Rock Star Chefs

Aruba lives on tourism, it is our only economic pillar, and we’re short of hands.

The single biggest challenge to the successful local tourist industry is shortage of staff, let alone qualified staff.

One of the opposition party leaders recently pointed out that after years under a so-called new minister, DIMAS, Departamento di Integracion, Maneho y Admision di Stranhero, the government entity charged with integration, and admission management of foreigners, is still dysfunctional and unchanged. They make little progress with work permit applications.

The local business sector on the other hand is very active.

Restaurants & hotels are investing considerable resources in the future, exploring ways to attract young people to tourism, and keep them.

Not surprisingly, in pursuit of comfort and dushi vida, young Arubans aspire to become government employees, and enjoy the cushy life that comes with social benefits, and perks.

Restaurant and hotel life is tough, you work on holidays, and weekends, and the pay, is often meager, in the areas where workers have no access to tips.

I recently read the Iberostar company was organizing a Job Fair on June 7th, in preparation for their grand opening on Eagle Beach. The Aruba Food & Beverage Association is hosting a giant all day affair on June 12th, with special attention to students, at the Convention Center.

The General Manager of the Marriott Complex Raoul Lemmerling talked about the issue when he described his motives to inviting rising culinary star Charbel Hayek for a weekend of events at his hotel. He said he would like to inspire his kitchen crew, to rise to fame and fortune by importing a global role model, a young man who found his way to become a culinary rock star.

In the press conference, just before the two sold our events at Mercat, Marriott’s Mediterranean Restaurant, the former La Vista, Chef Charbel shared he was a terrible student and told his father to save his money and give up his dream of a medical career for his son.

Instead, he went into the kitchen and followed his mom who cooked professionally for 15 years, and through passion and dedication won Top Chef Middle East & North Africa, grabbed the attention of investors, and opened Lady Hawk restaurant in Los Angeles, with another restaurant in the pipeline.

His advice to young people? Work for a remarkable mentor, someone you admire, even if you have to work for free. The right mentor will teach you more than you can ever learn at school.

And remarkably, having been born in Beirut, Lebanon, was no obstacle, on the contrary, it enriched his culinary vocabulary, and he now calls his cooking style “New American” with French and Lebanese influences.

The Aruba Tourism Authority also made it its goal to inspire local students to pick culinary arts. It sent out a call to all chefs on the island to sharpen their knives and excite Aruba with your creativity.

As reported, the island’s most exciting culinary competition, Iron Chef Aruba, returns to the stage during the Aruba Tourism Authority’s new annual event, Autentico Aruba Culinary Festival. The two-night festival will take place Saturday, October 12 and Sunday, October 13.  Iron Chef Aruba will be featured on the main stage on the evening of the 13th. The program also includes culinary students at both vocational schools, EPI & EPB, they will also be challenged to take part in a number of competitions, run at their schools. Iron Chef 2024, is produced by the team at When in Aruba in collaboration with the Aruba Tourism Authority, chefs are officially invited to apply for one of the three spots to compete.

Share on:

June 04, 2024
Rona Coster