Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap June 16th, 2019

Windows on Aruba delivers an 8-star experience

Two sold out dinners, and one sold out lunch made Windows on Aruba a culinary destination this past weekend when the restaurant hosted the Caribbean’s largest Michelin Pop-Up.

Food was prepared by nine top European chefs with 8 Michelin stars among them, and escalated from a welcome Champagne flute to 4 amuses, 3 starters, one main course and dessert, all with notable wine pairing.

No, we did not rush out to McDonald’s at the end of the evening. The chefs found a nice portion-balance, and I did not need to be carried out on a stretcher.

A few days ahead, I visited the kitchen to meet the stars. They were already knee deep in culinary foreplay.

Chef Francois Geurds was cleaning a huge pile of greens I did not recognize, picking out stems, saving the leaves. He explained those were foraged edible greens growing by the seaside in Zeeland, Netherlands, next to Crooked Waterway, De Kromme Watergang, a two Michelin star restaurant by Chef Edwin Vinke.

The fleshy leaves tasted a bit salty, they had a big crunch, Edwin uses them regularly in his kitchen to lend fish-dishes a more authentic aroma.

Then I met Edwin. A most attractive, finely muscled chef with perfect teeth and a network of tattoos, salt & pepper hair, looking more like an athlete than a chef.

He was transferring long seaweed fans into a 50-gallon stainless steel pot of boiling water. The dark green-brown slippery strands glistened as they disappeared in the pot among chunks of carrots and celery, Francois’ picked greens and a bowl of sea salt, I am not kiddin’, Edwin salted his pot generously, and continued to feed it mysterious leaves. He was working on his signature Codfish en Papillotte and its tom kha companion, served at his 2 Michelin star restaurant, in the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands.

When the Kabeljauw was served, the 2nd starter, it arrived at the table in parchment pouches, with scissors on the side and a tom kha espresso. The dish came with hand written instructions, Cut Me, and Marrit walked around to make sure we sliced the pouches open to reveal the poached fish, and did not eat the paper. She advised us to pour the soup over the fish, not just drink it.

It was fantastic.

The en papillotte is a classic food preparation, 4,000 years old, so simple, that nobody orders it anymore. It delivers a moist, lean and clean dish, just the way the best athlete among chefs, and the best chef among athletes likes it.

Francois’ signature dish, the 3rd starter, was his take on the popular local Stoba. After all, his mom is from San Nicholas, though he now lives and works in Rotterdam at the Michelin starred FG Restaurant and FG Food Labs. His Stoba FG married a popular Dutch beef cut, Sukade, with lemongrass, paying homage to his Surinam-Indonesian family roots.  

Francois also came up with one of my favorite dishes of all times, nicknamed Black Beauty, when he slowly barbecued celeriac, on coconuts, in a Green Egg –  the green-glazed, egg-shaped ceramic grill-smoker. Yes, the under-appreciated, often-neglected, unremarkable bulb, became black on the outside, smooth and creamy on the inside, and was served with a 43 herb & spice vinaigrette. I hope to have it again in my lifetime.

I did not meet Erik van Loo but his Dutch Lamb, the much-anticipated entrée, served at Parkheuvel, his Michelin starred restaurant in the Rotterdam area, was poetic, coated in marrow, green herbs and garlic, nestled between two giant, stripped nude, phallic, white asparagus spears.       

Jermain de Rozario, offered the dessert as served deRozarion, his Michelin starred restaurant in Helmond, Netherlands. It looked like an artist palette, dotted with coconut cream, mango ice cream, pineapple and papaya. Weird, but a good-weird.

My Pepia-Est favorites were the Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Legras & Haas Champagne from Chouilly, France, imported to Aruba on the occasion. We all loved it, and I hope Pepia-Est brings it in soon, for retail sale.

The Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Canvasback, from Washington State USA, is a story on its own. Wine maker Brian Rudin was on hand to charismatically speak about his vineyard, a member of the Duckhorn portfolio. The passionate, dynamic man left an impression, we would love to see him again on the island.

