Captains of the Kitchen
Before a great chef can be an artist, he must first be a craftsman. And learning his craft requires exposure to different culinary traditions, ingredients and methods, and years of experience in different kitchens, in different parts of the world. Here are a couple of seasoned journeymen who have made Aruba their permanent port of call to great acclaim.
— By Timothy Dugdale and Amie Watson
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
This German-born chef sharpened his knives in Swiss and German Michelin-starred restaurants before coming to Aruba in 2002. Fifteen years later, he’s still here, enjoying the sunshine and Caribbean cuisine. He’s worked at some of the island’s top restaurants, including two years as sous-chef at Madame Janette, four years as chef de cuisine at Fishes & More and two at Taste of Belgium. Now, he’s landed as executive chef at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, home to Ike’s Bistro, The Chophouse, Omakase Japanese Sushi Bar and Pega Pega Beach Bar & Grill. There, he infuses his menus with local seafood, tropical fruit and fresh rosemary, basil, oregano and mint from the resort’s herb garden. But his true culinary love, he says, will always be a great T-bone, porterhouse or churrasco steak.
Birth place: Görlitz.
Birth country: Germany.
Favorite fruit: Raspberry.
Favorite vegetable: Bok choy.
Favorite spice: Allspice.
Favorite dish: Fresh seafood pasta.
Favorite wine: Pinot Noir.
Favorite kitchen tool: Sous-vide cooker.
Favorite food city: Miami.
Favorite vacation place: Florida.
A chef who most inspires you: Rolf Straubinger.
Stanwick Bloem grew up in his family’s restaurant on the island of Terschelling, in The Netherlands. At age 13, he started working weekends and holidays in a local butcher shop. He came to Aruba for the first time for a culinary school internship. While later internships in The Netherlands introduced him to Italian and French restaurants, an ocean of just-waiting-to-be-snorkelled waters brought him back to Aruba in 2011. Since then, he’s worked his way up at The Ritz-Carlton, from sous chef at Madero Argentinian Grill to chef de cuisine of Italian restaurant Solanio. His favorite kitchen tool? His German-made Rational oven. It lets him sear mahi-mahi, bake pizza and fry calamari all at the same time. Now settled down with his young family, he calls the Dutch island of Aruba home. It has just as much seafood and bitterballen with mustard (his favorite Dutch snack) as Terschelling – just with warmer waters.
Birth place: Leeuwarden, grew up on the island of Terschelling.
Birth country: The Netherlands.
Favorite fruit: Ripe mango.
Favorite vegetable: Fennel, crispy, fresh, versatile, delicious. Favorite spice: Nutmeg; it is great on vegetables and gives nice depths to sauces.
Your favorite dish: Rendang, Indonesian beef stew.
Your favorite wine: When you visit the wine valleys in Northern Italy you just fall in love with the wines there, especially the Barbaresco d’Alba, one of my favorites.
Your favorite kitchen tool: The chef’s knife, the most versatile tool.
Your favorite food city: Wherever I go I try to enjoy the local cuisine as much as I can. You can get good food in any city, you just have to ask the locals.
Favorite vacation place: Anywhere there are nice beaches, sunny weather, nice people and good food! Why do you think I chose Aruba to live in?
A chef who most inspires you: Gordon Ramsey. He doesn’t only know how to cook amazing food, but is a great businessman as well. Some of his theories on running a kitchen may be a bit outdated though.