By Queenie Lee Tanjay

(photo:) Heartful meals packed with chicken adobo, pancit canton and steamed jasmine rice

ROTORUA – Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them just have hearts big enough to save the day for those in need.

Take Romelyn Fernandez Garde, a professional Filipino chef, for example, who manifests her compassion through a series of community services. She is making this quarantine period count by mustering solutions that benefit the local community while maintaining a good work-life balance at the same time.

Recently she initiated preparing batches of dishes for the elderly around Rotorua who are deemed more vulnerable to the virus. “I have been blessed to be surrounded by our local elders for years and it is my responsibility now to instil the same values about looking after our elders into others,” she said.

On her own initiative she also volunteers to deliver essential food and hygiene needs to the elderly and monitors them from time to time to make sure that they do not feel alone.

This drive resonates with her upbringing as a young migrant who flourished in a supportive community and looked forward to paying the favour back.

“The elders are ideal memory-makers. Grandparents have a unique connection to the land and wisdom to share. Now is the perfect time to look after them and nurture their well-being,” she beautifully pieced.

Apart from this, Romelyn is also an active member of the Philippine Club of Rotorua Incorporated (PCRI), Multicultural Rotorua and Rotorua Club, to name a few.

These engagements allow her to channel her food expertise and passion for the community to broader networks.

Throughout her service, she has engaged not only with fellow Filipinos but also with local iwi and hapu around the Bay of Plenty as well.

During this quarantine period she facilitates incorporating essential Filipino ingredients into food parcels and performs virtual cooking tutorials and food consultation with the aid of her affiliations.

Within Romelyn the spirit of volunteerism is very much alive. In her words: “Volunteering to the local community, networking and meeting people from all walks of life gives me happiness, comfort, assurance and most importantly, social innovation.”

Indeed, this Filipina is an inspiration for future generations. Even in unprecedented times, the call to think creatively and take personal actions for the community should be heeded.

In the forthcoming years, she looks forward to developing her own food consultancy and catering business, Kusina, into an integrated facility that accommodates Filipino elders, youth, new migrants, and 
elite communities. At its core, Kusina seeks to serve like a grandparent who models, mentors, and nurtures one’s wellbeing.

Her local business currently provides personalized and freshly served cuisine within the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Taupo, and rural areas around NZ. It proudly utilizes local herbs and native ingredients and 
showcases them with premium foodservice and catering.

Romelyn Fernandez Garde is the first Filipino executive chef in Rotorua, thriving in the trade for over 20 years. She is a proud NZ citizen and has been in the country since 1988. She lives a decorated career, having gained degrees and certificates in life skills, fashion and apparel, cookery, patisserie, and catering craft. Truly enough, she is an epitome of community service.