I’m officially starting every week now with a series of posts entitled “Maldives Monday”. Yes, I reckon your Mondays aren’t blue enough and I have the need to “torture” you further with more stories and pictures from our recent trip. Call it my way of turning your gloomy Mondays into a gorgeous explosion of turquoise, cerulean and indigo.
One of the few people I missed most from the trips are the Chefs. I find them very fascinating. Perhaps it was their mysteriously cool exterior with their eyes hidden behind the darkest pair of shades. But, as soon as you get to know them, you’ll realise that there is an infectious bubbly personality hidden underneath that intimidating facade.
And to reiterate my point, here’s a specimen from my visit to the W Retreat & Spa – Maldives. Meet Executive Chef Mauro Gomez, the new Executive Chef who takes care of the entire island resort’s F&B outlets, including the W Talent’s Green Room (R&R area for the staff). It may sound like he means business and is a tough figure to deal with, but I swear the man is harmless. That is if you can get over the intimidation of his favourite toy – the giant cleaver.
An Argentinian by birth, Mauro has been in kitchens since he was 12 years old. His family owns a traditional Argentinean/Italian (his Mum’s from Italy if you’re wondering) back in his homeland. So, you can say that cooking is in his blood.
With a desire to travel and live abroad, Mauro moved to Miami Beach, Florida in 1999 where he learned his chops as a professional chef. In less than 5 years, he landed a stint at The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa where he was responsible for the daily operations of the banquet kitchen – feeding a meeting space of over 245,000 square feet!
Continuing his success story with the Starwood group of hotels, he moved over to Boston where his Clam Chowder at the Westin Copley Square was voted the best in Boston. Since then, he has also helped set up the W Atlanta Midtown – the world largest property within the W brand.
These days, guests at the W Retreat & Spa Maldives can find the chef working a golden tan, unfortunately, in front of the grill rather than on its dreamy stretch of beach. Ironically, the chef tells us while we hung around his open kitchen at one of the resort’s signature restaurant – FISH, that he enjoys snowboarding a whole lot. Perhaps, he should start picking up sandboarding instead!
He’s been on the job for only a few months, but he’s already working his way to revitalise the menus at their B&F outlets. And you didn’t read that wrong, F&B outlets here are known as B&F outlets instead – but more about that in a later post. Bringing with him a lifetime of culinary experiences, Chef Gomez weaves his heritage with the magic and quirk of the W brand. The results are apparent in his refreshing twists on signature dishes like the Gaspacho (a peek into his South American heritage), Pizza (from his Mother’s family and his all-time favourite comfort food) and Paella (inspired by his travels).
One of the dishes which impressed me most was his Ceviche, a traditional South American dish made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juice and seasoned with onion, salt, cilantro and peepper. But instead of using lemon or lime to “cook” the fish, he uses juice from the Japanese Yuzu fruit. A small twist, but a whole lot of differences. The flavours were sharp, intense, yet the aroma from the citrus fruit was refreshing and perfect for a day under the Maldivian sun. Leaves the tongue tingling for more after. As a treat, the chef is kind enough to share his recipe with us, so you can create this in your kitchen too.
Now, close your eyes and imagine savouring this dish with your legs dangling off the edge of a pier overlooking the crystal clear waters. Bliss.
CHEF MAURO GOMEZ’s YUZU CEVICHE
(makes 4 appetiser portions)Ingredients needed:
3/4 pound of very fresh white fleshed ocean fish, such as white snapper 1/2 cup fresh lime juice 1/2 cup yuzu juice 1 1/2 tablespoons (about 2) julienne red chili peppers 1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup small diced avocado
1 tablespoon julienne onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lime wedges Method:
Cut the fish into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a glass dish with the lime & yuzu juice. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Drain the fish and add the peppers, onion, cilantro, olive oil, and salt. Fold gently to mix. Serve with some sliced cucumbers, garnish with lime wedges.
Note: Our visit to the Maldives is courtesy of wonderful people at W Retreat & Spa, Maldives. For more stories from the Maldives Monday series: