The Marriott delivers a Michelin-star experience

Two sold-out lobby events, and one sold out exclusive beach dinner at Atardi, made the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino a culinary destination over the weekend when the resort hosted what was possibly the Caribbean’s tastiest Michelin Pop-Up.

Food was prepared by chef Francois Geurds and his culinary brigade, from FG in Rotterdam, a fine dining restaurant that was awarded one Michelin star for the period of 2010-2013, and two stars since 2014, among other top accolades won by the owner/chef and his team, since opening day in 2009.

If you were in Rotterdam between July 30 and August 17th, 2023, and wanted to dine like a prince at one of town’s finest establishment, you would find FG closed on vacation. Yes, the culinary brigade moved here for two weeks, one week of work, one week of play, in one of the island’s best playgrounds, the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino.

I met FG for the first time in June 2019 when he orchestrated a fantastic event at Windows on Aruba, with eight other top European chefs with 8 Michelin stars among them. They took local enthusiastic foodies on a culinary trip of 4 amuses, 3 starters, one main course and dessert, all paired with notably delicious wines.

This time, the setting also included toes in the sand, for more than 70 diners, and live entertainment in the form of a spectacular technicolor sunset, with talented guitarist Serghio Jansen, providing the vibe.

FG is a revered chef, who also runs a bistro, Food Labs, in addition to his famed starred restaurant. Lucky for him, he has Aruban ties, which he promotes widely on his website and in person. His mom is Aruban and his cuisine is successfully hitched to his Surinam-Indonesian family roots.

He reports that in childhood memories, he sees his mom cooking passionately, and he was deeply affected by her quest for flavor. He often sat in front of the oven, wondering, what was going on inside. He wanted to pick up a knife and perform magic, in the kitchen, from a very young age.

In Aruba FG and his team surprised guests with a six course menu, seven if you count the amuse, a beetroot French macaroon with a savory filling.

Sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, all dishes went to unexpected places, from the get-go.

How about a traditional Aruban Oyster Soup, a rich holiday food, loaded with heavy cream, served with the jumbo fresh oyster, on the side, perched on a bed of while chocolate.

You did not expect that, right?

And the Ceviche Bacalao with fresh cod fish, and crunchy pink pepper corns, featuring at least one dozen other aromas and flavors, that also resonated in most other dishes: Cardamon, Cumin, Coriander, Cloves, Cinnamon, Chilies, Chinese 5 spice and Curry, and those are only the ones starting with C

The main course, FG’s signature dish, was his take on the popular Stoba, the homey stew. We did say mom hails from San Nicholas, and though FG now lives and works in Rotterdam, his version of the local stew, is made with a popular Dutch beef cut, Sukade, laced with lemongrass, and cooked just perfect, slow and low.

Best of all dessert, a reconstructed Bolo Preto, the island’s drunk wedding cake, which sprung out of FG’s imagination as an oblong treat, with a crème pâtissiere crown, topped by an oversized bolo preto wafer, with edible black sugar lace, and ice cream.

At the end of the meal we all got a sealed letter delivered in which the chef says: Aruba has my profound respect, as my mother was born on the island and has shared many of her roots and recipes that I still use today. Then he added: Plans to visit Holland soon? Join me at my restaurant….that was so clever because on my next stopover on the mainland, I am heading to Rotterdam.

Pepia Est did the spectacular wine pairing, serving bottomless flutes of tiny-bubbled Tattinger Brut Reserve Champagne, France, to start, then followed by Chateau Paul Mas, Parcelle Belluguette Blanc Languedoc, France; Casa Rojo La Marimorena Albario, Rias Baixas, Spain; Goldeneye Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir, Mandocino county, California, USA; M. Chapoutier Les Becasses, Syrah Cote Rotie, Rhone Valley France; and Dolce by Far Niente, California USA, all presented in the appropriate stem-ware by ASD, proving again that the right glass improves the wine experience. Dishes and cutlery were beautiful too.

In respect of a recent diet regime, I introduced, I stayed away from the bread that looked amazing, at the beginning of the meal. You can’t have everything.

On a serious note: The small kitchen of Atardi must have accommodated more than two dozen cooks and helpers, all students of the local culinary school that had a good time, they proudly report, watching the great ones work, orchestrating the group effort. It is of utmost importance to show the kids that culinary talents are appreciated and valued on our island, so dependent on tourism.

It is also important to set the bar up a notch, every once in a while, in our effort to join the foodie capitals of the world. The restaurant sector here, brought in US$130 million in 2022, and that’s just with VISA, where a total of 434,262 cards were used, at an average of $300 per card.

Thank you, Marriott Management, the Sales and Marketing and F&B teams, for an outstanding experience.


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August 07, 2023
Rona Coster