Chef Fernando Perez Arellano of the two-Michelin-starred Mallorcan restaurant Zaranda doesn’t consider his cuisine uniquely Spanish. In fact, the accolade-rich restaurateur insists that his craft is largely influenced by his wanderlust. He admits, however, to having tried Jamaican cuisine only once, and indeed confesses that the six-course meal served with expertly selected wine pairings he is preparing at Montego Bay’s IBEROSTAR Grand Rose Hall resort has nary a Jamaican stimulus.
So what, then, was the chef doing cooking this curated menu at one of the island’s premier all-inclusive resorts? The answer is simple: he was there as the headliner of the latest installment of IBEROSTAR Resort’s “Chef on Tour” series, a chain of events in which internationally celebrated chefs are hosted at IBEROSTAR locations the world round to create the sort of evening of which the culinary vacationer’s dreams are made.
Arellano — named “Cook of the Year, 2008” by television channel Canal Cocina, “Premio al Grande del Mañana (Best Young Chef), 2008,” and winner of “Premio a la Innovación Conceptual o Técnica, 2009,” a cooking skills award — himself believes IBEROSTAR’s in-house food to be superior to that of its competitors. While much of European continental fare offered at this island iteration of the resort group is not necessarily noteworthy, Arellano’s proclamation is certainly true of the traditional Jamaican cuisine that IBEROSTAR Grand Rose Hall staff will gladly cook up for guests at their request and at no extra charge. Be it ackee and saltfish for breakfast — a Jamaican staple of salty fish stir-fried with a local fruit that has the consistency of scrambled eggs when cooked — or a lunch of spicy jerk chicken with coconut milk-enriched rice and peas, and a side of sweet, ripe fried plantains, guests are assured an authentic taste of Jamaica if they only ask.
One’s wish is truly one’s command at this resort, which assigns a personal butler to each guest room. At IBEROSTAR Grand Rose Hall, the Jamaican catchphrases of “No problem!” and “Ire!” (meaning “cool”) are put into grand practice. Service with a proverbial smile is where the property excels.
One must, however, be willing to overlook the old-fashioned aesthetic of the rooms. Besides, overly ornate curtains do not ultimately diminish the comfort of the spacious rooms. But why spend time in the room, when one can watch a fiery sunset from the balcony, under the gentle whirr of a ceiling fan, or bask in a slice of the ombré crushed velvet ocean just beyond one’s door? Why sleep in when you can step out to a beach sunrise or when you can indulge in a Jamaican coffee scrub and detoxifying wrap followed by a relaxing hot-stone massage at the spa?
The spa, the modest appearance of which belies the high caliber of the treatments offered and features an invigorating wellness pool and soothing heated ceramic chairs, is an experience not to be missed.
No matter where you find yourself at this hotel, the butler seems to be only one step behind and ready to anticipate your next need — and the same level of commitment that IBEROSTAR demonstrates toward service, it has proven toward the art of gastronomy, as evinced by this traveling chef program that brought Chef Arellano to Montego Bay.
On the evening of the grand dinner, Arellano presented six courses of varying delight. The chef selected the menu as a showcase of the DNA of his home restaurant, but with the practicality of cooking for a banquet as opposed to his 30-seater restaurant, in mind.
Arellano noted that achieving the level of culinary perfection for which Zaranda is renowned is a feat that’s next-to-impossible in such a setting. Still, the second course, ox bonbon with lentil salad, and the fourth of glazed veal tongue that melted in the mouth like a deeply-smoked brisket, were the standouts that night. The culinary master was the star of an evening that brought together Jamaican residents, dignitaries, and travelers to sample the fruits of his creativity.
Should chefs be rock stars, living in the limelight, or should they be craftsmen chopping away dutifully and anonymously to the glow of a hot stove? Fellow Spanish megastar chef Ferran Adria, who Arellano describes as a genius, does not believe in cooking as part of the entertainment industry. As to whether or not chefs should be stars, Arellano says “it is not our fault if we are.”
IBEROSTAR, for one, does believe that chefs are superstars as worthy of adulation as any other artist and the hotel group is dedicated to celebrating and promulgating culinary brilliance through its Chef On Tour series. For the culinary adventurer, it’s not too late to join in on this gastronomic journeying, which includes, among several other intriguing engagements, an upcoming evening with chef Daniel Humm of three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park’s at IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso in Mexico. But you don’t have to wait for another decorated chef’s presence to book a stay at IBEROSTAR Grand Rose Hall in Montego bay: go simply to hear the magical words “no problem!” uttered in response to your every request. And, by all means, do not forget to request the oxtail stew: it’s ire!
Future Dates for IBEROSTAR Chef On Tour Series:
MANUEL BERGANZA — Nov. 19 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraíso, Mexico
MATT LAMBERT — Dec. 3 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro, Dominican Republic
RONNY EMBORG — Jan. 7 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Rose Hall, Jamaica
CARLO MIRARCHI — Jan. 14 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraíso, Mexico
EMMA BENGTSSON — Feb. 17 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro, Dominican Republic
EMMA BENGTSSON — Mar. 4 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Rose Hall, Jamaica
RONNY EMBORG — Mar. 18 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraíso, Mexico
BRECY SHUMAN — Apr. 22 — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro, Dominican Republic
DANIEL HUMM — May 2017 (TBD) — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraíso, Mexico
RONNY EMBORG — Jun. 2017 (TBD) — IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro, Dominican Republic
JORDI CRUZ — Jul. 2017 (TBD) — IBEROSTAR Parque Central, Cuba