Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Hubert DesMarais: Africa Calls

November 10th, 2008 · 1 Comment

For several years, I’ve been friends with Hubert DesMarais, the former exec chef of the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Hubert is truly talented, and has the curiosity of a kid where food and earth come together. He’s known for seeking out local farmers and exotic produce from backyard growers. He planted one of the most expensive herb and exotic fruit gardens on the planet on the grounds of the Four Seasons. (That resort oceanside real estate doesn’t come cheap. A handful of lemon verbena out of it probably cost about $40 in taxes alone.)

Fairmont Chef Hubert DesMaraisBut his creativity in the kitchen brought in the big dining bucks for the hotel and won them a great deal of acclaim, so the company let him go at it.

He left Palm Beach in 2007 to go to the Fairmont Turnberry Isle, in Miami’s Aventura, and has acted as director of food and beverage operations there since then. (Yes, he started an exotic fruit garden there, too — it’s in his DNA.)

Along with cooking and gardening, he’s a bigi world traveler; from around the Caribbean to Alaska to lead salmon fishing groups, he’s been on the go. His trips to Vietnam and Thailand enriched his cooking here with some S.E. Asian foods and traditional techniques he learned there.

Just today, however, he emailed to tell me surprising news: He’s moving, with his family, to Kenya, Africa.

Nairobi to be his base

“It’s so exciting. I’ll be regional chef for the Fairmonts based in Nairobi. I’ve been working on this for two months,” he said. “I’ll be over there for Thanksgiving, and back here for Christmas; the movers come to my house Dec. 28 and we’re gone.”

Among the properties in his new food and beverage realm will be the historic Norfolk resort in Nairobi, the Mari Safari Club in Masai Mara, the Aberdale Country Club in Nyeri, and the Mount Kenya Safari Club.

He’s already scoped things out farm-wise in Kenya – in only a few days there. “They have a ton of organic farms, and I found a place where they’re raising rainbow trout, and goats — there are several dairies and cheesemakers nearby. And tea and coffee plantations all over. It’s just great.”

One of the hotels, the Mount Kenya Safari Club, sits directly on the Equator, he said. “One of the guest rooms has bathrooms that in one, the water swirls down the drain one way, and in the other one, the other way,” he said. “It’s a really different experience. It’s really wild!”

You’ll be able to follow Hubert’s adventures, starting with ostrich for Thanksgiving, here on my site, where he’s generously agreed to be one of my Guest Bloggers. I’m as curious as the rest of you, frankly, to hear of what he finds, and how his family adjusts to a new life in a new land. 

Good luck, Hubert, and keep in touch!

Tags: Food People

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 go8ago8a // Nov 11, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Chef Hubert had done a great job in Palm beach County- Hope he can stay safe and well with the help of the Fairmont folks. The anti malaria meds had some unpleasant secondary effects for me, and the unrest there is more than a tourist like me wants to handle. I wish him and his family well.

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