Hidden, far far away on the beautiful, idyllic, and exotic island of Curacao lies one of the greatest chocolatier and pastry chefs to ever exist.
Ok, some of that is an exaggeration. Curacao isn’t all that far away, but it is in the Caribbean. Wouter Tjeertes isn’t hidden, but he really is a sugar genius.
In honor of this sugar-loving month, we decided to take a moment to introduce everyone to Wouter and his mouth-watering creations. His official title is Executive Pastry Chef, the position he holds at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, a luxury resort on Curacao.
Wouter is a mere 37 years old, originally from a small town in the Netherlands called Wormer, just north of Amsterdam. According to Wouter, the region he’s from is the largest cocoa harbor in the world, and as a result, he grew up smelling chocolate as he rode his bicycle home. Talk about idyllic! He now resides on Curacao and is happily married with two sons. We asked him quite a few questions to get to know who he is, what he does, and what he has in store for the future.
Interview with Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Chocologist, Wouter Tjeertes
Q: How did you get started? Your cuisine/chef/pastry journey!?
A: I began my pastry chef journey from the tender age of six, while on a school excursion where we visited a bakery, and as they say, the rest is history! Working as a certified Pastry Chef for over 17 years, I’ve held several senior positions in restaurants, pastry shops and resorts in Europe as well as in the Caribbean. Eventually, I found my way to Santa Barbara Resort, when they came calling in October 2015.
Q: What do you love most (or a few things) about Curacao?
A: On my off day I love to spend time with the family on the beach, snorkeling, building sand castles and taking in some sun. The marine life here is fantastic, and passing on that hobby to my sons is a lot of fun.
Q: What has been your favorite desert project?
A: In 2016, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort hosted the Benchmark Leadership Conference. As a special surprise, I created a massive chocolate mosaic with 11,000 hand-painted chocolate tiles. Each attendee received a tile to take home – to eat or keep as a memento. It was certainly one of my largest and most time-intensive projects, but it was very popular, and I will be recreating it for an upcoming event in New York.
Q: In your opinion, what is the future of chocolate?
A: Hopefully chocolate production will move towards a fairer, organic, and direct trade way, which will allow smaller growers and producers to offer their (usually far more superior flavored) product to the international market. It is time that consumers wake up and smell the real cocoa! Regarding chocolate creations – i.e. cakes, bonbons, decorations, etc. – I see a huge leap forward in the public interest. I think the time of the television chef has cleared a path for pastry and chocolate to shine. Something else worth noting are the current Russian pastry artists who are creating spectacular desserts, and I find their design-style to be refreshing.
Q: What are your favorite chocolate combinations?
A: I love to go to the edge and find the unexpected jewels in combinations. Imagine dark chocolate with chipotle and smoked sea salt, blue cheese with almond and white chocolate, or caramelized bacon with chocolate to name a few. I’m always trying out new things; I end up taking bites of savory and sweet at the same time just to see what happens. This is one of my favorite parts! Grinding fresh herbs and spices together with cocoa beans to create a naturally flavored chocolate, is also high on my list. One great success I created was fresh lemongrass ground through (my handmade) chocolate, which I later paired with Champagne – unexpected but fantastic! In my combinations, I’ll always keep a keen eye on the basic flavors and refrain from unnatural additives. Handmade, natural and full of flavor are most important aspects to me.
Q: Will you be giving any special Valentine’s Day chocolates or treats to your wife?
A: Believe it or not, my wife is one of the few who isn’t crazy for chocolate. This gives me peace of mind knowing she married me for me and not my chocolate! This year I have a picnic on the beach planned on one of the island’s most romantic spots including bubbles and away from our kids…
Q: Are there any unique ways Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Curacao?
A: Curacao does celebrate in a modest way; chocolate has been gaining ground for this special day over the last years. Most important thing to do is make sure you serve your love the chocolates before they melt under the Caribbean sun, or go for something else such as chocolate fondue.
Q: What exciting chocolate/pastry projects are on the horizon for you at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort?
A: We are currently developing an on-property chocolate shop in order to serve our guests the best chocolate creations. We want them to relax and have some sweet fun! Workshops, wedding cakes, and tastings will all be available. Sharing my passion with others will be key!
If you’re interested in following his journey, you can see his work on his Instagram profile @woutertjeertes.chocologist, or you can visit his online gallery here. For an even more personal taste of his creations, book your stay at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort!
Click the image below to learn about our Romance Packages that includes one of Wouter’s chocolate workshops!