Interview: Cacho

Korduroy TV Interview with Bali restaurant owner and big wave charger, Cacho

A Bukit Landmark Burns Down and a Surf Community Pulls Together

by Trey Highton

Cacho – Aviones, PR ’77

Having made my home in California for close to a decade now, when I first came to Bali in ’08 for a six-month stint, the only thing I had serious cravings for was authentic Mexican food. All my other “needs” were met beyond expectation – consistent great surf, beautiful scenery and people, and out on the Bukit Peninsula, a laid back island lifestyle that I’ve heard is comparable to Oahu’s North Shore in the ’70s – a goofy-footers paradise with no traffic lights, bare feet, lots of smiles, and a stretch of surf from Uluwatu to Balangan that rivals the 10-Mile Miracle when it’s on. Indonesian food on the whole is uniquely delicious and satisfying, based around the main staples of nasi (rice) and mei (noodles), with common meats such as chicken and beef served sate-style (grilled on a stick) with peanut sauce, and also including more famous regional delicacies such as babi-guling (suckling pig) and roast duck. But after a while, I could not quell my insatiable desire for a plain and simple California burrito or some classic fish tacos after a long surf – the common comfort food of a Californian surfer. But ultimately, it was my girlfriend’s yearning for chocolate, not my own longing for Mexican, that led us to discover Sunset Grill, just before the Padang-Padang bridge on the road out to Uluwatu. Besides offering the only truly authentic Mexican cuisine on the island of Bali, Sunset Grill is also famous for their Chunky Monkey & Naughty Monkey banana/chocolate milkshakes and a homemade chocolate cake that is served heated with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream. This chocolate cake, if you ask any woman that I’ve ever been with at least, is much much better than sex.

My first visit to Sunset Grill, I had my lady-friend on my arm, and I was a little weary of the homeless-looking guy who seemed to be holding himself up against the stucco entrance. I half-expected him to make a lecherous grab at my girl or take off down the hill with an arm-full of the patrons’ sandals that lay waiting outside the entrance. I never expected, in my wildest imaginations, that this unsuspecting gentlemen incognito was the proprietor of the restaurant. A self-professed ex-junky “who forgets people’s names instantly,” Cacho lived in Hawaii from ’79 – ’95, growing up surfing Pipe with the Ho brothers and Ronnie Burns. His daughter, Taina, was born in ’01, and he loves to show off pictures and videos of her surfing to complete strangers in his restaurant. The restaurant itself was plastered with priceless original surf photography and memorabilia, much of it signed personally to Cacho by the surfers pictured. The layout was that of an open-air cantina, with seating designed to allow patrons to stretch their legs and relax, not the normal cram ’em in and crank ’em out routine to maximize guests served and profits in the till. The kitchen was small and food came out when it was ready, which is why the restaurant’s motto – “people in a rush still not allowed” – was plastered on the front of the menu. And you could often recognize most of the faces in the restaurant from the faces in the line-up at Uluwatu, recounting their best rides of the day to Cacho and company.

Firetrucks on the scene at Sunset Grill

When I returned to Bali in early April this year (’10), I couldn’t wait to go back to Cacho’s Sunset Grill. For one, I had a new girlfriend who was in desperate need of some chocolate cake, and I was stoked to see that completely unique smile of Cacho’s again and have a big blackened tuna burrito. I was completely shocked when I learned through the Uluwatu surf report on Surfline.com that Sunset Grill had burned down just before my arrival. In the following days, Cacho, one of the last people in the world I had ever expected to find on Facebook, was making his internet debut, to organize a fundraiser party in an effort to raise funds to rebuild his restaurant and livelihood. In the weeks leading up to the party, I was impressed and humbled to see how not only the surf community on the Bukit, but the surf communities in Australia, South America, back in the Caribbean, etc., everyone who had been to Bali and touched by Cacho’s cuisine and personality, were pulling together to send well-wishes and financial support to their brother in need. The party was held on the evening of April 25th, at the Uluwatu Surf Villas, overlooking the “Temples” peak, at the home of Tim Russo. Everyone was treated to a gorgeous sunset atop glassy waves while gorging on blackened tuna tacos and frozen margaritas. Tons of people donated goods to Cacho for a silent auction that took place during the party, everything from surf shop merchandise, custom spear-guns, original artwork, villa retreats, to a quiver of surfboards, including a classic Brewer gun were going to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going to the rebuilding effort. The upper echelon of the Bukit’s surfing society were all in attendance, including the monarch of Indonesian surfing, Rizal Tanjung and his family, and all had a great time coming together for a worthy cause. What follows is a brief interview with the man behind the restaurant, the legendary Cacho Izquierdo, who you will generally only find in the line-up at Uluwatu or greeting you at the door of Sunset Grill, with no shoes on and a big, warm, toothless smile.

Cacho in front of the rubble

Where are you from?

Puerto Rico…..raised in Hawaii

When did you first come to Bali and when did you move here? What made you decide to make Bali your home?

1985….moved to Bali in 1995/to surf Uluwatu and enjoy a simpler life.

When did Sunset Grill open up?

2000

How did you first get into the restaurant business?

I was born into it!

What’s the secret to a perfect margarita?

No cheating

And the secret to scoring perfect Uluwatu?

Know your tides ….. and the right boards

How did the restaurant burn down?

Electrical

What’s the best way for people not in Bali to make a contribution to the re-building of Sunset Grill?

Via Western Union ….. to Ernesto Izquierdo ……. in Bali …..confirmation code via sunsetpadang@hotmail.com

Where and when will the new Sunset Grill be?

Same place in 3 months starting now!

Any particular extra special thanks you would like to make from the fundraiser party, etc, so far?

Too many people to thank ……..it came and support still coming from so many angles

A perfect day in the life of Cacho would be…

A: Surf …… a big barrel successfully and go to work after with no shoes or shirt

Cacho charging in Bali

If you would like to help Cacho in rebuilding the delicious Sunset Grill, please visit “Help Cacho Rebuild Sunset Grill” Facebook Page.

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