Art and Soul
Here are two ladies who understand the art and soul of good food. One is a fashion designer turned sushi master, the other a cordon bleu-trained chef. Both have won accolades and they each bring their own sensibilities and skills to two of the island’s premier restaurants. They bring the heat and know exactly what to do with it.
— By Timothy Dugdale and Amie Watson
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
The popularity of cozy downtown restaurant Yemanja (meaning ‘goddess of the ocean’) is all thanks to Chef Joyce, the wood-fired grill queen. After eight years of European hospitality and culinary training combined with restaurant internships in Holland, she soaked up experience in several reputable kitchens before crossing the Atlantic in 2006. Her plan was to come to Aruba for a year, but she quickly grew fond of life in the tropics and eventually took over Yemanja, where her culinary passion and creativity flourished. Now, years later, she knows the finicky grill so well that she even has the same Texas-made model at home – it’s great for parties, despite the fact that importing enough wood in high season occasionally keeps her up at night. What’s next for the grill master? A cookbook, she hopes. Cross your fingers that it includes her truffle risotto…
Birth place: Amersfoort.
Birth country: The Netherlands.
Favorite fruit: Golden kiwi.
Favorite vegetable: Garlic.
Favorite spice: Cumin.
Favorite dish: I don’t have just one favorite, but certain food items always put a smile on my face. One of them is grilled octopus. That lightly charred, meaty texture takes me on a little Mediterranean vacation.
Favorite dessert: For me, a great dessert is neither too sweet nor too rich.
My absolute favorite is mixed red berries with cold champagne sabayon.
Favorite wine: Rombauer Chardonnay.
Favorite kitchen tool: A chef’s knife.
Favorite food city: New York city, because it’s easily accessible from Aruba, and because when it comes to cuisine you can find the entire world there. I’m also very curious to visit Israel and Japan.
Favorite vacation place: As a chef and restaurant owner, I don’t have that much spare time, but when I do go on vacation, I look for places that offer exciting flavor, fresh local ingredients and off-the-beaten-track food combinations.
A chef who most inspires you: I am fascinated by chefs like Tomas Keller and Daniel Humm, and I am inspired by Bobby Flay’s culinary style. But, at the end of the day, my own palate is my main culinary compass.
After coming to Aruba with a master’s degree in fashion design in 1995, Chef Mylene Leona Lapinid traded in her scissors for kitchen knives. At Omakase Restaurant, she puts her creativity, eye for detail and more than 20 years of experience into crafting exquisite Japanese dining experiences. As the sushi chef, she’s branched out from basic maki to incorporating ingredients like banana and crunchy tempura into a wide selection of cooked rolls, all while paying homage to the traditional art of sushi-making that she has learned from sushi masters. Consider yourself in good hands when you pull up a seat at the 10-seat bar inside The Chophouse Restaurant, where Chef Lapinid directs the fashion runway-worth presentation of carefully shaped maguro nigiri, rainbow rolls and yellowtail handrolls. After all, Omakase means “leave it to the chef."
Birth place: Tanza, Cavite.
Birth country: The Philippines.
Favorite fruit: Grapefruit.
Favorite vegetable: Zucchini.
Favorite spice: Ginger.
Favorite dish: Litson. It’s a whole roasted pig.
Favorite dessert: Halo-halo. It’s sweetened mixed fruit and milk served with crushed ice.
Favorite wine: Malbec.
Favorite kitchen tool: The sashimi knife that I’ve been using for over 20 years.
Favorite food city: Bangkok.
Favorite vacation place: Anywhere in Asia.
A chef who most inspires you: Masaharu Morimoto.