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The Grand Bahia Dining Experience

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Latoya Grindley, Gleaner Writer

Sous Chef Arnando De Leon (left) and Chef Carlos Perez Braida. - Photos by Nashauna Drummond

Having to supervise 150 staff members in the kitchen, executive chef Carlos Perez Braida and sous chef Arnando De Leon took a break to have a chat with The Gleaner's Food team on a recent visit to the hotel's Don Pablo restaurant.

Don Pablo is one of the restaurants of choice for visitors who opt to have a fabulous fine-dining experience. Being able to accommodate 128 guests, the restaurant is open daily for dinner only. And like most restaurants of that nature, reservations are required.

Standing as the man in charge robs Carlos of any leisure time. But he seems not to mind. "I get to work at 6:30 a.m. and I don't leave until about 11 at nights. So, it is either my bedroom or the kitchen, and I prefer to be in the kitchen," he said.

Carlos cooked his first meal at age 15 and had the best teacher in his father, who is also a chef.

An Argentinean by birth, he has been a chef for the past 13 years and is a specialist in different sections of the kitchen.

Being new to Jamaica, having arrived here three months ago, Carlos is in the process of changing the menu offerings at the different restaurants at the hotel. "I'm going through the various menus now, making changes, and I have started with the Italian restaurant. Most head chefs do this when they are at a new place."

Like most chefs, Carlos has a favourite cuisine to prepare. "French cuisine is my favourite and for 10 years I worked with a French chef," he said.

Sous chef

Next in hierarchy is sous chef Arnando who hails from The Philippines and, like Carlos, he enjoys preparing French dishes. "French cuisine is very creative. Presentation is very important so you always have to put in the best." It is, however, Japanese cuisine which is his favourite. "I was trained in Japan and my favourite food is Japanese. I love sushi and I am very good at preparing it."

Being in the profession since 1988, Arnando has been in Jamaica for just over a year, and has not yet experienced Jamaica as he'd like, due to time constraints.

Both chefs have had to make huge sacrifices, leaving their families behind. For Carlos, he recently returned from the Dominican Republic where he went to support his wife and to welcome their baby girl who was born two months ago. His wife lives in the Dominica Republic and is making plans to visit him shortly.

As for Arnando, he visited his family five months ago who still resides in The Philippines. He has hopes of them visiting in April, when he plans to spend quality time with them.

Following in his father's footsteps, the older of two sons wants to become a chef.

Now making Jamaica their home away from home, the two chefs have developed a taste for local food. And topping the list are patties, and ackee and saltfish.

Feast your eyes on some of the mouth-watering dishes that the Food team enjoyed at the Don Pablo restaurant during their stay at the Gran Bahia Principe hotel.

Left: Surf and Turf medallion of beef tenderloin, and lobster with pears in wine and onion comfit. Right: Duck magrit and plums comfit with fruit rolls, tomato jam and sugar-coated almonds.