We were introduced to lanky Argentinean born Chef Nicolas Lopez in the lobby of the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino. The chef would be taking the kitchen over at La Vista restaurant on Friday & Saturday for a 5-course culinary adventure with exceptional wine pairing, by Pepia Est.
Chef Nicolas met success early in life. When he flunked out of high school, his mom put him to cook every day in the family kitchen under the tutelage of his dad and grandma. What started in failure, resulted in an aha moment. He soon discovered he had a culinary intuition and embarked on a career that is product focused.
In search of professional opportunities, he went to Caracas, where his talent blossomed, and then on through the continent, including Mexico, Chile, Colombia, where he opened Villanos en Bermudas restaurant, with another like-minded chef. They hit #40 on the Latin America’s Best Restaurants List, fast, then opened another crowd-pleaser, “99” restaurant in Chile, which got listed among the best 50 restaurants in Latin America, and “Tres Bastardos,” a famed establishment in Bogota.
Chef Nicholas is cool dude with a big head of unruly black curls, and facial hair. Tattoos go without saying. Especially a prominent one on his arm, about team work in Norwegian, a cultural Scandinavian staple. He worked in Norway and was deeply affected by their way of doing things.
His approach to food is minimal, he doesn’t mess much with god’s creation and most of his dishes have no more than three ingredients, but he has a knack for pairings flavors that both contrast and complement.
His equally tall and curly restaurant partner, Chef Sergio, admits some of the food combinations by Chef Nicholas are weird, but they always work and open-minded foodies will regale in scallops for appetizer with avocado, caviar and wild rice, paired with a Sauvignon Blanc; Oysters, with a spicy coconut mango sauce, chased by a Moscata; Shrimp with foie, green apples and edible flowers, paired with a top notch Riesling and Duck breast, hazelnut cream and shitakes with Spanish Ladron.
For dessert, Grapefruit curd with caramelized almonds, olives and capers, yes, you heard it right, olives and capers.
I told you to keep an open mind.
(Chef told me about his cauliflower and chickpea ice-cream, that’s a hit, but I have to travel to Bogota to have it.)
Admittedly, he hardy makes anything twice, the recipes come to him and change frequently, no two dinner experiences are alike. He mostly uses fresh vegetables, herbs and seafood, and in honor of the dinner at the Marriott the freshest seafood has been imported from the Boston fish market.
Because Colombia doesn’t raise great cattle, his restaurant, Villanos en Bermudas, serves weekly-changing 10-course vegetarian / seafood tasting menus, and was named one of the ten coolest places to eat in 2018 by Forbes.
Director of Food & Beverage Teddy Bouroncle reports the opportunity to work with a word class hip and cool chef is welcome in the kitchen of the resort where he hopes the brigade will pick up all of Chef Nicholas’ tricks, over the next few days, to refresh and inspire their own path.
* Limited seating is available and reservations are required at 520-6343 / 520-6652 / 520-6670.
* Price: US $125 per person