ANTIPOLO CITY– The road leading there is at times steep, winding, or downright confusing. Yet, after 28 years and even after the demise of its Swiss founder Tony Hassig, Vieux Chalet Swiss Restaurant not only lives, but is also visited regularly by loyal patrons all the way from the big cities of Makati and Alabang.
The village guard of Sitio Sampaguita gave an enthusiastic response when asked whether the restaurant was still in existence. She continued to point out the job posting at the gate and exclaimed that they were doing quite well. At the restaurant entrance, department manager Rico Doy who has been with the Hassig family over the last 18 years warmly greeted newcomers.
The restaurant was started in 1984 by husband and wife team Tony and Susan Hassig. For those who have visited the place a few decades ago, they would remember the presence of Mrs. Hassig who personally served the guests. Mr. Hassig passed away in 1996 and some three years ago, daughter Florence took over the reigns at the restaurant. Her two siblings are both living abroad.
“It’s not an option not to live here.” Florence relates. However, it did not start out that way as she described the years when she ventured out into the world, first finishing a diploma course at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (Iscahm) then working with other institutions.
She continues, “Working outside, I realized that all my hard work was better off used at Vieux Chalet.” So in the end, Florence found herself at the home front without any coercion from her mother.
“My mom is the wisest person I know. She is very kind and warm.” Florence utters one of the values she learned from her. “There is no point in winning a battle if not won through compassion.”
On the other hand, the Hassig children acquired much of their cooking skills from their father whose family in Switzerland used to own an inn at St. Gallen. They also started helping out in the business at a very early age. Florence remembers serving food since she was 5 years old.
“My dad is very strict. On holidays, he wakes us up 6 a.m. and we go to bed 7 p.m. No TV. TV only on Saturdays—just to watch MacGyver,” Florence reminisces. Her father was only 59 years old when he died and Florence was only 14 years old then.
She recalls how she clung to the lessons from him and also learned to forgive him. When her dad was still alive, she would have issues with him like his decision to send them to public schools when they could very well afford private education.
Florence explains that her dad felt that since his kids would one day become leaders, he wanted them to experience dealing with all levels of society. She cites discipline, hard work, compassion, and humility as among the business or life principles acquired from her parents.
Since taking over the kitchen a few years ago, Florence has not completely changed the menu. She simply added new items and provided more structure into the cooking. She describes the menu as European flavor that Filipinos like—pretty much the marriage of Tony and Susan Hassig. Florence has also added three rooms and a spa for those who wish to stay longer.
The restaurant has survived through word of mouth and no big scale marketing efforts. Florence explains that they used to put all those road signs that were eventually stolen. So they prefer to give directions through their website www.vieuxchaletswissrestaurant.com or via cell phone 0928-2888584.
The restaurant interiors haven’t changed much from the days of Tony and Susan Hassig. Florence smiles when asked about their longevity. “We don’t have empty days,” she says matter-of-factly.
Apparently, the combination of personal service and good food plus a quick opportunity to escape city life brings friends and families together in this familiar but unique destination.