SUNDAY’S LIONFISH EVENT. Mission Accomplished! According to organizers, we created lots more awareness, raised funds, consumed large amounts of tasty Lionfish and drank a lot of wine, by Romar Trading! The party on Sunday evening at Nos Clubhuis lasted until 9:55pm, when the electricity went out, in the entire Moomba neighborhood. It was Elmar’s way of finally sending 150 party-goers home, after consuming 100 kilos of the Lionfish Sushi, Lionfish Sliders, Dutch style Lionfish Kibbeling, and Peruvian Lionfish Causa Rellena, delicious layered potato salad. The chefs preparing the food were the stars of the show, Chef Adriani Geerman, E Sushi Shap, served seven types of Lionfish rolls. Chef Erwin Husken, Screaming Eagle Restaurant, made his samplers exhibition style, and enjoyed the interaction with his adoring audiences. Chef Ronald van Hasenbroek, Aruba Wine and Dine served three Lionfish specialties — the ceviche was the best I ever tasted. The company was a major event sponsor and supported the undertaking wholeheartedly. Co-organized by marine biologist Byron Boukhoudt who is also the treasurer of the Aruba Marine Park Foundation, the fundraiser required a pre-event derby, with 20 helpers and 45 fishermen who caught 231 kilos of Lionfish in total. What did the helpers do? They gutted, cleaned, and filleted the fish, a huge job lasting late into evening hours. Canisio van der Biezen, became the individual champion when he personally speared 109 kilos Lionfish without a boat, he just paddled out to fish, he explained, or dove in from shore. Canisio was also the winner of the largest Lionfish caught, a 42.5cm monster, he also speared the smallest, making him the all-around hero. Eric Ras, representing the ARUHUNTER team, was very proud of his peeps’ accomplishments bringing in 45 kilos of Lionfish, last Sunday, even before lunch time. Lionfish Hunter Dennis Schoneveld, was also in attendance, having contributed his share of the catch and Ilja Cybulski, handsome diver/chef, formerly at Que Pasa and Aruba Wine and Dine, now working for Frasa International as a food service support expert, helped fielding questions about Lionfish and appropriate wine pairing. The next step says Carla Cavallaro is to improve the Lionfish distribution system, to facilitate a better process between fishermen and restaurants so Lionfish could be served in many more places. Carla says we should keep the momentum going yearlong, and organize more events, smaller beach type parties to keep the Hunters active around the clock.
REGULATING THE NUMBER OF ALL-INCLUSIVE HOTELS. If you remember, a law suggested by the MinTour, recently attempted to regulate the number of all-inclusive hotel rooms on the island. We were all debating the issue prior to the opening of the Grand Dame as a Hilton, when RIU RESORTS expressed a keen interest in that property. At the time, with a sense of urgency, a law was prepared, regulating the ratio of all inclusive Vs. transient hotel rooms. The Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association then issued a memorandum, demanding hands off, warning the legislator not to interfere in the way they run their business, insisting on freedom to choose their own preferred MO. And that was the end of the debate. We never heard anything else. While the law was prepared it was never presented, and never signed by MinJust. But Now I hear strong rumors that A&M Hospitality, running the Sunscape Curacao Resort Spa & Casino, is looking to convert the Holiday Inn in Aruba into an all-inclusive property. The resort already offers an all-inclusive program, but to convert it into a 100% all-inclusive, is a horse of a different color. The two properties in Aruba and in Curacao share the same real-estate ownership, so I find the story plausible. Perhaps the real-estate owners believe that what’s good for one should be good for the other, BUT is it good for Aruba, that is what I want to know!! Incidentally, Sunscape Curacao Resort Spa & Casino is that island’s only all-inclusive hotel, but I hear more are coming.
