Bati Bleki, October 12th, 2015

KING TEDDY IS THE NEW IRON CHEF 2015. So what would you be making if I gave you the following ingredients: Whole fresh local snapper, cape gooseberries, those small, yellow fruit, wrapped in papery leaves, black quinoa, local moringa and poppadums, the thin lentil-crackers served deep fried and crunchy in many Indian restaurants?? That was the challenge the three Iron Chef competitors were facing, at the Alhambra Ballroom, last Thursday. Five minutes into the competition chef Matt Boland sprang a secret ingredient, mild Kimchi, which is basically Korean sauerkraut.  As you perhaps already know, Executive chef Stephen Toevs from The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, executive chef Teddy Bouroncle from the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, and executive chef Ever de Pena from Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa competed fabulously in a three-course format for the Iron Chef 2015 title and trophy, organized by Island Temptations Magazine. All three opted to marinate the fresh fish and serve it as a ceviche/sashimi type of appetizer. With just thirty minutes at their disposal, it was a risky effort because of the lack of time, and because on planet ceviche, the Peruvian always wins.  Round one finished with Chef Teddy ahead.  In round two, the USMEF, US Meat Export Federation, donated an unusual cut of meat, Lamb Sirloin, which needed to be butchered a certain way. The rest of the ingredients paired with the lamb were local pumpkin, blue cheese, figs, and powdered goats’ milk. Ten minutes in the forty-five minute second round, Chef Matt presented the surprise ingredient: Raw cocoa powder which is a kind of fat-free chocolate. In this round, with lots of flavor opportunities, all three chefs showed their mettle, scoring very high across the board. The recipes presented by Chef Teddy and Chef Ever were similar, competing for gold and silver. The judges liked Chef Ever’s recipe so much they suggested he’s place it on his Manchebo restaurant menu. Chef Stephen produced a remarkable risotto with his braised lamb, as opposed to the more traditional presentations of Chef Teddy and Chef Ever. At round three, for dessert, the mystery baskets delivered on stage by chef Darwin Torres, included fresh berries, wonton wrappers, white chocolate, arequipe cream and local basil. Five minutes into the challenge the surprise ingredient was introduced: Dutch speculaas. Chef Stephen produced a to-live-for perfect symphony of flavors and textures, landing gold for his dessert! The arequipe cream apparently went well with speculaas, because it starred in all three desserts. King Teddy enjoyed a great group of fans and cheerleaders from among his resort colleagues; he also received good support from his two cute chef-helpers Danvid Webb and Brian Martinez, both EPB culinary students. For his stellar performance the new Iron Chef received a modest envelope, an indestructible stainless steel Victorinox Swiss Army Chrono Classic watch, and a Smokey Mountain Weber, donated for grand prize by USMEF.

BARTENDER’S BRAWL RESULTS IN DANNY ON TOP. At Fusion Wine and Piano Bar before dinner, guests enjoyed three cocktails created by top local bartenders:  Sandro Tromp from White Modern Cuisine, representing Romar Trading Company; Zulay Duran with the Gianni’s Restaurant Group, representing Arion Wine Company, and Danny van der Linden with Hollywood Smokehouse, representing Pepia Est. The bartenders were tasked with creating an original cocktail, which was voted on by guests of Iron Chef Aruba. Sandro created a potent, powerful, Whiskey-based martini, smoky and layered, not too sweet. Zulay’s cocktail was most complex and surprising with carrot-celery juice laced Hendrick’s Gin; she had a lot happening on the palette with every single sip. Voters however, gave Hollywood Smokehouse’s Danny van der Linden, the most thumbs up as top mixologist. His winning cocktail, The Aruba Aloe, was nicely balanced, and made with Sauza Tequila, fresh cucumber soda, aloe juice, agave, fresh mint, and uniquely garnished with aloe caviar.

JIMMY WINS TOP JUNIOR SOMMELIER. Dinner at Iron Chef Aruba, was spectacular, prepared by the culinary team of Divi resorts under the direction of talented and charming Executive Chef Gerard Coste, who just became a grandfather!  Starting with a chic green salad with sliced mango, guests enjoyed Caribbean lobster tail on a bed of scallop mousse, with sea beans, saffron sauce and caviar, as appetizer. The main course with marinated lamb sirloin, goat cheese, garlic sauce, chimichurri, sweet potato and quinoa was incredibly tasty. The cactus pear sherbet garnished with pitaya and mango cilantro, concluded the terrific menu. Each course was paired with wine by young, up-and-coming wine professionals competing for the honor of Junior Wine Sommelier. Representing Pepia Est was Jimmy Koopman.  Arion Wine Company fielded Reinier Maduro, and Fernanda Jimenez, who is a professional sommelier by training, from Mendoza Argentina, represented Romar Trading. The super knowledgeable Wine expert Franz Sydow judged the competitors’ pairing creativity, ultimately finding the pairings of Jimmy Koopman with Pepia Est, as the best overall.

THE JUDGES. Just like America Has Talent, Iron Chef Aruba was a talent show, with the focus on cooking. The judges:  Jeff Lesker, currently general manager of the Hilton El San Juan Resort in Puerto Rico, Joyce Husken, chef and owner of Yemanja Woodfired Grill in Aruba, and guest celebrity chef Ruth Van Waerebeek, brand ambassador and house chef for Chile’s famed Concha y Toro Winery enjoyed their job, and took it seriously. Sharp-tongued and candid Joyce, she was the Simon Cowell of the event, peacemaking Jeff, just like Paula Abdul, smoothed all ruffled feathers, and the eternally optimistic Ruth, just like the hopeful Randy Jackson, had good chemistry. We’re planning to bring King Teddy as a judge next year and Chef Joyce as an Iron Chef competitor. Then in 2017, prepare to watch Urvin Croes, Teddy Bouroncle and the 2016 winner, compete. This is a long term commitment, as long as Chef Matt Boland and the team from ASD are willing, we’d like to do this every  year as part of ATA’s annual restaurant week!

SHAME ON YOU, MAYBELLINE. Adorable Mindy Croes told the world via her Facebook that she will not be participating in the Maybelline New York event because representatives of that makeup company told her they objected to her body-weight and do not want her in their show; Apparently, a normal size young woman, is not up to Maybelline’s “standards,” a representative explained. In other words, Maybelline’s products are not intended to be sold to women with the same or similar body type as the gorgeous Mindy. “Well Maybelline,” she says, “you can then kiss my backend.” Good for you girl, you look great, make up is for every shape and size, and Maybelline should feel privileged that you are inviting it to sunchi bo sanka!

TWO MORE COLUMNS TO GO. I will be writing two more newspaper columns before I retire from print after 23 years. I will be relocating my activities on line, where you can reconnect with my ruminations, on visitaruba.com, with Aruba Bank as a possible sponsor. Webmaster Mark Cesareo, of CaribMedia who understand Google analytics says Bati Bleki online has about 900 readers per week, with a percentage split of 40% Aruba, 33% US, 7% Netherlands, 4% Curacao, 3% Canada, 2% Germany, 2% UK, and the rest 9% from all over. Karin Swiers who is my digital consultant helped formulate the next Bati Bleki format, a daily post, titled the 8am Buzz, because buzz is my biz, available online early, every day, just as you walk into your offices in the morning. So instead of getting a long column once a week on Sunday, you will get getting small doses every day, with a reminder to check in with the 8am Buzz, on Facebook. What do you think? Feedback is most welcome. [email protected]

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October 11, 2015
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
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster