position with the group on the opening team of the Regent of Hong Kong and he accepted the job. 

Before moving, he and his wife and daughter returned to Cayman for a visit.  

“Upon arrival on the Island, I walked over to Coconut Car Rental to rent a car,” he said. “Mervyn [Cumber] saw me, he says, ‘Man you’re back’. And he says, ‘I just bought the Lobster Pot, we need to talk’.” 

The two men sat down and talked. 

“He said, ‘You know, this is an opportunity for you if you want to take it’. So I said, ‘Well, let’s go’. I said, ‘I’m ready. We’re going to stay here’.” 

Guettler and his wife had already taken a fact-finding trip to Hong Kong and his wife didn’t really like it and didn’t want to raise their daughter there. 

“She said, ‘I want to raise the kid here’. I said, ‘Boom, honey, your wish is my command. I’m going to go and make you happy’. And I think it was the smartest thing to do. ’77 came and it was back in the next upswing, the Interbank dilemma was forgotten, everybody was back making money; it was a good time to come back.” 

Guettler started at the Lobster Pot on a working contract to manage the restaurant.  

“In the beginning, [Cumber] gave me a percentage to manage the restaurant and then later on he decided to offer me 50 per cent of the Lobster Pot and I bought [it].  

His run at the restaurant lasted 24 years, from 1977 until 2001, and ended when he sold his share to Cumber’s son Marcus.  

 

Surf and turf  

Benz and Marroix returned with more food and wine. Scallops are probably one of my least favourite types of seafood, but The Wharf’s seared sea scallops set on asparagus risotto and finished with truffle dressing is truly divine dish. 

“Now we have a beautiful Grüner-Veltliner,” Marroix said. 

“Ohh,” he said after taking a sip. “This is yodelling wine. This is why the Austrians gave me the award; because we started bringing Austrian wines to the Cayman Islands and Austrian products.”  

Guettler ate some of the scallop. 

“This is fantastic,” he said. 

He didn’t go far enough with superlative for me. 

“That was absolutely fantastic,” I said when I’d finished. “That was one of the best scallops I’ve had in a long, long time. Seriously.” 

The award he received in Austria was for more than just bringing Austrian wines to Cayman. It was also for bringing so many Austrians to the Cayman Islands to work in the restaurant business. Guettler advertised for staff in magazines in Europe, including the Rolling Pin in Austria. He estimates that in his multiple restaurants over 40 years in the restaurant business in Cayman, he probably hired more than 500 of his fellow countrymen. Some of those he brought over went on to become highly successful restaurant managers, chefs or owners. Others used it as a springboard for positions elsewhere, especially the United States. 

While Guettler has had a lot of staff members come and go, he’s been able to keep a few key ones for a long time. His executive chef, Austrian Christian Reiter, has been at the Wharf since 1996, except for a two-year stint in Australia. His restaurant manager, Reno Mancini, has been at the Wharf continually since 1997. A Toronto native, Mancini has worked for no one else in the Cayman Islands. 

“I was born under a lucky star… that I found that guy,” Guettler said about Mancini. “He’s so much like me. He’s so dedicated. He’s got so much heart…. Where can you find anybody like that? You can’t.” 

Guettler said having the right people in key positions is vital in the restaurant business. 

“It’s really true… that a place is only as good as the people that are working in it,” he said.  

Guettler isn’t afraid of hard work. When the restaurant was slammed with guests during the annual Oktoberfest event last year, Guettler was out there serving, assisting and sweating like the rest of the staff. That’s his style. 

“I was always under the impression to manage on a first-name basis,” he said. “I never wanted to be called Mr. Guettler. I’m Clemens. For me it’s important when we are here and you open the door, we’re all pulling in one direction. And the direction is to go and keep the people who are coming in here saying. ‘Wow, what a wonderful evening.’ That’s all I really want.” 

The savoury part of our meal ended with slow roasted rack of lamb rolled in herbs, served with a delicious South African red Bordeaux blend called De Toren Z. 

“Ahhhh…. This looks fantabulous. Look at this. I need to take a picture. By the way,” he said to Marroix, “can you please send the kitchen a round of drinks? Tell them they really outdid it. Don’t forget the cooks. Get some Amstel and some Heineken and some Corona on a plate and carry it in and say ‘Thank you very much. You’re part of the story.” 

 

Periwinkle and the Wharf  

In 1984, an opportunity came up to buy a bar and restaurant known as the 19th Hole, where Deckers Restaurant is today. The owners were going through a divorce and needed to liquidate the asset and offered the restaurant and 1.25 acres of prime land next on West Bay Road for $600,000. 