According to Alex Nieuwmeyer, Windows on Aruba will be hosting more unforgettable events, in the near future, he thanked his premium partners, and proud partners for making it possible. Finally, compliments to Dominique and Marrit for the excellent dining room service, as good as the food!

Let’s do it again, sometimes.

Off to the blood bank

Member #4803, since 2010, reporting to duty at Stichting Bloedbank Aruba

In the name of Good Governance

I recently got mail from The Corporate Governance Foundation Aruba, SDBA, it wanted to provide me with general information about the quality of public administration according to the principles as stated in, among other things, Report Calidad, I don’t remember who wrote the report, but it is important, as it names indicates it has to do with quality.

Why should we be interested?

Because immediately after the announcement of our Status Aparte, 1986, GOA did not take the standards of corporate governance seriously. Inadequate management became the norm, and that proved disastrous for the country.

So, this mail was written by Armand Hessels. I like to follow him, he is a retire PE teacher, and instead of smelling the roses, he prepared long reports about public finances and the right way to run a country vs the wrong way.

You have to appreciate that. His NGO, The Corporate Governance Foundation Aruba, SDBA, holds occasional symposiums and talks, and attempts to Keeping Them Honest which is difficult because nepotism and favoritism are entrenched in our culture, and no GOA has EVER showed willingness to tackle that core issue, Government expenses.

So this is what Armand said this week
In past decades, Aruba’s own advisory and supervisory bodies such as the SER, the Advisory Council, the Netherlands Court of Audit, and other officially established committees, as well as international advisory organizations, the rating agencies, and the IMF, all issued various reports with recommendations for the island. Most of the recommendations were aimed at reducing the country’s largest cost item, namely civil servants, and improving financial management. All advice has been systematically ignored by previous GOAs. As a result, public finances became disastrous, April 2016. This had an impact on all areas, especially government initiatives, subsidies, even normal financial obligations became increasingly difficult to meet, because, there is no money.

Meanwhile, the national debt of Aruba skyrocketed to more than Awg 4 billion, and became unbearable. The debt to GDP ratio is currently above 80 percent. Including the upcoming obligations paying for the PPP projects, roads and bridge, community buildings, this ratio will continue to grow to more than 100 percent in the next 2 years. Additionally, the annual interest payments of more than Awg 200 million are a huge burden on the island. Over the years, GOA has always covered its growing obligations with tax increases. But that measure reached its limits. The purchasing power of the population has been affected to such an extent that it has major consequences for the economy. The question therefore is what course of action should be taken from now on.

In Aruba’s short history, solutions to existing problems were always sought in corresponding situations without addressing the real causes. The problems therefore got further and further out of control. That is why SDBA will focus the attention of the community in the coming months on the most important bottlenecks that stand in the way of a healthy and sustainable Aruba. To this end, investigations will be carried out in the area of ​​Human Resources, Financial Management, Transparency, Parliament’s Functioning, Socio-Economic Policy and Integrity. Points for improvement will be indicated. These research reports should serve as a basis of making the community more aware of the need to remove the bottlenecks. In cooperation with social partners and social groups, an attempt is hereby made to convince politicians to work on these different problematic areas according to standards of good governance.

The investigative reports also serve as the basis for possible legal action to protect the public interest against political bias. With increased globalization and the rise in numbers of conscious citizens who want to contribute to the improvement of the world community, SDBA hopes that mounting pressure from Arubans and international sources, will improve Aruba’s political climate and the administration will soon be adopt a better modus operadi in the interest of the entire community.

