Sunday, May 22, 2005

Island of Dreams...

Sometimes ~ Dreams Do Come True!

Although I am a frequent visitor to St. Thomas, navigating the "inner circle" of the hospitality industry can be somewhat harrowing. Especially when people know I'm in town for business and not pleasure.

In 2003 while consulting for
The Pointe Restaurant on St. Thomas, I heard about this "couple" Kirsty and Ryan. She was the magnetic personality and manager behind a pool side restaurant and he was a sous-chef for a new trendy restaurant known as Noche'.

My mission on this visit was to locate "new talent" for the Pointe Restaurant. Not such an easy task in the islands. Sifting through the culinary talent pool on such a small island is like navigating the reefs at the entrance to
Anegoda. Who's hot ~ who's not, who's available ~ who leaving the island, who has talent ~ who ~ who ~ who ~ can you trust with your business?

In doing my research at places like
Secret Harbor, the Martini Bar, Epernay, and other watering holes frequented by the "hospitality crowd", the names Kirsty and Ryan kept coming to the surface. They seemed to be the darlings of St. Thomas. I even had customers at the Pointe tell me ~ you have to meet this couple! So my mission was set ~

Like a great undercover operative I set the wheels in motion, putting out the 'word' ~ I was interested in meeting with them. I had learned early on they only came as a team. My search took several days but suddenly I was given a phone number ~ "call this number and tell them I told you to call." Those instructions were conveyed to me in the shadows of the Martini bar by a restaurant manager from
Frenchtown. The messenger completed her directions by saying; don't tell anyone else about the meeting! I was excited ~ this was getting good ~ I can almost hear the theme of I SPY playing in the background.

After a few missed calls ~ I finally connected with Ryan and arranged for a quiet 'out of the way' lunch at
Randy's Bistro.

This is how it works ~ when someone is looking to leave a restaurant position, the moves play out like a chess match, you never want to expose your next move. If the management finds an employee is looking to leave ~ they will be fired on the spot. So this clandestine approach has some merit but in the islands it can be taken to the extreme.

As you would assume ~ we met in a quiet corner booth at Randy's for a midday lunch. Immediately after introductions I understood what all the fuss was about. Kirsty had a New Zealand accent and bubbling personality and Ryan with an all American smile completed this unique team. The 'vibe' they send out is amazing. They have the ability to pull you in and appear as one ~ one in tone, one in passion while complimenting each others talent. Perhaps they can be best described as, "the darlings of the Caribbean". If
American Idol had a culinary show ~ this couple would win hands down. They are a true couple ~ a team ~ drawing from each other to create something quite magical. Add to this chemistry Kirsty's people skill and restaurant talent and Ryan's creativity as a chef and you have a very powerful force.

Although they viewed my offer to work at the Pointe Restaurant with careful consideration and professionalism I realized they needed their own space. Both Kirsty and Ryan wanted to put 'their mark' on the island ~ and so everyone's search continued. But ~ I did get to make some great new friends.

Now it's time for the happy ending. As you may have read in this blog ~ The Pointe became
Oceana. As Oceana was being created by the famous chef, Patricia LaCorte, both Kirsty and Ryan were busy creating their dream.

Fast forward to 2004 ~ Megan's Point Resort comes alive as
INDIGO Restaurant sweeps the island like an October storm. Yes, Kirsty and Ryan's dream has come true. Located pool side with a view of the surrounding hills by day and a galaxy of stars by night Indigo becomes the hottest restaurant on St. Thomas. My two visits there in April confirmed that both Kirsty and Ryan deserve all the success that is coming their way. How hot is it? Pan the dining area (or should I say pool) ~ if you're in the know you'll see Chef Patricia LaCorte of Oceana enjoying dinner on her night off, Alain' Piroux , Food and Beverage Director of the Ritz Carlton, Jen manager of Secret Harbor Resort among a bevy of foodies from around the island. Although the ambiance is wonderful ~ the crowd is there for the food.

Indigo has a great bar with restaurant seating around the pool or in a covered pool side dining area. The menu is new ~ unfortunately it was not published before my departure however one evening Kirsty and Ryan gave me a sneak peek. It's all good ~ so order whatever moves you. Ryan's creativity is showcased not only on his menu but also the daily specials ~ they are truly special. One final thing, the service ~ it can be a bit slow ~ but who is in a hurry on vacation? The reason for the slow pace is somewhat justified, Ryan needs a bigger kitchen. A work in progress so I am told. With that said please know this service staff is fantastic and deserves your patience. They all have supported this fairly tale couple, leaving some impressive jobs to help their friends. So be patient and tip BIG ~ they deserve it!

Ok ~ enough rambling about my two friends at Indigo. Simply said ~ if you find yourself on St Thomas ~ make a reservation! Mention my name ~ Kirsty will smile ~ then make you wait at the bar ~ :)

Friday, May 06, 2005

View from OCEANA  Posted by Hello

Paradise Found ~ OCEANA

Imagine the cool ocean breeze wrapping around you as you gaze at the lights of a cruise ship fading into a golden sunset. Waves softly roll on shore just a few yards from your table, the scent of the sea fills the air. Melodic tones of a piano echo the smooth sounds of ~ As Time Goes By, Casablanca fans spin overhead. A waitress arrives with a smile and delivers two Ketel One martinis, up, with three olives, (olive stuffed with blue cheese) you smile, lift your glass in a toast ~

Welcome to paradise ~ welcome to

A brief history of this unique location tells you this is a very special place. Perched on the
Pointe at Villa Olga this colorful island building was the one time home to the Russian Consul on St. Thomas. Needless to say this building is steeped in island history. After the Russians moved on this extraordinary island structure was converted into a restaurant. Initially it was home to the world famous Chart House restaurant group. After many years of success the Chart House was unfortunately battered by hurricane Maryland. After assessing the damages Maryland had caused to the island in general the Chart House decided to permanently retreat back to the mainland.

The restaurant was then taken over by a local entrepreneur and converted into the
Pointe Restaurant at Villa Olga. Featuring traditional American Cuisine the Pointe was well known for a bountiful Salad Bar and the ever famous Mud Pie dessert.

In 2003 I was fortunate to hired as a consultant for the Pointe Restaurant. After a great deal of analysis it became obvious this site needed new energy. The ownership agreed ~ and to a trumpets blare ~ enter,
Chef, Patricia LaCorte.

When a chef relocates it is always big news ~ when it happens on a small Caribbean islands it is a major headline. Patricia is one of the most famous and successful chefs in the Caribbean. Chef, LaCorte has called this paradise home for many, many years. Utilizing her local knowledge and expertise as one of the premiere chefs on the islands ~ in late 2004 Patricia created Oceana.

Chef LaCorte’s concept incorporated a beautiful island wine bar, gourmet tasting table, martini menu and award winning international cuisine and placed it all on the shores of Paradise found ~ Oceana on the waters edge at Villa Olga.

I’ll have another Ketel One martini please ~ as I look over Patricia’s award winning
menu. Ahhh the Brie, one of my favorites ~ now which of the specials do I have a taste for?

The tolling of a bell distracts me as a huge freighter glides passed our table heading out to sea ~ a full moon lights her way. Should I have the tasting or share appetizer ~ decisions ~ decisions ~ decisions ….

Just another night in

If you visit Patricia please tell her I said hello. It will be a dining experience you will not soon forget.