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Chef Charbel Hayek brings his “New American” cuisine to Aruba

By Rona Coster

Since La Vista Restaurant was repositioned, remodeled, and redecorated as Mercat, a Mediterranean restaurant at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, it has been exploring the gastronomy of the Mediterranean more closely and recently invited Chef Charbel Hayek to visit the island.

The chef, who calls his Eastern Mediterranean cooking style “New American” with French and Lebanese influences, sold out two lavishly organized events at Mercat, combined with spot-on wine pairings by Pepia Est.

Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek

In a special press conference organized in his honor, Chef Charbel shared he was a terrible student and told his father to save his money and give up his dream of a medical career for his son. Instead, he went into the kitchen and followed his mom who cooked professionally for 15 years, and through passion and dedication won Top Chef Middle East & North Africa, grabbed the attention of investors, and opened Lady Hawk restaurant in Los Angeles, and has another restaurant in the pipeline.

His advice to young people? Work for a remarkable mentor, someone you admire, even if you must work for free. The right mentor will teach you more than you can ever learn at school.

And remarkably, being born in Beirut, Lebanon was no obstacle; on the contrary, it enriched his culinary vocabulary and highlighted the healthy, satisfying quality of the Mediterranean kitchen.

We enjoyed the evening and loved meeting the young, charismatic chef!




Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek


Tuna Tartar Tartelette, Wasabi, Avocado, Radish.

Casa Rojo Moltó Negre Cava, Penedès, Spain.

The two-bite tartelette was made of light and paper-thin phyllo dough. Countless flaky, airy layers filled with tuna tartar, creamy avocado, biting wasabi. The Casa Rojo Cava was exceptional, recommended to lovers of pale pink, slightly fruity bubbly.

Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek


Braised Onion, Sumac, Herb Coulis, Chicken Jus.

Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Red Agrioto, Rhône, France.

The braised onion was a hit among guests— such a simple, common ingredient, but delivering a delicious feast. The pairing of the Cote Du Rhone, of a higher ‘Villages’ appellation, deep garnet, full bodied wine, combined perfectly with the slightly sweet onion.

Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek


Coddled Egg Yolk, Caviar, Spinach, Mushroom, Parsley, Brioche.

Orin Swift Mannequin Chardonnay, California, USA.

This was my first! I have never had a coddled egg as an appetizer before. The Royal Egg delivered a solid white and runny yolk, under a blanket of delicious sauce, with poached spinach, tiny mushrooms, and pearls of caviar — brioche toast on the side. The Orrin Swift Mannequin Chardonnay added toasty oak notes to the flavors.

Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek


Black Cod, Asparagus, Snap Pea, Brown Butter, Salmon Roe, Vin Jaune.

Château de Fesles Chenin Blanc, Anjou, Loire, France.

The most valuable of fish favored among Japanese chefs was treated gently to retain its flakiness and delicate nature. It was accompanied by crunchy snap peas in dry white wine. The Château de Fesles Chenin Blanc, matured in oak and acacia wood barrels, lent the fish complex aromas and a wood touch. 

Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek
Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek


Australian Wagyu, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Tamarind Beef Jus.

Far Niente Post & Beam Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The melt in your mouth Wagyu on a bed of creamy mashed potato was a crowd pleaser, glazed with slightly sweet tamarind undertones. The Far Niente Cabernet, a classic, expensive, exclusive, lush, and deep choice, was the perfect main course partner.

Marriott's Mercat with Chef Charbel Hayek


Filo Mille-Feuille, Vanilla, Pistachio, Straberry.

La Roncala Picolit, Friuli Colli Orientali, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.

Here again the light and paper-thin phyllo dough with countless flaky, airy layers, came with delicious, sweet fillings. We continued to enjoy the Cabernet, for dessert, though Pepia Est Sommelier recommended the fragrant dessert wine, an Italian specialty where grapes are left on the vine till October, before picked and pressed.