Iron Chef Aruba Startup
Iron Chef Aruba is produced by Island Temptations magazine. As editorial and creative director of the publication, I have a hands-on role…make that hands-on, heads-on, everything-must-be-turned-on role while producing this event! Along with my business partner and creative conspirator, marketing and public relations director of Island Temptations, Rona Coster, we have been piecing together the ingredients to make this a unique culinary event for participants and guests.
Our first step was venue selection. After much deliberation, we decided that the Divi Resort’s Alhambra Ballroom, located at the Alhambra Casino & Shops near Eagle Beach, would be a good fit. It’s not a massive space—it’s actually quite “intimate” as ballrooms go, and just the right size for what we want to accomplish. We decided to limit our first installment of Iron Chef Aruba to 150 guests, wanting to create a sense of community in the room, and also wanting to make sure we did not bite off more than we could chew. I like to take big bites, but I am glad we didn't this go-round.
More important than the size of Alhambra Ballroom was the team of professionals at Divi. We needed them to believe in the project and be as emotionally invested as we were in making this a truly special and unique event for Aruba. Divi’s corporate chef, Matt Boland, has been a longtime personal and professional friend. Both Rona and I have collaborated with Matt on projects in the past, and we knew his personality, knowledge, and skills would be invaluable. Matt’s passion for the culinary arts and Aruba translate quite nicely as he, along with Chef Urvin, helped us tweak the format of the event, create intriguing mystery baskets for the competition, and advised on kitchen setup and equipment needs for the competing chefs.
Iron Chef Aruba…Meet the Chefs
With the framework of the event solidifying, our next task was to search for our three chefs…who out there is willing to put their skills and reputation on the line?
Aruba’s culinary scene is vast and diverse, with chefs hailing from all over the world and right here on Aruba. There is a lot of fresh, budding talent out there as well, but a competition of this level requires experience and that coolness under pressure that only comes with time. Three courses with time limits for preparations, three mystery baskets with who knows what in them, three international judges to impress, and a crowd of 150 people watching every chop you make…it’s a piece of cake—NOT!
After canvassing the field, we are really excited with the lineup that represents a cross-section of our international culinary scene: Executive Chef Steven Toevs (United States), Executive Chef Teddy Bouroncle (Peru), and Executive Chef Ever de Pena (Aruba) vying for the trophy this year.
Executive Chef Stephen Toevs -The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba
Chef Stephen spent his early years shucking clams and fishing on a family fishing boat off of the waters of Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. Throughout his childhood, he was fascinated by food and began cooking at local clam shacks, and later Italian restaurants throughout the area. After studying engineering in college, and working in restaurant kitchens to support his school tuition, Stephen decided to pursue his passion and officially become a chef, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. Over the years, his talents have grown and developed into an eclectic cooking style of his own.
Chef Toevs has earned several accolades throughout his career. He has served as a regional finalist in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs young chef competition, cooked at the James Beard House in 2010, participated in the 2013 Cayman Cookout in the Cayman Islands, and was the founder of Desert Ridge Pit Masters, winning numerous awards on Arizona’s BBQ circuit.
Executive Chef Teddy Bouroncle- Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Chef Bouroncle is a Peruvian native with more than a dozen years of culinary experience. The chef began his career in the United States, while also garnering further international experience and honing his individual culinary style with posts in Spain, Colombia, and Singapore. Prior to his arrival on Aruba, he was executive chef and food and beverage director at JW Marriott Cusco in Peru. Teddy overseas all daily kitchen operations and menus at the various restaurants and bars at the three Marriott properties here on the island.
Executive Chef Ever de Pena- Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
Chef Ever is the young gun in the competition, turning 29 years old last month. Born in Venezuela but raised in Aruba, Ever entered the apprenticeship program at the local vocational high school at the age of 15, and for five years combined school and hands-on training in some of Aruba’s finest restaurants under the watchful eye of the island’s top chefs. As executive chef at Manchebo, overseeing the menus and kitchen operations, Ever is on a culinary fast track, deftly composing beautiful dishes with subtle and complex flavors.
The Eat Local Aruba Restaurant week has started! Visit www.aruba.com/eatlocal and enjoy prix fixe lunches for $15 and 3 course dinners for $30 to $40! Choose your favorite restaurants and let your taste buds go wild!