With a move to Sub-Saharan Africa, Chef Curtis Smithen continues his Exotic Culinary Journey around the World with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
NEVIS, WEST INDIESExecutive Curtis Smithen [/caption]Chef Curtis Smithen may have changed his global positioning at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, but no matter where he goes around the globe, he never loses sight of his “Nevisian” spirit. It is this signature spirit that has put Nevis on the map as a destination known for its warm and friendly people that take pride in the genuine hospitality of the island.
Chef Smithen’s story began at home on his native soil in Nevis. Though he has been exposed to a range of international cuisine and remarkable talent, he never lost touch with the food of his youth. In fact, during Smithen’s five-year turn as Executive Chef at the former Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma in the Bahamas, his signature dish was steamed grouper with peppers, tomatoes and baked macaroni and cheese. “That’s Nevisian cuisine right there,” he says. “Sunday is the traditional family day in the Caribbean, and nothing goes with the comforts of home like mac-and-cheese.”
Like many culinary superstars, Chef Curtis enjoyed a modest start in the early nineties when he worked his way up the kitchen ranks at a small inn in Nevis. His observations skills as a dishwasher took him straight to the line as a cook before joining the pre-opening team of the original Four Seasons Resort Nevis. More than two decades later, his career adventures have included stints at Four Seasons hotels in Nevis (where he returned for the Resort’s 2010 re-opening), in the Bahamas, Toronto, Chicago and Boston.
From Nevis, his next stop is the Four Seasons in Tanzania, Africa, located in one of the world’s finest safari regions amidst the natural reserves of the country’s renowned UNESCO landmark: Serengeti National Park.
German-born Andreas Donnerbauer, currently Executive Chef at Four Seasons Resort Nevis, has also done two stints in Nevis, first joining the Resort in as Executive Sous Chef years ago and then returning as Executive Chef in 2010.
“There’s something about this place that just gets in your soul,” he says. “Creativity and inspiration seem to show up everywhere from the serene waters to the lush landscapes and tropical wildlife.”
As for losing Curtis as his number two chef in command, Chef Andreas realizes that it is a big gain for Four Seasons. “Curtis just keeps getting better and better with every layer of exposure,” he admits. “It’s just the way Four Seasons rolls. Opportunities serve for those who want to take their profession to the next level. One of the fun, unexpected perks is the exciting new personal adventures that seem to come with the job package.”
Caribbean-born Andrew Humphries, Regional Vice President and General Manager, Four Seasons Resort Nevis, says that Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is a global community that brings together top talent from diverse corners of the world. “We know that Curtis will fly the Nevis flag proudly and share our special Caribbean culture with travelers in Tanzania and beyond,” he says. “We are proud of his achievements and to have been part of his path to excellence, but it is his commitment, hard work and new ideas that has paved his own success.”
Now, what does this veteran chef from Nevis wish to bring to the table in Tanzania? “The key for success in the kitchen is setting an energetic tone from the start,” says Curtis. “It’s a new beginning for all of us on the pre-opening team at the Safari Lodge and we want to welcome guests with a ‘Wow!’” Chef Smithen is also excited about reuniting with former Four Seasons Bahamas colleague Jim Kostecky, now General Manager of the new Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Taninzia.
On a personal note, when he’s not heating it up in a kitchen, Chef Curtis loves dancing to Calypso, Soca and all kinds of rhythmic music as a great way to “let off steam,” which he notes is another important key to a chef’s success. “You have to balance what’s on the plate,” and that rule he claims at work and in life.
As for the future, Chef Smithen expects nothing less than retirement on his native land of Nevis. But since idle hands are not his forte, he is holding on to his dream of opening a culinary school on the island. “I’d like to see more opportunities than civil service for those growing up here.” he says. “I want to teach, but also inspire Nevisian youth to embrace their passion and experience opportunities to travel the world with the comfort of knowing that Nevis will always be home.” He adds: “Home sweet home, that is.”