INTERESTING PEOPLE, INTERSTING PROFESSIONS. I met Sharin Julen recently at Conexion R’We Temporary Manpower Service. I also had the pleasure of meeting the boss, Marylin Bregita in their office at Newtonstraat #4. Sharin is running the temporary employment agency in Aruba, while Marylin will be heading to Curacao with another colleague, to oversee the opening of a similar agency there. Marylin who is an experienced professional in the HR field, sees it as her mission to develop people professionally, and raise their level of skill to facilitate their transition from temporary to permanent employment. She reports there are about 90 similar agencies in Aruba but just about one dozen properly documented and registered at the Chamber of Commerce. Many of the so called HR agencies might be licensed, for example, to provide landscaping employees, but they also dabble in housekeeping and kitchen staff on the side, making it difficult for fully-licensed agencies to compete. Marylin who recruited Sharin, a former Housekeeping Supervisor at the Bucuti Beach Resort & Tara Suites, is mentoring her to take the Aruba operation completely over. They both view HR as essential: “We screen all employees,” they inform, “sort out their work papers, and health requirements, and provide clients with temporary help that is fully documented and trained.” Conexion R’We collaborates with all the resorts and often uses the resort executives as trainers in their friendly classroom space. They teach relevant English terms, and stage real life situation, in order to complete their preparation. With about 200 people at their finger tips, remember to call them at Tel.: 588-2053, should you need help before during and after the holidays.
A REPORT FROM THE FRONT. I took a number at 12noon, says one of my friends, a reporter at heart, at ELMAR, Hato. I pulled out number 114, while they were busy handling number 6, so 108 people ahead of me. My turn finally came at 2.40pm, and mind you, I was not late paying a bill, I was transferring a meter. The current system requires you to just stick around, otherwise you miss your turn, and take another number, wait another 3 hours … ELMAR had 3 cashiers working, but at lunch time, they naturally took turns to eat, and then there were only two cashiers left. At a certain moment when one of them had to go to the bathroom, there was just ONE, in charge of the restless mob. Overall it is a very unfair system: We dutifully took the meter reading, so the lessee would be charged for electricity up to his departure day … NOPE, they changed that too … an Elmar employee must swing by the address perhaps 3, 4 or 5 days later to check the electric meter… so if the pool pump keeps working … too bad…the lessee has to pay for those days as well … albeit he did not live in that house anymore … Turn the pump off, said the ELMAR cashier … hahaha … well, you know what happens to a pool when its pump is turned off… but who cares these are first-world problems … So because of the way the mop flops, you have to line up, regardless of your issue, no distinction between late payment and meter transfer, just take a number and WAIT. QUESTION: Why can’t all of that be done on line??
HACCEP 101. Chef Orlin Geerman, in charge of the culinary kitchen program at EPB, now also oversees the HACCP practices of the kitchen crew at the Hollywood Smokehouse, Alhambra Casino & Shops. The chef knows most of them very well, from the time they were his students at EPB, and he agreed to drop in on a random basis to inspect the kitchen, making sure his former students still remember what he taught them regarding the food safety system. HACCP in restaurants, hazard analysis and critical control points, is achieved through the control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards, which derive from raw food material production, procurement and handling with the goal of serving an excellent, totally safe, finished product for consumption. Chef Geerman’s unannounced kitchen inspections are a great way to keep everybody on their toes, with their knowledge of food safety refreshed and up to date, explain owners Mike & Tina Bislick. The Chef who runs a tight ship in the EPB school kitchen, is the perfect candidate for the job. Respected and revered at school for his no nonsense approach and his insistence on discipline under all circumstance, he now provides an important service to the Hollywood Smokehouse. “We’re very pleased to have him as our inspector,” Tina continues, “because an ounce of ongoing prevention is better than a pound of occasional cure.”
NEW ROAD. I took a drive on the fresh asphalt, it felt smooth. I have been waiting for that black strip since 1996, when I worked as Director of Marketing at the Royal Cabana Casino, and we were convinced the road is coming in a matter of days. So driving on it this week felt as if it’s always been there. I am talking about the portion of the road from the Sasaki roundabout to the Eagle Beach Boulevard, and the Trop Casino driveway, which were inaugurated on Friday, by MinJust, in the presence of the Tropicana Aruba Resort & Casino general manager Richard Roy, Dirk Uildriks, of Eljo Constructions, and several resort employees, as reported by Jacky Filiciana, Executive Administrative Assistant, who says the opening of this new road makes access to the Tropicana easier.
