a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IV

Every once in awhile I have the opportunity to meet a chef who is really doing something special, and that happened on my recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. In this post I talked about how much we loved staying at the beautiful Fairmont Orchid resort on the Kohala Coast. This man was partially responsible for the deliciously chocolate focus of our visit.

Hubert Des Marais

“Freedom is king,” says Chef Hubert Des Marais IV of his global career

Born in Virginia, and growing up in North Carolina, Des Marais developed an early interest in fine cuisine. He worked in Mexico and studied how to make the perfect molé (savoury chocolate sauce.) He oversaw a group of properties in East Africa and got deeply interested in the world of cocoa there, and when the opportunity arose to relocate to Hawaii, he embraced it. “I really enjoy the flavours of the Banana Belt,” says Des Marais. “Wherever they grow cocoa, there’s always good coffee and tropical fruit.”

So Des Marais made the commitment to work with what was grown locally, and find the best of what Hawaii had to offer. “My biggest challenge here has been our remoteness. It makes it very expensive to import products. When I came here two years ago, the resort was only using 30% local produce. We’re now up to 80%. The Aquaculture Center provides us with our fish, and local farmers and growers provide the rest. The only thing we can’t get locally is chicken, as there is no USDA slaughterhouse for poultry on the Island of Hawaii.”

One of the local specialities who will find featured at the Fairmont Orchid is fish crusted with cocoa nibs. “Hebi (shortbill spearfish) and other stronger fish such as monchong and striped marlin (also called nairagi) pair very well with cocoa,” says Des Marais. “We either coat the fish in cocoa-flavoured sea salt or keep it coarse with crunchy nibs.” Des Marais has 50 cocoa trees of his own growing in his orchards, and is continually experimenting in combining local flavours. “Acidic fruits such as passionfruit go really well in a salsa with pieces of chocolate or cocoa nibs,” he says.  “And I like to blend flavours of coffee and chocolate with meats such as lamb.”

chocolate cocoa pod

The chocolate cocoa pod above shows why the Fairmont Orchid is the perfect place for chocolate connoisseurs! Des Marais and his culinary team–which includes seven sous chefs (one of which is a dedicated pastry chef and chocolatier) and 78 cooks continually stretch the boundaries of their creativity to keep the culinary offerings exotic, enticing, and satisfying. Here’s hoping I’ll have the opportunity to return again soon for more of their cocoa cuisine.

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29 Comments

  1. I would never have thought of pairing fish with cocoa. I’d like a chance to taste some of Chef Des Marais’ creations.
    Donna Janke recently posted..Chocolatour Book Tour: Exploring the Many Flavours of ChocolateMy Profile

    • Hi Donna: You’d be surprised how well cocoa accentuates the flavour of so many foods! I definitely hope to have more recipes in volume II of Chocolatour where readers will be able to see the possibilities of using cocoa nibs and chocolate to enhance other quality ingredients.
      Doreen recently posted..a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IVMy Profile

  2. I, too was born in Virginia and then moved to NC! Maybe that is how a love of chocolate is instilled. Fun piece!

  3. Well, I’m totally surprised by fish crusted with cocoa nibs — I wouldn’t have thought of it myself, but why not? Love the interview and learning about Chef Des Marais. How exciting to be at the forefront of the wonderful fresh, local and chocolate food scene in Hawaii.

    • Hi Cathy, and welcome to the blog.

      You’ll notice Chef Des Marais mentions that he pairs strong tasting fish with cocoa. I do think it would overpower lighter tasting fish like walleye/pickerel.

      And yes, I really enjoyed my chocolate research trip to Hawaii. Next up will be Mexico! I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. Just waiting for one to heat up!
      Doreen recently posted..a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IVMy Profile

  4. “The only thing we can’t get locally is chicken, as there is no USDA slaughterhouse for poultry on the Island of Hawaii.”

    Well that’s an interesting factoid. We lived on Oahu for just over a year and I had no idea. Although I guess it’s not something the average Haole would know. ;)
    Patti recently posted..The Lens of All Our Experiences ~My Profile

    • Hi Patti and thans for your comment.

