Fernando Drago has led many different professional lives.
He’s worked as a carpenter, construction worker and an oyster shucker.
For the last three years, Drago’s latest incarnation has been the Chef and Owner of Drago’s Cuban Café in Downtown Bradenton, where the restaurant was reviewed in 2017 by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The restaurant is known for its unique take on the Cuban sandwich amongst other dishes, that combine Drago’s diverse Italian and Cuban heritage.
For Drago, his love of cooking started with his family when he was just four years old watching his father, also a chef, cook in various restaurants in the New York Metropolitan area.
“My parents were dancing and cooking, but cooking was the big thing,” Drago said.
Six months after Drago and his wife, Ronda, opened the doors to Drago’s in Downtown Bradenton in Jan. 2014, Drago was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In not wanting to alarm his patrons or family, the couple decided to keep his diagnosis secret.
“I just never talked about it for the first year,” Ronda explained. “And then the second year when we had another scare, I had to at that point. I needed my family and my friends at that time,” she added.
According to the American Cancer Society as of 2018, incident rates have decreased while mortality rates have stabilized. The National Cancer Institute states that the current 5-year survival rate for patients is 77 percent, according to studies conducted from 2007-2013.
Drago continued to work throughout his diagnosis, and claims that in battling his cancer, the fight was another formative experience in his professional life.
“I’m proud to have made it through all that, proving to myself that I’m blessed,” Drago said. “It’s toughened me up, build character. That’s all it is,” he added.
For more information on Drago’s, click here.