Andres Cadiente: A life woven into Juneau's fabric

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Andres Cadiente left the Philippines in 1929 for a new life halfway around the world. He spent most of it in Juneau, raising nine children and developing a reputation as an outstanding chef and a leader of the Filipino Community.

Cadiente died Friday in Juneau at the age of 97. He leaves 25 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

Fred Baxter got to know Cadiente in the early 1950s when their kids started playing together. Today, their grandchildren, Cory Baxter and Christa Cadiente, are engaged to be married.

"Once he met you he always remembered you. He was very sharp," Baxter said. "He cooked at Baranof for years, and if he saw you he'd stop everything and come over and say hello."

Just before his 90th birthday, Cadiente told the Empire he was born to cook. He recalled roasting sweet potatoes as a young boy on his family's farm in the Philippines. In his early 20s he enlisted in the U.S. Army and began working as a cook on a base near Manila. His military service earned him a visa, and at age 24 he moved to California.

He worked as a chef in the 1930s, and eventually became the head chef at the Hollywood Tropics Restaurant.

When he came to Juneau in the early 1940s he immediately set his sights on the position of head chef at the Baranof Hotel because it was the biggest, classiest hotel in the region. By the mid-1950s he was running that kitchen, but in the decade before he owned and operated the Tropics Cafe, the Bataan Cafe and the Royal Cafe.

Cadiente's friendly, gregarious nature served him well, and the Tropics was open 24 hours and drew a mix of Filipino, Native and white customers at a time when many Juneau establishments were segregated. He met his wife, Irene, when she worked as a waitress at the Bataan and they married in 1944.

Bob Thibodeau grew up on Starr Hill, and when his father moved he sold his house to Cadiente. Thibodeau lived across Sixth Street and watched Cadiente raise his family in the same house he'd grown up in.

Cadiente often held two jobs and sent all of his children to St. Ann's Catholic School just a few blocks down the hill. He was an active and involved parent and was popular with the kids in the neighborhood.

"He was full of energy," Thibodeau said.

In 1963 Cadiente retired from the Baranof and became the head cook on the state's first ferry, the Malaspina. Around the age of 70, when he was still working on the ferry, he went to school and earned his G.E.D. He also produced a cookbook of international cuisine called "El Mundo" - The World. The book was bedecked with flags and was dedicated to war veterans.

After he retired from the ferry system in 1976 he went to work feeding a crew of 225 oil and pipeline workers in Prudhoe Bay. Still energetic when he retired from that job, he went to college and earned an associate's degree.

Cadiente was fiercely patriotic throughout his life, was active in the American Legion and helped organize a patriotic float for the Fourth of July parade each year. His daughter Ronalda remembers her father and brother discussing the Vietnam War at the kitchen table one evening after dinner. The debate became heated and her mother intervened.

"He was surprised. They weren't angry, they were just debating," Ronalda said. "He loved politics, which came from his strong belief in democracy. He would write to presidents, from Nixon on, and we'd get these letters back. He believed every citizen had a voice."

Cadiente was honored by the state Legislature on his 84th birthday. He was also featured in Thelma Buchholdt's book, "Filipinos in Alaska, 1758-1958."

"His life was very interwoven in the community," Ronalda said.

He sight began failing in his '90s, but he remained sharp and alert, and could recognize and identify people by their voices. He was proud to be the patron of a large family, and most of his family is still in Juneau.

"His family was always there for him," said Thibodeau.

A Rosary will be held at 5 tonight at the Cathedral of the Nativity. Memorial services will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. A funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Cathedral of the Nativity, officiated by the Rev. Michael Warfel. Burial services will follow at the Evergreen Cemetery.

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