      Chef Des Marais did say that there is no chicken slaughterhouse on the island of Hawaii, not in the Hawaiian islands. So there may very well be a poultry processing plant on Oahu. But I really respect the fact that he and his team are really taking the “eat local” philosophy seriously, even though they are a large resort. If everybody did that, just think how the impact on the environment would be lowered!
      Doreen recently posted..a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IVMy Profile

  5. Chocolate covered fish — that’s a new one for me. I can’t get my head around that one, I have to admit. You are the expert and obviously liked it but I think I’ll pass on that recipe if it ever gets to the mainland!
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted..9 Blog Commenting Services — their Pros and ConsMy Profile

    • Hi Jeannette: bear in mind that it’s not chocolate-covered fish. It’s fish fillets encrusted in cocoa nibs (finely crushed cocoa beans which aren’t sweet at all) or lightly coated in a sea salt infused with finely crushed cocoa nibs — which would be salty and savoury combined. If you ever get the chance to try roasted cocoa beans or cocoa nibs, DO! they will surprise you as they are not sweet at all. Instead, they are exotic and intense.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..join Chocolatour on a virtual book tourMy Profile

  6. One of the best things about traveling (or even going to new restaurants) is trying new combinations of foods served in unique ways. The fish paired with chocolate has me intrigued…
    Anita recently posted..The Beautiful Place: Bonita LugarMy Profile

  7. I’m always impressed at how well-traveled so many chefs are~
    Another way to see the world besides being a travel writer:-)
    Irene S. Levine recently posted..Discover America Culinary Guide: Free downloadMy Profile

  8. There is nothing like a truly inspiring chef. Their passion reflects in their food and can bring such joy to their diners. :-)
    Susan Cooper recently posted..Asking For Help, When You Need It: #StoryMy Profile

  9. Now a good mole sauce is a great find indeed. That chocolate pod is really incredible though. It looks huge. Another good story Doreen . Thankyou.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted..How Can you Convert Failure into a Learning Experience?My Profile

    • Hi AK: Yes, I’m really looking forward to researching the history of the mole sauce in MX in the next few months. Should be very tasty research!

      The chocolate cocoa pos is not all that large, but it certainly was tasty!
      Doreen recently posted..Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan HarrisMy Profile

  10. I’m fascinated by the idea of chocolate with fish. I can see with relative ease the idea of chocolate, coffee and lamb. Those flavours seem to call to each other, but chocolate and fish strike me as the kind of things that would battle for supremacy, particularly strong fish. I am very curious indeed. Perhaps if the recipe become popular the other Fairmont hotels may try it or better yet, a trip to Hawaii might be necessary. :)
    Debra Yearwood recently posted..Today we celebrateMy Profile

  11. That sounds like a really large kitchen operation he’s managing. It must be tough to keep quality control—or maybe that’s why so many chefs have reputations as tyrants.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..“You went where?” – A Visit to Luang Prabang, LaosMy Profile

    • It does indeed appear to be quite a large operation, Suzanne. I think when we’re focusing on an operation such as the Fairmont Orchid, consistency of quality is of the utmost, so a healthy and capable staff component is critical.
      Doreen recently posted..a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IVMy Profile

  12. My brother is a chef in Vermont so I know how hard they work and how passionate most are about their work :) It’s true that “Wherever they grow cocoa, there’s always good coffee and tropical fruit.” I’ve been told the Big Island has some of if not the best soil in the world. I do know the fruit is incredible and I rarely eat much at home in Florida.
    Michelle recently posted..My Alaska Cruise Ports of Call – Juneau, Skagway and KetchikanMy Profile

  13. Hi Michelle: Yes, that volcanic soil really produces some wonderful things — on the island of Hawaii and in other places such as Santorini (I remember the great wines, olives, and other culinary treats we’d had there that were grown on volcanic soil.)

    Thanks for dropping by the blog.
    Doreen recently posted..Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan HarrisMy Profile

  14. This just goes to show that everything tastes better with chocolate! Who would have thought about seafood and chocolate together? Yum!
    Cheryl recently posted..Apps for the Independence Day HolidayMy Profile

  15. It used to be that red wine and fish were an unusual combination, although they can make a great pairing. I would love to try the fish dish with the cocoa crust, and I know my husband would, too, as he is a huge chocololic!

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