PRESS APPRECIATION EVENT AT THE RITZ CARLTON. 100% invited press members showed up at the Ritz Carlton Aruba to Sip, Savor and Celebrate, at a special holiday get-together designed to thank photographers and reporters for their support in 2015. Hosted by PR & Communications Manager Myandra Croes, and attended by Director of Sales & Marketing, Mayra Macaraig, General Manager Steven Redkoles Jr., corporate Area Director of PR Catherine Leitner, and Casino General Manager Louella Brezovar, over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, the event took place under the stars, by the glow of the red coal fire pit, to the music of vocalist Sangeeta and guitar man Martin Buitenweg! Thank you Ritz Carlton Aruba for your gracious hospitality and always-delicious food. We learned that BLT steakhouse continues to enjoy great popularity among guests and locals and that the hotel will be sold-out for the upcoming holidays. A festive New Year’s Eve celebration in planned on the beach with tremendous fireworks, a spectacle staged in conjunction with the neighbors, the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino. We also heard that sales executive Richard Kasofsky got promoted and left to the Guyana Marriott Hotel, in Georgetown, which is a bit of a frontier town, but now that he is there perhaps we should visit, Guyana is after all the only country in South America where English is the official language and it is gorgeous!
THE NEW WINE ROOM IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Opened at first at Orange Plaza, it just moved into the back of the Antraco building, after a loud Kareoke Bar became its neighbor. Press members were invited on Wednesday for a tasting and pairing with the Wine Room proprietor, Monrick Croes. The atmosphere in the Wine Room remained rustic and cozy, with a raised community table loaded with gleaming stemware and candles, big enough to accommodate a dozen wine and food pairing aficionados. Mondrick who combines epicurean pursuits with instruction, aims at entertaining his clients and teaching them a thing or two about wine culture, which sounds like a fun combo. We swirled and sipped, and visited the upstairs Purple Room. We also congratulated Mom and Pop, on raising a successful son. Monrick is a professional wine and food consultant, who often collaborates with local restaurants. He is also an importer of wine, and carries an extensive and exclusive wine collection in the wine room.
CUSTOMS STORIES, WHY AREN’T THEY GENERATING INCOME. We are waiting for some freight before the end of the month, a new “Aruba to the Beach & Beyond” magazine for ATSA, the timeshare association hotel rooms so I called my Customs Broker. What’s happening, I asked. He was full of stories. Apparently MinFin finally asked the question: We received over 2,500 containers in the harbor, but the level of income from taxation doesn’t reflect that, so where is the money? True to his conviction that something is muddled he ordered an audit. Which slowed things down considerably since every container now must be inspected BY TWO PEOPLE, before it is released, which created a bottleneck, where merchants can’t get their hands on their goods, in December. Why don’t you conduct an audit in September?? Additionally seven customs agents were suspended for minor offences, but as you know I am a great believer in the theory that tolerance of small offences results in big offences. So anyway, with seven agents at home, the pressure on the remaining ones increased. My Customs Broker whose name shall remain anonymous also told me that on numerous occasions the invoice presented to him by Customs was underpriced, and that mysterious computer errors are consistently undercharging brokers for goods released. Undercharging, I asked? Yes, he says, when I expect an Awg 1,900 bill, I often get charged for a fraction of that, but I am honest, I tell them to fix it! On a roll he continued to vent, asking how is it possible that a fancy, 65”TV costs just Awg 1,350 in Aruba. They are importing cheap goods from China, and under-taxing them when the container arrives, he quickly answered his own question. And why are there so many right hand drive cars on the island, because they are bringing them in from Japan, where they are cheap — Nissan Note, 2013, for $5,800, Honda Fit Hybrid 2013, $10,750, Toyota Vitz 2009, $2,500, so naturally, the government makes much less money on the import duties. Besides, he continued many containers are in transit, from Jamaica to Venezuela for example, and thus tax-free, no income for the island. Basically, he concluded, you get a container of air-conditioners, it says Inverters on the invoice, it’s the Custom’s Agent responsibility to check it indeed, because 2% tax on inverters, VS. 22% tax on old fashioned air-conditioners, that makes a big difference to the government’s pocket! Finally, I recently bought an Inverter air-conditioning unit from UNICON. I can tell you with great confidence that the company pocketed the tax-break and did not share it with me!
