In 1997 talented chef Frenk Graat and business-savvy restaurateur Daniel Kameier partnered to open the Flying Fishbone restaurant, seaside in Savaneta, and together they created an iconic eatery, that is still relevant and exciting in 2018. Five years into the successful venture, they recruited culinary support from chef Patrick v/d Donk when Frenk no longer wanted to cook, full time.
The Flying Fishbone wasn’t Frenk’s only successful collaboration. A few years prior to that, he joined a number of dynamic food & beverage personalities to open Que Pasa, yes, in the old Schelpstraat location. With time Que Pasa moved to Wilhelminastraat and still commands our loyalty and admiration for food, service and ambiance.
Frenk inspired the creation of Three Little Birds on the third floor of what today is the Mango building in Oranjestad. But that flopped understandably, the main street at night was hardly a point of attraction. The tiny restaurant was one of my old favorites.
In his early thirties, Frenk was one of the driven and determined F&B professionals who flocked to Aruba. These were exciting times – the end of the 80s, the beginning of the 90s. We were new to culinaria and Frenk and his compatriots taught us about European food and fine dining.
With success Frenk branched into art, and in 2004 and 2005 hosted two brilliant exhibitions at Access Gallery. According to my journalistic notes, they were both well attended and enthusiastically received.
Tall, handsome, with wild curls, sparkly eyes, Frenk was the talk of the town: Bohemian, creative, an artist, a high-class chef, a musician.
I remember standing on the terrace of Access Gallery, looking at the spectacle unfolding in the street below, a cocktail in hand, many of town’s glitterati around me, craning our necks over the banister looking at the activity, where on a flat bed, in a truck parked in the middle of main street Frenk was rolling a live, butt-naked model in paint pressing her flesh onto a virgin white canvas to create the most alluring and fetching hills and valleys, curves and hollows.
I remember who the woman was, lovely hair, great figure, the painting was later sold at auction for a hefty price, I don’t remember the name of the buyer. That must have been 2005.
At the height of his artistic and culinary success Frenk decided to distance himself from the materialistic world. He sold his share in the business, he painted, he traveled, he broke hearts. Then he disappeared in Brazil as a caretaker of a very needy and run-down animal shelter. He dedicated his time and all of his resources to help those in trouble, in the Amazonas.
Two years ago, he was back on Aruba. One of his closest friends writes: As we all know Frenk was living a different life, had no need for material things and provided his basic needs with the sale of his sea glass necklaces, on the beach. For the last few months he was struggling with his spiritual thoughts and he lost contact with reality. From my last talk with Frenk on Wednesday and the conversations with neighbors and the police I can conclude that it all became too much for him. There were no drugs or alcohol involved, he just grew tired of the rate race, it gave him zero satisfaction, and resulted in his premature death, age 55.
Frenk was a man with a big heart and in his good times he was always there for his friends, the note concluded, Frenk You!
His friends collected the funds to give him a simple farewell on Thursday. He will be remembered as a different and enigmatic man, a true romantic.