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“My first culinary inspiration was my grandmother and the comfort and joy that came with hanging in the kitchen with her while she cooked”
When the unprecedented pandemic shook the world, and in particular the travel and hospitality industry, reinvention and resourcefulness were key to navigating this new path many found themselves on. Finding a way to pivot one’s talents and experience during this time ultimately led to new beginnings for those willing to make a little lemonade out of lemons.
One such culinary entrepreneur is Chef Ruben Hernandez. Born on the neighbouring island of Curacao, the young chef moved to Aruba at the age of 16 and is a graduate of the island’s culinary arts program at EPI. The chef honed his skills with real-world internship experience with Divi Resorts and local fine-dining restaurant Screaming Eagle.
Just as Chef Ruben was spreading his wings and taking flight on Aruba’s culinary landscape, the pandemic arrived, and with that changes and an evolution to the hospitality sector. Visitors began seeking more private, socially-distanced experiences and accommodations.
Chef Ruben recognised the importance of offering visitors private dining experiences beyond typical take-out and delivery. He created a variety of thoughtfully curated menus that could give visitors the same elevated culinary experiences they could find at island restaurants but in a private, personalised way and prepared right at their vacation rental.
“My first culinary inspiration was my grandmother and the comfort and joy that came with hanging in the kitchen with her while she cooked,” the chef shares, adding that the smells of the spices in his grandmother’s traditional island cuisine brought comfort and curiosity. Interestingly, although his menus offer a variety of cuisines—from Asian and French to Italian and even kosher—chef Ruben says that many of his clients, mostly visitors from the US, want to try the island’s local cuisines, especially fresh catches from our local fishermen and Caribbean-style barbecue.
The chef is making the most of his private chef experiences, thrilled to find this up-close and personal culinary journey extremely rewarding because of the relationships he has built with his clients and hearing first-hand how much they love Aruba. “They tell me they chose Aruba for the beaches but it’s the happy spirit of our people that impresses them the most,” explains the chef. He also shares that visitors are very impressed with Aruba’s food scene.
Now that we are on the other side of the pandemic, Chef Ruben says that requests for private experiences are still rising (most of his clients have discovered him on social media and by word-of-mouth). In addition to catering to vacation rentals, the chef now gets requests for private picnics and dinners on the beach, as well as catering private sailing charters and yachts. Chef Ruben is also hoping to parlay to opening his own chef’s table dining experience in the near future, serving a limited number of guests and offering a unique, authentic, and personal approach.
We’re just getting started with the amazing effects Aruba has to offer. Dig into your trip details below to unlock a Caribbean experience that will leave you sunnier, happier, and (of course) a little more tanned.