Frenchmans Resort, Tortola
As much as I love our bi-annual sailing adventure with friends, after 11 days together on a boat, there is nothing as welcome as a gorgeous resort with large rooms, king size beds and real toilets. After sailing the British Virgin Islands this year, we headed to Frenchmans Resort on the east end of Tortola when we left the boat, and that’s the view from our villa.After so much time together, our group seems to just spread out, and that’s my husband enjoying the solitude of their lovely little swim beach facing out to the Sir Francis Drake Channel.Others of us spread out around the pool area, or under the shady trees, and just worked on stretching out and getting our land legs back while grabbing a few more days of sunny warmth. I knew there was a restaurant onsite at the resort, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a fabulous chef, Roberto Martín Brea, originally from Galicia, Spain, happily putting out creative food. I decided to interview him, and I’ll share some of his creations with you as well as that interview. The first night we dined at Frenchmans Chef Roberto was creating a Tapas menu that also included his homemade Sangria. I love when a chef finds himself far from his home, but works to recreate those beloved dishes, so we signed up for dinner.
How/where did you first learn to cook?
I used to cook with my uncles and my grandmothers when I was a child so I always knew than I loved to cook. I started to study Biologic for two years in the university, but finally one day I decided to change it for the kitchen, where I’ve been until now.
What was your first paying job as a cook?
I started working in Bilbao in a Michelin Restaurant call Zortziko after I completed my stage of two months. Then I went to Madrid and started working in restaurants there.
Who do you consider your mentor/who influenced you the most?
Toñi Vicente, a Michelin start Chef, really the first Galician Chef to earn a Michelin star, gave me the opportunity of be a head chef and after that to go on to work as a consulting chef on some projects she had around Galicia in Spain.
What other cooking jobs led to the job at Frenchmans?
I worked for 4 months in London, a few times in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant because I want to improve my English in the time I had while my restaurant was closed in the winter time. I also worked in Cuba as chef of Melia Marina Varadero for 6 months before I came to the BVIs.
How did you handle the challenges of ingredient shortages to cook in Cuba?
With a lot of imagination, passion and a lot of headaches! You need to be very friendly and know how to manage this situation for the people you are serving.
What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
Fish and seafood.
How would you describe your culinary style?
I love the Nikkei food, Japanese and Peruvian flavours, I always try to I put something like this on my menus. Also I love the clear flavours, and prefer not to use a lot of spices and mixed flavors, rather just let the quality and the flavour of the ingredient shine – you need to know what are you eating, food should not a quiz!
Do you have a memorable experience around food that you’d like to share?
Every day is a memorable experience for me when guests come to the kitchen and want to speak with me about their wonderful experiences with the food we’ve prepared.
How about a humbling moment?
I remember one wedding when one of the waiters dropped the tray with the lobster for the head table. So we took 25 minutes to make new nice plates – that day was really humbling. Finally the people got their food, late but they enjoyed it!
What is your favorite food to cook for yourself?
Fried eggs and potatoes like a good Spanish dish, also boiled fish with vegetables called caldo corto.
What should visitors to Tortola make sure to taste while they are there?
Anegada Lobster, jerk chicken, any kind of really local food. [editor’s note: check, check, and check!]