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Newfoundland and Labrador

More than just desserts: Corner Brook couple took a ‘leap of faith’ with new Filipino barbecue-Canadian cuisine restaurant

CORNER BROOK, NL – Rob McCarthy grew up in the generation that had to study woodworking and home economics at school.

He disliked woodwork, much less sewing, but when it came to cooking, McCarthy, the owner of one of Corner Brook’s newest restaurants, Samuel’s Sammiches and Filipino BBQ, found his niche.

“When we got to cooking, I was immediately hooked and I’ve kind of been cooking ever since,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy was born in Corner Brook and grew up in Ontario. He moved back to Corner Brook about two years ago and opened his Filipino-Canadian fusion restaurant at 28 Batstone’s Rd. in September.

McCarthy, who was initially self-taught, says he enjoys everything about cooking.

“I enjoy the process of taking a few simple ingredients and tweaking them and putting them through a process to create a finished product,” he said.

“I think what I enjoy most about it, and that’s probably why I do what I do, is that I love it when someone has never eaten my food before and I let them have that first one.” Have taste and the expression that comes on his face.

“We all live for this moment,” he said.

“As soon as you see that expression you’re like, yeah, you know what I mean, I got it.”

McCarthy’s wife, Cristina Gumarang, is Filipino, and that’s where the Filipino connection for the restaurant comes into play.

Cristina Gumarang has found that she's quite a good baker since she got into the Corner Brook restaurant business with her husband Rob McCarthy.  - Diane Crocker/SaltWire Network - Contributed
Cristina Gumarang has found that she’s quite a good baker since she got into the Corner Brook restaurant business with her husband Rob McCarthy. – Diane Crocker/SaltWire Network – Contributed

“She kept coming up to me with all these Filipino dishes and asking me to cook,” McCarthy said.

After focusing on learning Italian food, McCarthy said he was initially quite intimidated by Asian food because he was unfamiliar with the ingredients.

After trying it a few times, he found that the ingredients are different, but the principles are the same.

Soon Gumarang told him that his Filipino dishes were better than theirs.

While in Ontario, McCarthy began making barbecue sauces and spice rubs, but his work schedule as a driver for a courier company prevented him from doing much with it. Eventually he could control his schedule better.

“And just when I was ready to get back into it, COVID happened.”

It was then that he and Gumarang decided they wanted a family, but if they did, McCarthy wanted to return to Newfoundland.

They sold their house, got a place in Corner Brook and decided to open the restaurant, something he had wanted to do for some time.

“We just decided that we’re all in, let’s do it, and that’s what happened,” he said.

“Life is a leap of faith. With everything we do, you can’t do things by halves. If you take half a measure it won’t work. The funny thing is, if you don’t try, you won’t succeed.”

As he researched locations, McCarthy knew he didn’t want to be part of the downtown bar scene, but somewhere with on-site parking.

He found the perfect spot in the former Piercey’s Chip Stand and began preparing for the opening of Samuel’s Sammiches. The restaurant’s name pays homage to the couple’s son, who died in childbirth.

As with any business launch, preparing to open during the COVID-19 pandemic meant some delays, so McCarthy decided to take his love of cooking to the next level and enrolled in the College of the North Atlantic’s culinary program.

While studying and working on the building’s renovations, Gumarang decided to start her own baking business.

“We didn’t even know she could bake,” McCarthy said, laughing.

Gumarang, who is a registered nurse, biology teacher and midwife, had worked in long-term care but was pregnant with her now 10-month-old daughter Sarah McCarthy at the time.

She was considered a high-risk patient, which is why her doctor advised her not to continue breastfeeding.

“I feel bored when I stay at home,” Gumarang said.

Since McCarthy is studying and working at the restaurant, she wanted to find a way to contribute.

The staff at Samuel's Sammiches at Corner Brook include (from left) kitchen hand Matthew Joyce, baker Cristina Gumarang, chef and owner Rob McCarthy, chef Aaron Newbury and prep chef Bob Wall.  - contributed
The staff at Samuel’s Sammiches at Corner Brook include (from left) kitchen hand Matthew Joyce, baker Cristina Gumarang, chef and owner Rob McCarthy, chef Aaron Newbury and prep chef Bob Wall. – contributed

She started looking at his textbooks for ways to keep herself busy and decided to give baking a try. She learned how to make cinnamon rolls, which her father-in-law really liked. She then attempted to make McCarthy’s favorite custard tarts, which he thought were delicious.

“I told him, ‘I told you I could bake,'” she said.

Inspired, she went ahead and started putting the things she had made online. Orders soon came in and Gumarang needed to ramp up their production and enlisted McCarthy and Aaron Newbury, a classmate of his who is also a chef at the restaurant.

At some point it made sense to put baked goods on the restaurant menu.

Initially, Gumarang said, she felt that she needed to be there to support her husband because she knew she could return to nursing.

“However, I also feel part of his restaurant.”

Since opening, McCarthy said things have been fantastic.

“We have been well received by the community. Overall, people are very happy with what we’re doing,” he said.

“I think the word is spreading now and every day people are coming out saying they just heard about it. I think people are starting to experiment a little bit more.”

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