What drew you to St. Martin?
As I said, I am Belgian. After living in Guadeloupe for 5 years when I was young and then travelling to France to expand my experience, working for the restaurants Joel Robuchon and Sophie Pic. But I always wanted to go back to the West Indies. I met my wife while I lived in France, and she is originally from St. Martin. She wanted to return to the island. As her parents were selling their house in St. Martin, it was a great opportunity and we made the decision to buy their house and we moved to the island in October 2017.
What do you like best about living in St. Martin?
I love the climate, the natural beauty of the landscape and the mix of cultures. St. Martin is called “the friendly island” and it is so true. We are very lucky to live on the highest point of the island, which has amazing views. We are in the middle of nature at Villa Hibiscus.
When you have a day off, what is your favourite thing to do?
I like to go fishing and boating and I like taking care of my garden and aromatic plants.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with? Favourite things to make? Favourite thing to eat?
I like working with the variety of mushrooms that become available based on the seasons, like morels and truffles. Generally, I work with the seasonal foods of France that are flown in. I
do like cooking red meats and artichokes.
Is there a particular ingredient or food item that embodies the flavour and spirit of St. Martin, and why?
I discovered the Guavaberry that grows here in St. Martin. It’s a product that I love to incorporate in my menus because it is local and I feel it really embodies the flavour and spirit of the island. It isn’t used often here except with rum. I also work with the hibiscus flower - I use it as much in cocktails as in savoury dishes and desserts.
If a guest was only coming to St. Martin for a day, and only had time for one meal, and they wanted your recommendation, what would you serve them?
I would make a lightly cooked, butter-roasted Wahoo (fish), with a ginger sweet potato puree and
with a sparkling lemon grass and saffron broth. Wahoo is a mackerel that is found in the tropics.
What recipe(s) can you share for anyone at home looking to bring the taste of St. Martin to their kitchen?
Our Canteloupe Gazpacho with Cucumbers and Creamed Goat Cheese is certainly one of the most popular items at Villa Hibiscus. We look forward to welcoming visitors to St. Martin and to the restaurant where they can try this and some of my other menu items first hand.