CHEFS Bonaire Review: Like A Dinner Party with Friends
Yes, I admit it. My husband and I travel for foodie experiences such as the time we decided to visit Slovenia after being captivated by a Chef’s Table episode featuring Hisa Franko. Usually, destinations like New York, Paris, or Tokyo come to mind when considering travel-worthy experiences, not necessarily the Caribbean. However, take my word for it—CHEFS Bonaire is set to reshape that perception. If you love an amazing foodie experience, make a reservation at CHEFS before securing that plane ticket to Bonaire! Let’s delve into why this cozy 20-seater restaurant is playing a pivotal role in putting Bonaire on the gastronomic map.
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Backstory of CHEFS
Han ten Winkel and Mark Tromop, lifelong friends and accomplished chefs, united their culinary expertise to bring a unique dining experience to Bonaire. With a shared vision of using the best ingredients to create exquisite dishes within an intimate setting, the Dutch duo opened CHEFS in 2019.
Chef Han’s desire to be a chef started at a young age while he spent time at a relative’s bowling center. He loved the kitchen’s vibrant atmosphere and later went to culinary school to pursue his passion. This education led to several jobs worldwide before he landed in Bonaire in 2007. After working in two successful positions on the island, the idea of CHEFS was born.
Chef Mark’s calling to be a chef also occurred at an early age. He tried several ventures in his early days from selling hamburgers to making homemade ice cream. He met Han during culinary school, and they kept in touch. At certain points, they even worked together at the same resorts on Bonaire.
This successful collaboration as colleagues and friends helped form the concept of their new restaurant.
Chefs Han and Mark also have two highly skilled Chefs, Jochem de Heer and Boaz Aalvink, who complement their team.
After 5 short years, CHEFS has already been rated #3 on the 50 Best Restaurants in the Caribbean List for 2024. I don’t think it will be long before it moves up the rank to #1.
Balinese decor at Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort
Located within the Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort (which is where we stayed!), CHEFS finds its home in a cozy boutique hotel with a distinct Balinese ambiance.
Guests are immediately drawn in by the tranquil Balinese water sculptures, well-maintained lush greenery, and vibrant tropical flowers that adorn the surroundings.
Entrance to CHEFS Bonaire
The restaurant, covered by a palapa, is discreetly nestled within the heart of the hotel, offering a charming and intimate dining experience.
U-shaped dining arrangement at CHEFS Bonaire
I love the unique U-shaped seating arrangement, which can accommodate 16 diners. In addition, there are two 2-seater tables that flank the side of the room that also offer a view of the culinary action.
Floor fans line the periphery, which help to keep the temperature comfortable and the mosquitoes away. Talk about attention to every detail!
Chef Han working his culinary magic
Chef Jochem de Heer preparing the next dish
A prominent wood table takes center stage in the middle of the space allowing the guests to watch the chefs expertly prepare their next dish. This thoughtful design creates a very intimate dining space with both the chefs and fellow diners.
In some of the fine dining experiences we have enjoyed, the restaurant gives the option to enjoy your meal in the main dining room or at the Chef’s Table.
What I enjoy about Han and Mark’s U-shaped design is EVERYONE gets a seat at the Chef’s Table, which gives their guests a feeling of inclusion.
On the evening of our booking, we found ourselves seated between a charming Dutch pair and a friendly American couple. Our delightful experience was also enhanced by the warm hospitality and culinary expertise of Chef Jochem, a remarkable chef and an equally impressive host
The conversation with the chefs (who encourage questions and interaction!) and fellow guests truly made for an exceptional dinner experience.
Surprise CHEFS Menu
Your culinary journey starts at 7 pm after a warm welcome. Here, you’re not just a customer but a cherished guest, a distinction that sets CHEFS Bonaire apart.
It’s akin to attending a dinner party with soon-to-be friends, creating an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation throughout the experience.
There’s only one seating, so the table is yours for the evening.
Prepare to be blown away not only by the food but the most genuine hospitality, ensuring your satisfaction at all times. Your glass will never be empty!
The 5-course menu is a surprise. Diners entrust their meal choices to the skilled hands of Han and Mark, who take you on a culinary journey.
In addition to the 5 courses with wine pairings, we had a delicious amuse–bouche of lobster soup and a refreshing well-balanced cocktail called an Enzoni. Warm pumpkin seed rolls also accompanied the meal paired with Neolea olive oil, made from handpicked Koroneiki olives in Greece.
The wine pairings were thoughtfully selected, which included everything from an Argentinian Pinot Noir from Uco Valley to a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles.
You can also enjoy your meal without the wine pairing or select your own wine, but I strongly suggest the expert wine pairing.
Here is our delectable 5-course surprise menu with the highest quality imported and local ingredients:
COURSE 1: THE WAHOO
Marinated wahoo with Aleppo pepper and sauce made from the smoked bones of the fish, parsley/basil oil and parsley chip
COURSE 2: THE SCALLOP
Scallops with king oysters mushroom, dashi beurre blanc, and Pata Negra ham
COURSE 3: THE PEKING DUCK
Peking duck, hoisin sauce, carrot salad, green onions, cucumber, lime, and a crumble from the skin and onion
COURSE 4: THE STEAK
U.S. premium skirt steak in a red wine sauce and oven roasted brussels sprouts
COURSE 5: VANILLA BAVAROISE
Vanilla bavaroise with red fruit, dehydrated raspberry, cookie crumble, and chocolate decoration
AFTER DINNER DRINK #1: BONCHI BONEIRU COFFEE
Bronchi Boneiru coffee
AFTER DINNER DRINK #2: ESPRESSO MARTINI
Have you ever heard of Bonchi Boneiru coffee?
It is the first (and only) coffee roastery on Bonaire.
It was started in 2020 by a business analyst who loved coffee and wanted to help build better lives for not only the coffee farmers but also local Bonairians through community projects.
CHEFS supports this vision and offers this delicious Bonchi Boneiru coffee after your meal. Make sure to order one.
You can also enjoy it in an espresso martini if you want to keep the night going.
How to Score a CHEFS Reservation
If you are going to Bonaire next month, forget it. CHEFS is booked.
Right now they are booking 4 months in advance, probably from all those repeat happy guests! The word is out.
My suggestion- book CHEFS and then book your flight to Bonaire.
The first time I went to Bonaire we were waitlisted for CHEFS.
Luckily, the second time around was successful. It probably helped that we decided to stay at the CHEFS location, the Bamboo Bonaire Boutique Resort, which was another great experience!
An extraordinary dining experience needs what I call the foodie trifecta: exceptional food, ambiance, and warm guest hospitality.
Some of our standout culinary adventures, thanks to that winning combination, include Hisa Franko in Slovenia, Sawada in Tokyo, and Three Blacksmiths in a quaint rural town in Virginia. Our visit to CHEFS Bonaire now adds to that remarkable list.
It is a dining experience worth traveling for.
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