Heading up the culinary team is Chef Cupertino Ortiz who was appointed as Executive Chef at the Jalousie Plantation in November 2008 and continues with us at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort.
Chef Ortiz brings a wealth of experience to his position having enjoyed a distinguished career in the kitchens of some of the best resorts in Mexico including the highly acclaimed, five-star One & Only Palmilla resort, Los Cabos, Rosewood's five-diamond Las Ventanas al Paraiso, also in Los Cabos, where he quickly ascended through the ranks from Line Cook to Executive Sous Chef in his five years at the property, and most recently as Executive Chef at The Tides Riviera Maya.
A native of Acapulco, Chef Ortiz began his culinary career at age 16, working at the French-Mexican Gro restaurant in his hometown. But even before that time, he knew cooking was his calling.
“A lot of people call me a blessed man as I knew from a very young age I wanted to be a cook. I was always interested in the food my mother was preparing, the aromas and the ingredients,” said Chef Ortiz, who continues to use and adapt many of the recipes he learned as a child in his mother’s kitchen.
With training stints in San Francisco and Australia, and positions alongside some of the most talented French, American, Moroccan and Mexican chefs in the world, Chef Ortiz’s culinary foundation is nothing short of eclectic.
“I have been very fortunate to learn a number of different cooking styles and techniques and to learn about different ingredients and now I am able to use this knowledge to create dishes in a way that is uniquely my own,” the Chef said. While Chef Ortiz describes his style as predominantly Mediterranean, with a touch of Mexican flare, he is passionate about using the freshest local ingredients and incorporating traditional St Lucian flavours and techniques in the dishes he prepares at the Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort.
He takes regular trips to the local market and has established relationships with a number of farmers who provide the resort with organic greens, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and vegetables, as well as organic pork and chicken.
Fishermen deliver a variety of whole fish to the hotel dock which Chef Ortiz then prepares and fillets himself. He has planted his own herb garden and tried the fare of numerous local cooks from Conch stew at Fish Friday in Anse la Raye and Looshan dhals sold in the Soufriere market, to Caribbean pepperpot and blackened chicken served in village homes to get a feel for authentic Caribbean cuisine.
“These days, people are looking foods that are healthy and simple. When I cook fish, I want the fish to be the main ingredient on the plate and for the flavours to be clean. I don’t like to use cream or butter, but prefer herbs, oils and vinegars that don’t mask the character of the food,” said the Chef. “It’s more difficult to cook simply than to disguise food with a heavy sauce or cream, and this is where keeping the ingredients fresh, local and organic is very important.”
And when it comes to the menus at all of Sugar Beach’s restaurants, Chef Ortiz says they should be treated more as a guide than a hard and fast list of options.
“Accommodating our guests is extremely important and of my main philosophies. I am here to make the guests happy. I want people to feel free to ask for what they really like and we will do our very best to fulfill their requests,” the Chef said. “This is especially important when we are talking about our resident guests. We always want them to feel there is something fresh and new on the menu each time they dine, and if it’s not there, we want them to be comfortable enough to ask.”
Chef Ortiz decries the general belief that travelers to the Caribbean need to lower their expectations when it comes to cuisine. With the combination of fresh flavours and quality ingredients, Sugar Beach’s Executive Chef says there is no reason why his kitchen team can’t produce fare to rival the best restaurants and resorts in Europe and the US.
“I am 100 per cent sure we can create something wonderful here. We can really raise the bar for cuisine across the Caribbean and help to change that mentality by creating dishes that are sophisticated, beautiful and most importantly, delicious.”