The traditional Aruban dish of keshi yena
is served all over the island, but Executive
Sous Chef Ever de Pena of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino likes to put his
own trademark spin on this iconic dish.
“Traditionally, it’s made in a bowl of baby
gouda cheese with chicken,
raisins and some nuts,” he
explained. “At the resort,
however, we kick it up a few
notches. We add cilantro,
garlic, cashew nuts, green
olives and minced onion,
season the chicken with
shallots, saute with toma-
toes, onion, bell peppers
and top with sliced cheese.”
He also uses local pro-
duce in his sauces, particu-
larly pica di papaya, which
he adds to red snapper. In
addition, many of the micro greens used
are from local farmers.
“The resort likes to maintain relationships
with local farmers,” he said. “We’re proud to
highlight their greens in our dishes. We also
use aloe, one of the island’s biggest exports,
in a few of our cocktails, including the Aruba
mule and Aruba Aloe Fantasy.”
For groups looking to do something
different, the sky’s the limit, according to
de Pena. One group wanted to bring the
outdoors in, so they brought a jeep into a
conference room, artfully displayed food
atop, with tables set around it.
“That was such a cool break concept and
inspired us to come up with dishes that are
just as creative, such as our Adventure Aru-
ba package that includes a pop-up dinner
at a unique island location,
like Arikok National Park or
Plaza Padu,” he said.
The land of reggae and rum is
heavily influenced by Indian,
African and Spanish cuisine,
said Adrian Weichenberger, executive chef at the Jewel Grande
Montego Bay Resort & Spa.
Originally from Austria, Weichenberger’s own background
is influenced by German, Italian
and French cuisine.
Weichenberger is now well versed in
the spices of the island, like pimento, a key
ingredient in the famous jerk; he puts his
own spin on authentic Jamaican cuisine
with dishes from around the world.
“I use local produce such as ginger, annat-
to seed and breadfruit in my recipes,” he said.
Chef’s tables are popular for smaller
groups where food is cooked right at the
table for every course, he said.
Executive chef Eliexy Collado Darias of the
Barcelo Bavaro Palace in Punta Cana first
dipped his toes in the culinary world while
working in a hotel in his home country
of Cuba. Subsequent training made him
head of the Hotel Melia Cayo Santa María’s
restaurant, from its opening in 2003 until
he moved up the ladder and became the
restaurant’s executive chef in 2008.
According to Darias, the best Cuban and
Caribbean chefs are putting their stamps on the culinary delights
of their islands, garnished
with influences from all
over the world.
Island Flavors ARUBA MARRIOTT RESORT & STELLARIS CASINO
GRILLED LOBSTER, JEWEL
GRANDE MONTEGO BAY
RESORT & SPA, JAMAICA
EXECUTIVE SOUS CHEF EVER DE PENA
Local chefs are spicing up the Caribbean culinary landscape
BY JENNIFER JUERGENS