Meet the Coco Collection Team: Introducing Daniel Ferdinand Bonifacio, Chef at Coco Bodu Hithi

So much of a stay at a remote resort depends on the team on location and how they take care of you. It can make the difference between having an average holiday experience even if you’re at the most perfect hotel but where no one makes you feel comfortable, or staying at your favorite retreat, where you know your Waiter, where the Gardener greets you in the morning during your beach stroll, and the Villa Assistant leaves little towel animals on your bed at night – in short, a place that makes you feel special and that feels like a second home to you!

Our Coco Collection associates always aim to make you feel welcome when staying with us, and we will introduce one of them to you every month on this platform.

Our first interview was conducted with Daniel, an enthusiastic and delightful Chef who works at Coco Bodu Hithi:

Coco Collection Chef Daniel at TSUKI

Coco Collection Chef Daniel at TSUKI

Q: Hi Daniel, lets share a bit about yourself and your background with our readers.
A: Hi, I am Daniel Ferdinand T. Bonifacio from Philippines, 22 years old. I am a Chef at Coco Bodu Hithi, working in various Restaurants on the island, currently at TSUKI Japanese Sushi Bar. I studied in Centro Escolar University Manila, and graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I worked in Shangri-La Makati for 1 ½ years before I joined Coco Collection in December 2013. 

Q: What made you choose the culinary field as your profession? What do you love most about your career?
A: For me as a Chef, we should not just cook because it’s our job – all Chefs must cook with passion, with heart, and always check the quality of the food. I am a Chef by heart, I love cooking Asian food with a little touch of Western influence. What I really like when it comes to my work is the never ending evolution of food, the possibilities for new and exciting creations! All Chefs who truly love what they do, enjoy to discover and transfer a dish from traditional to modern cooking.

Q: What is your Career Goal?
A: I want to become an Executive Chef. I just need courage and trust God to achieve my goal. And I also want to inspire other people beyond the culinary field to appreciate life’s beauty.

Q: Do you remember a time when you were in the middle of a complete kitchen nightmare?
A: Yes, i will never forget that day. It happened on my first job in the Philippines. I was on morning-duty in the á-la-carte kitchen, when my colleague who was supposed to come in for the afternoon shift suddenly had to fill in at the buffet kitchen. I agreed to stay on and do a double-shift to help out, as we had a very busy day with 600 in-house rooms plus walk-in guests coming in for lunch. When this gruesome double-shift was just about to finish at 10pm, my other colleague who was supposed to work the night shift called in sick. In this emergency situation, I took a great risk and decided to work my 3rd shift in a row. That meant 24 hours straight duty with me skipping meals and hurrying from one pot to the next. I am proud to say that I still cooked to the satisfaction of our guests, but I have also learned my lesson, namely that Health & Safety rules are in place for a reason. I was so exhausted after these 3 shifts, I almost did not make it in to start my regular shift again after a mere 8 hours break…

Q: As a chef, you must be challenged to cook with all sorts of ingredients. Tell us a little bit about the most interesting flavor combination you worked with, and is there an ingredient that you particularly dislike.
A: I personally like to use ingredients that are rich in umami flavor, like mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, etc. For example, if i make a Japanese soup, tempura sauce, noodle dishes, or other Asian soups, I add mushrooms to infuse the umami flavor and to have it absorbed by the other ingredients of the dish.
So far, I can’t say that I dislike any specific ingredients – as long as I can play with the flavors, and prepare every dish with love and diligence, I think everything will be okay.

Wagyu Beef Tenderloin-Teriyaki glazed

Wagyu Beef Tenderloin, Teriyaki glazed; created and photographed by Chef Daniel

Q: What is it like to be a Chef at Coco Bodu Hithi?
A: I was fortunate to join Coco Bodu Hithi, as I was given a chance to work in different outlets here like the Bakery, TSUKI Japanese Sushi Bar, the AIR Buffet Restaurant, and even at our exclusive private island Coco Privé Kuda Hithi, where I got the chance to cook as an apprentice of our Executive Chef. I learned so much in my short time here already, and I am very thankful for it. I also love to talk to our guests, ask what kind of dishes they love and cook according to their preferences – it feels really great when they are happy and enjoying what I cooked for them, it is a priceless moment!

Q: What dish from the Coco Bodu Hithi Restaurant menus do you like to cook the most and why?
A: Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice with a selection of satay in peanut sauce, ayam goreng and prawn crackers). I’m not an Indonesian but I really love to cook this food especially if I have my home made sambal (chili paste).

Q: What dish at Coco Bodu Hithi do you personally like to eat the most and why?
A: Ham and cheese omelet. It will totally complete my day ;)

Q: What do you love about the Maldives and what do you enjoy doing during your leisure time on the island?
A: What I like about working here in Maldives is that in my free time, I can explore all the natural wonders around the island. Sometimes, I join Chiara, our Resident Marine Biologist, for snorkeling excursions and discover new sights every time – a sea turtle here, beautiful manta rays there, and all with the backdrop of the stunning coral reefs. I even went night snorkeling with her one time – it was a bit scary but such an out-of-this-world experience – truly amazing! It is really incredible, no words can express how beautiful the ocean is here in Maldives. I am thankful to Chiara because she always explains a lot about the ocean and how to take care of it.

Daniel snorkeling

Daniel snorkeling at Coco Bodu Hithi

Q: What’s your favorite activity at the resort?
A: Snorkeling,of course!

Q: In your travels, what place comes to mind when you think of your dream holiday destination?
A: Bohol Province, Philippines. It is like Maldives but what I like there most is the peaceful ambiance. If I want to settle someday, I’ll settle there. It feels like home.

Q: What has the Maldives taught you about Eco Awareness?
A: I hope that this new generation will take better care of the ocean and learn how to appreciate it more deeply. We are taking a lot of things from the ocean but we hardly ever give something in return. It is not too late, we just need to open our eyes and our heart for the beauty around us!


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