Blooming Culinary Arts

We all agree that if you are passionate about food and want to turn that into a profession, a culinary education, combined with good mentoring, can be the perfect springboard for an exciting career.

And over the years in Aruba, I had the pleasure of meeting various culinary talents, at the onset of their journey to the top, when something about their food, their quiet charisma, their pure intentions, the enthusiasm with which they described their dishes, indicated they will go far!

I met Miguel Angel Coronado, in 2019, when he won Masters of the Craft at the Aruba Marriott. He was at the time already ten years in F&B, three years with the resort, and he went on to compete in the regional rounds.

He was lucky to work for a few years in Teddy Bouroncle’s nursery, which raises aspiring culinary giants. Chef Teddy, of Lima and Azar fame, made it his mission to mentor the cooks in his brigade, at the time when he was Executive Chef, then later Complex Food & Beverage Director, now that he is an owner-chef, and the spinoffs of his mentorship are many.

Back to Miguel Angel. I was a judge at that Marriott internal competition and Miguel Angel prepared a fish dish. He cooked and seasoned it perfectly, and the presentation of the plate was gorgeous. In my secret private diary, he also scored a few additional points for looking like Maluma, a famous Latin heartthrob, which helped his total in my book.

He still looks like the famous Latin heartthrob now, that he commands his own culinary brigade as the chef at Caya House, a recently opened restaurant, on Palm Beach. We had a lovely dinner there last week and I can happily report that the chef I met in 2019, lived up to his promise. Kudos.

A recent Ladies Night brought a few of my much-loved and appreciated media colleagues to PureOcean Restaurant at Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort.

Always a favorite, a best kept secret, a beach restaurant loved for what it’s not: Not crowded, not crazy-busy, just right, with discreet live music and fantastic service. Oscar, you are the beat. Amy, you are most gracious!

We ordered like we never ate before, truffle ravioli, artichoke and spinach dip, Gorgonzola topped spring salad, and spicy ahi tuna for appetizers, grilled lamb chops, dill-crusted salmon, tomahawk steak and grilled mahi as main courses, with sweet potato wedges, on the side. We weren’t shy about dessert. We ordered everything with chocolate on the menu.

Our plates arrived in succession and it all tasted just so!

We shared the dishes, and raved about the generous portions and the fantastic taste.

Then we asked to speak to the chef. We realized there must be a real talent in the kitchen.

We were rewarded with the presence of Chef Dwight Kelly — the restaurant’s not-so-secret weapon, who is 28. Born and raised in San Nicolas, the son of a single mother who still works at La Cabana Beach Resort contributing to that family resort’s success.  Dwight wanted to become a Policeman, he shared, following in the footsteps of family members, and finished his EPB & EPI education here in the vocational stream of the local public schools. Sometimes during that time, he discovered the kitchen. On his own, it doesn’t run in the family, and the only incentive was his marvelous ability to feed himself. From then on, he just answered the call of opportunity, working as an apprentice at Renaissance island, at a fine dining restaurant in a castle in Germany not far from the Polish border and cooking up a storm in the Netherlands, familiarizing himself with rich culinary traditions, and styles.

I got married young, he confides, at 20, and I left my family on the island, to work in Europe. That was hard. I had two kids. I knew what it meant to grow up without a father, so finally, last year, I came back!

Dwight was greeted at the Divi with open arms, and joined the brigade at Divi Phoenix, under the leadership of Gilbert Flemming the Executive Chef. . Aruba once had a famed Chef Kelly, a culinary arts teacher at the hospitality school, it’s my turn now, says Dwight, Chef Kelly the 2nd, is here!

We were super impressed with his exuberance, his personal charm and his sure hand in the kitchen, and were super proud he is home-grown. We will be back!




Share on:

May 10, 2023
Rona Coster