Guettler didn’t have enough money to buy it himself, so he talked his friends Guschelbauer and Cumber into investing with him.  

After they bought the restaurant, Guettler oversaw a major renovation of the place and four months later, it opened. 

“The place went off like a rocket,” he said. “We did… 120 lunches and 150 dinners, using the same formula – a little bit of Lobster Pot food, a little bit of Caribbean Club food – always thinking that the people want to eat seafood. And the damn thing took off.” 

Then the Hyatt Regency Hotel opened right next to Periwinkle, business just got better. 

“So when the Hyatt opened in [1986] it was amazing,” he said. “Everybody stopped there. They looked at the high prices at the Hyatt, they said, ‘no, no, let’s go for a nice spaghetti Bolognese at the Periwinkle for $9.50’… beer was $3.50, rum and coke was $4, a kid’s pasta was five bucks… so they all went there. The place was packed.” 

But Guettler had even more ambitions and in April 1988, he and his two Periwinkle partners bought what was then called the Ports of Call Restaurant, now The Wharf. 

“Under the stars, coconut trees, a nice little wooden bar over here, it was the Island’s most amazing spot,” he said. “To me, if there was ever a spot for a restaurant, this is it. I don’t think you’ll find another place like that anywhere in the Caribbean.” 

But the reality of owning parts of three restaurants – The Lobster Pot, Periwinkle and The Wharf – and the debt on the latter two, weighed heavily on Guettler. When an offer for Periwinkle was made in August 1988, Guettler and Guschelbauer agreed to sell for US$1.3 million, even though Cumber didn’t want to. 

“Mervyn up to this day will never forget that I sold [Periwinkle],” Clemens said, explaining that he and Guschelbauer owned 60 per cent of the restaurant and overpowered him on the sale. 

“I said, ‘Well, that was a business decision.”  

Guettler said he made the decision because Guschelbauer had developed phlebitis in his leg and couldn’t walk because of the blood clots. As a result, Guettler was basically running three restaurants by himself. 

“I lost 29 pounds,” he said. “I was basically standing besides myself, weighing 145 pounds, down from [about 175 pounds].” 

Two years later, Guettler bought out Guschelbauer – who by that time also suffered from mental illness – from The Wharf, and then in 2001, he sold his share in the Lobster Pot. For the past 11 years, he has only owned The Wharf with Cumber. 

“Mervyn Cumber… he’s been a wonderful silent partner,” he said. “For 25 years, Mervyn was my partner through thick and thin. It’s unfortunate, him and his wife went through a separation and now I ended up with two partners. I have his lovely wife and Mervyn. Life throws all kinds of numbers at you, but I’m really lucky that I have Cumber part of the number.” 

The rhyme was accidental, but when Guettler realised what he’s said, he let out a long, hearty laugh. 

 

Tarts and second wives  

Finishing up our meal was a chocolate tart.  

“Passion fruit, chocolate and crème fraîche. Ummm. This is phenomenal,” said Guettler, enjoying his dessert. 

The meal has been terrific from start to finish. Guettler is very proud of his team on this evening.  

“I never wanted to be a four-star, or a five-star or a Michelin-star restaurant,” he said. “I always wanted to cater to anybody who wants to come to the Wharf… and this wonderful ambience. You can sit under the stars or sit by the sea and have dinner. I want to serve really good food at a very competitive price, as fresh as possible as I can present it. I never wanted to have anything that is pre-cooked or warmed over or whatever…. You order it, we cook it and it comes out. And it definitely does show because when you taste this stuff, you’ve got to make sure everything works. And that’s why after 24 years… why would I be still here if I didn’t do something right.” 

As his staff attest, Guettler has hinted at retirement for years now, but he’s still very much involved right now. 

“Every day above ground is a good day,” he said. 

With the restaurant crowd pretty much gone and the Tuesday night salsa dance class going on, Mancini has some time to come over. 

“They wined and dined me today,” Guettler told Mancini. “I haven’t had so much wine… you can vouch for that – I drink soda with a splash of wine.” 

Guettler mentions the story about when he received his Cayman Culinary Society Lifetime Achievement Award, and event emcee Vicki Wheaton commented that Mancini was his second wife.  

“Yes, Vicki Wheaton said Reno Mancini is his second wife,” Mancini repeated. “Lucille looked and me and I’m like, ‘I don’t know. I didn’t tell her to say that’. But it’s true. I’m here all the time. So is he.”  

1 COMMENT

Comments are closed.