Anyone who knows Giuseppe “Captain G” Gatta knows he was born with cooking in his blood and a love for animals in his heart. Captain G runs the day-to-day operations at the award-winning The Lighthouse Restaurant in Breakers, while his wife Susanna manages the gift shop and PAWS – a non-profit animal rescue organization.
When you have someone named Giuseppe owning a restaurant, you can guess what’s going to be on the menu: pasta, pizza and vino. However, don’t let his traditional given name fool you. Gatta’s menu proves he’s an Italian with a sophisticated palate open to a variety of flavors and cultures.
As long as it’s tasty, fresh and customer-pleasing, Gatta is intensely driven to push the boundaries of what foods can be celebrated on his menu. To highlight that point, meet the latest crew member of The Lighthouse staff: Chef Asanka Welegoda Gama from Sri Lanka. With 18 years of experience under his apron, Chef Asanka has been blessed with a most interesting life. He has been a bon vivant of fine foods who has worked in kitchens aboard Carnival Cruises, in the Royal Mirage Hotel in Dubai, the Trans-Asian Hotel in Sri Lanka and the Four Seasons in Qatar, spending much of his time in sushi apprenticing until eventually he became a master at the popular Japanese cuisine. Impressed yet? Well, hold on to your toques, because after making the rounds in these impressive kitchens, he ended up in a palace.
Chef Asanka landed a job with Sheikh Fahad al Thani of Qatar. Sheikh Fahad is first cousin to the Emir of the state of Qatar, while his father Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani was prime minister between 1996 and 2007. Fahad made equestrian history when he purchased a horse for £4.72 million (US$6.7 million) in 2014. Besides his passion for racing horses, Sheik Fahad also loves fine food and he was so impressed with Chef Asanka’s culinary skills, he hired him as his personal chef, paid him a hefty salary and provided first-class living accommodations.
So, what is Chef Asanka doing in Breakers, you ask? Well, there was an unusual downside to that cushy job: He only had to work one week per month, and the rest of the time he was off with full pay. What? This is starting to sound like a civil servant’s reprimand while waiting for a court date.
As ideal as it may sound, it was simply too boring for the ambitious chef. His career was at a standstill, stuck in a dead-end job where he could see no opportunity for growth. The Sheikh did lots of Lear jet traveling so most of the time, the palace was empty. Working part time became a tedious burden, not an achievement. Talk to any chef and they will confirm that you never stop learning. The day you think you’ve mastered cooking is the day you die. In other words, if you think you know everything, you are over and that’s why vigor and drive are so important. The reward for hard work is seeing the customer smile.
There’s an old nautical axiom – “The best built ship goes nowhere when drifting in doldrums.” It was time to move on.
And what a move it was; nearly 8,000 miles from the palace in Qatar to Cayman and there is no slack time at the busy The Lighthouse Restaurant. Captain G makes sure Chef Asanka does not get bored, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when the sushi menu is attached to the regular bill of fare.
Gatta provides him with upscale, fresh high-grade sushi and sashimi fish, which the chef then converts into some amazing creations, such as his dynamite roll, a combo of crab, shrimp tempura, avocado, and pickled ginger, wrapped with fresh salmon and a dynamite sauce. The spicy, crunchy maki roll is just simply “wow.”
You won’t be complaining about the bill if you are feasting on fatty tuna slices and fresh white cobia that are melt-in-your-mouth, especially since Happy Hour grants 50 percent off drinks (with the exception of their high-grade sake).
As a long-time resident of Breakers, I’ve had my share of fresh seafood from the seashores of our little community. Lobster, conch and snapper have always been there for the taking, but I never thought I’d see the day that I could just walk down Old School Road and indulge in one of my favorite fares, fresh sushi. Thanks, Captain G … I just hate driving to town.