The following are the reports available on the website:

  1. Good governance & the political reality (2001) 
    2. 25 years Status Separate. A political paradise (2011)
    3. Towards a rational personnel policy (2016)
    3.1 Abstract Personnel Policy Report
    4. To sound public financial management in Aruba (2017)
    4.1 Points for attention Report Financial Management Aruba
    4.2 Abstract Financial Management Report
    5. Towards transparent public administration in Aruba (2017)
    6. Towards a properly functioning parliamentary representation (2017)
    7. Recommendations from SDBA:
    7.1 To improve the personnel policy of the government in Aruba
    7.2 To improve financial management in Aruba
    7.3 To improve transparency in the government policy of Aruba
    7.4 To improve parliamentary functioning in Aruba
    7.8 To improve Kingdom relations
    7.9 For the designation of infrastructure project
    8. Towards a sustainable socio-economic policy in Aruba

Fundashon Gobernashon di Calidad Aruba, FGCA, delivers recommendation to the President of Parliament

I already reported in my column yesterday that a great number of research papers which were written by Armand Hessels and his collaborators, over the last 30 years, are now all listed together on his organization’s website,

Armand is a retired PE teacher who instead of smelling the roses has been preparing long reports about public finances and the right way to run a country vs the wrong way.

You have to appreciate that. His NGO, Fundashon Gobernashon di Calidad Aruba, FGCA, holds occasional symposiums and talks, and attempts to Keep Them Honest which is difficult because nepotism and favoritism are entrenched in our culture, and no GOA has EVER showed willingness to tackle that core issue of GOA’s expenses.

Recently, the elected President of Parliament, Adi Thijsen, a lawyer by profession initiated a meeting with Hessels, and became the lucky recipient of a recommendation paper, discussing the quality of government and its functionality, during the past three decades.

After a fruitful exchange they sort of divided the work, Hessels committed to educate us, inform and enlighten the public on what needs to be done, in order to create a more aware, and better prepared community.

Thijsen committed to push legislation which promotes good governance, writing the control over political party finances into law, for example, creating an Ombudsman position, and more.

They both realize, they say, that quality government can only exist if GOA, Parliament and NGOs collaborate.

The public, more specifically our local citizens must learn to rely on their own resources instead of leaning on GOA for everything, expecting GOA to save them.

How do we teach public that the coveted job with the government means an extra burden on us all? It might be their personal salvation, but on the long run it guarantees misery, as the country collapses under the burden of its own obligations.

At the meeting, Hessel offered the President of Parliament a document he complied, and told him that the recommendation-filled paper has great importance for the future of our country, and that it has been ignore in the past by previous governments.

The recommendations, similar to the ones made by the Dutch financial supervision team are given this time by an Aruban, and should not be perceived as a threat to our autonomy but as common sense whose time has come.

Check them out yourself!


Raiz about sustainable tourism

Last night at a nicely populated Cas di Cultura – lots of snow on mountain peaks, few young people – RAIZ offered a symposium focusing on Sustainable Tourism, with six speakers including the former AHATA CEO, turned University professor Jim Hepple, the evergreen champion Ewald Biemans and some academic guests Prof. Sam Cole and Dr. Victoria Razak, who had conducted research on Aruba for the past 30 years in their capacity as on-and-off government advisors, writing ‘How far, and how fast? Population, culture, and carrying capacity in Aruba’ (2009), among other important papers.

It was an excellent initiative, because a public discourse is needed.  Now, more than ever we need to ask ourselves where we are going, identify our destination, and go there.

Easier said than done.

Tai-Foo Lee said good evening on behalf of Raiz; he is charming and easy to listen to. He talked about the need to deposit in Aruba not just withdraw, and about his desire to hear big talk, about the real issues confronting the island, not just small talk.

Prof. Sam Cole came up next. This man obviously had a lot to say. I took snapshots of his 9 slides that were bursting with information. Because of the time constraints he talked a bit about his research but did not really discuss his finding.

I was struck by two things: Economic development must start with the needs of the population. See what everyone’s needs are, what kind of a country would serve them best, and then venture out to identify what kind of tourism would best match the needs of your country and your population.

He recommended working our way backwards.

He also recommended collecting accurate data, otherwise we’d be driving with our eyes closed.

And he did mention that there are trade-offs to be made, some sacrifices are required, some trees will die.  

His last slide had the most enlightening quote from Hamlet, Shakespeare: There is nothing, either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Meaning, if we would like to put on our pink glasses, we’re welcome to it.

More on Monday.


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June 16, 2019
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster