So much of a Dad’s work can go unsung. Father’s Day is one of the precious few chances we get to celebrate him. Miguel, Stockland food ambassador, chef, TV personality and author, shares his special story this Father's Day as part of The Dad Files editorial series.
The best of me and my wife, times a million
When celebrity chef Miguel Maestre talks about his family, his voice is filled with love. “Claudia is my beautiful princess and Morgan is my beautiful boy. My wife Sascha is my rock, and the reason I get up every morning: she’s the mother of my children, the CEO of my business, and why I am in Australia.”
Miguel grew up on the coast in south-eastern Spain and loves living near the ocean. He has made Sydney’s northern beaches his home: a two-minute bike ride from the lake and the beach, and walking distance to cafés. It’s quiet, relaxing and a far cry from the intensity and stress of the city and jobs with their ‘crazy 18 hours in a kitchen’.
At 28, Miguel had opened one of the biggest restaurants in Australia. It had been the nerve-wracking culmination of a dream he’d had since he was 18: to be a chef and to travel. His father had wholeheartedly supported his ambition, encouraging his middle son to do whatever made him happy, even when that meant moving far away to Australia.
Eighteen years went by with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas Day spent working long hours.
“I don’t regret it. It was my choice and my wife supported me in that.”
“The most successful project I’ve ever done”.
But when ‘his beautiful princess’, his first child, Claudia was born, he stepped away from restaurants to embark on what he describes as “the most successful project I have ever done”.
“When you’re a father your life changes in the blink of an eye. Nobody can get you ready for that. To see my daughter for the first time, to hold her in my arms, you think “look at what we’ve done; the best of me and the best of my wife all put it into one person, but times it by a million. That’s our beautiful girl.”
“I slowed my world down and I was by my wife’s side for 3 ½ months. These times were exciting, easy, and every day was an adventure. Being a new parent, you don’t have a clue what’s going on. We learned together along the way. This time with Sascha made our relationship bullet-proof, and we became the best versions of each other.”
He has no regrets. “I gave away one of my dreams -to have a restaurant, for a stronger dream - to have a family.”
“When I go home and my kids come to the door, calling out “Papa”. The stress disappears. I see their faces and their love. It’s actually unexplainable. Every day is a memorable moment.”
“You don’t realise how fast they grow. We went to swimming and the teacher said that Claudia needed to be in the big class. I said to my wife, “that’s such a big pool”. Claudia swims amazingly well. 25 metres with the big girls who are 9 and 10. It’s such a little thing, but such a milestone. She’s also started to ask really mature questions like ‘Papa, do you miss your Papa?’ She’s become a little human being now, not a baby anymore.”
“When I used to drop Morgan at kindy he would just want to cuddle me. Now he looks forward to seeing his friends, talking to them about how he put his hand in concrete, and that his handprint will be there forever, or about a girl he wants to hang out with. It’s almost like he’s 25 with his mates.”
A happy, healthy family (and nothing else matters)
Miguel considers himself very lucky. His Mum and Dad just arrived from Spain, to celebrate the wedding of his brother Carlos.
“The family is healthy and happy, and nothing else matters.”
When asked what he learned from his Dad, Miguel’s love and admiration shines through.
“My Dad is the most amazing guy ever. He’s a really honest, cool Spanish guy who loves his wife and his family dearly. When I was a kid, he was always working and paid a high price to make sure his three boys got the best education, and the best of everything.”
“He’s a very humble Spanish man who just enjoys to see us growing. Even today, if he can have lunch in an inexpensive place or get himself a really nice steak, he’ll choose the cheaper place every time. He doesn’t need to show off.”
Work hard to get the best for those you love
“Dad worked very hard and showed that with hard work you can get the best for the people you love. We were always first. Old school people used to do that - and young people need to keep that in mind.”
“I look at my wife now, and I get inspired by my Mum and Dad who have loved each other since they were 16. When my kids see me respecting my wife, and trying to be the best version of myself every day, they learn from that. I’m not perfect but I’m trying to show the best of me every day.”
“I’m just a chef,” he says humbly. “My job is quite niche: I cook food for a living. I’m not going to teach them maths or history. I’m just trying to teach them how to be really good human beings. That’s the stuff that makes you happy, healthy and successful. If you share what you have, do things to make others happy, and love each other very much… everything else comes from that.”
Happy Papa’s Day
Father’s Day is one of those iconic Australian days where we have a chance to stop and celebrate fathers.
“It’s one of my favourite days. In my house on Father’s Day Sascha always makes sure the kids bring me coffee in bed and nice toast. They’ll say ‘Happy Papa’s Day’. They ask me why they don’t have a Daddy and I tell them “Being a Papa is much cooler than being a dad… and louder too,” he adds with a laugh.