CHEF GERARD COSTE RELOCATES TO THE HILTON. One of Aruba’s best chefs is relocating to the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. French-born Gerard Coste was the executive chef at the Wyndham, which then morphed into the Westin. He ran a number of excellent kitchens there. We always thought that Pago Pago and Baci restaurant were the best kept secrets on the island, just because Chef Gerard was responsible for the kitchen production. Then a promotion beckoned and the chef traded in his white coat for regular office clothes, at the Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa as Director of Food & Beverage. Then I think he returned to the Westin, which morphed into RIU, and when I met him again he was Executive Chef at the Alhambra Casino & Shops where he oversaw the excellent banqueting operation of the complex. We worked together on Aruba Iron Chef 2015, he catered the banquet portion of the event for 144 guests. It was amazing. So then the Hilton’s General Manager who is incidentally a Frenchman, became interested; birds of a feather flock together, the Dutch love Dutch cooking, the French love, you guessed, French cooking. So Olivier Maumaire invited the chef to cook a test-meal at the Hilton, and Gerard was happy to please. Bottom line, he is starting on December 16th, as a great addition to the culinary team of La Grande Dame. He is creative, passionate and hardworking, now he just has to stop smoking to be totally perfect! Equally amazing, Corporate Chef Matt Boland, Divi Resorts, who is a personal friend of Chef Gerard Coste, invited chef Paul Zijlstra back into the fold, to assume a position with Divi’s culinary team. No shoe remains empty for long!
GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT AT T.H. PALM & COMPANY. The annual shopping night at the beautiful store, streetside at Playa Linda Beach Resort enjoyed the support of many customers who dropped in for a holiday gift preview, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and great social interaction.
For the 12th edition of Girls’ Night out, famous Chef Bas Kuuestra prepared some delicious butler-passed treats and forager Frank Kelly concocted a rum and avocado libation, garnished with local edible flowers. Jodi Tobman and the Salamander Group family wished all guests good health and good times during the holiday season and the coming year and thanked them for making T.H. Palm & Company their preferred shopping destination, thus continuously supporting the company’s corporate responsibility program, Tikkun Olam, earmarking a percentage of sales to making a difference in the community.
The Tikkun Olam program has been making annual donations to not-for-profit organizations for the past 8 years. Beneficiary foundations are among others: Koningin Wilhelmina Fonds voor de Kankerbestrijding op Aruba, Fundacion pa Hende Muhe den Dificultad, Bon Nochi Drumi Dushi Aruba, Telefon pa Hubentud Aruba, Fundacion Autismo Aruba and Atelier 89. The program, named after an ancient Kabala concept which translates from Hebrew as “the Repair of the World,” supports local organizations working on behalf of kids, adults and the elderly.
The way the fund-raising works is the following: Each client shopping at the Salamander Group stores is asked to choose between a number of good causes, on the receiving end of a percentage of his purchase.
Donations are presented annually, and regardless of the state of the world’s economy or the state of the island’s economy, the Salamander Group associates and its members of management forge on, collecting funds for causes they strongly believe in, in accordance to their Repair of the World philosophy.
Pictured here the happy crowd of invitees, at the 12th annual Girls’ Night Out event. Each guests received a gift at the end of the evening, a simple silver bangle, engraved with the words: Aruba Ta Mi. “As you use the gift,” says Jodi,” know that you join us in spreading the message of gratitude, and immense pride, that we at T.H. Palm & Company share for being privileged to be part of this beautiful island community.”