Chef’s Corner with Matthew Ona of VUE
Harbour Island is a quaint and unique island off the coast of Eleuthera, Bahamas. Just under a 2 hour flight from Miami, or Fort Lauderdale, be prepared to be surrounded by some of the friendliest people on earth, feel completely pampered and relaxed. journeyPod enjoyed our stayed at the Romora Bay Club, known for its relaxed old-world Caribbean style and laid back attitude.
At the resort we tasted fresh conch, lobster & crab all expertly crafted by their Executive Chef, Matthew Ona at their signature restaurant VUE! Our favorite dish was the Duo of Braised Beef – Cabernet Sauvignon Braised Beef with Grilled Asparagus Seared with Roasted Garlic-Potato Puree.
Ona brings joie de vivre to the retrofitting of this increasingly popular island destination. Chef Ona graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York with a degree in culinary arts, which is augmented by his certification in baking and pastry at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America — Greystone in lush Napa Valley, California. He was awarded a Chef de Cuisine and continues to impress visitors to Romora Bay with food featuring a fusion of fresh island produce and classic mainland fare.
journeyPod had a chance to chat with this local celebrity chef…
Tell us about the cuisine at VUE:
The cuisine at VUE draws upon the best of two worlds. It is heavily inspired by my time in Napa Valley, yet complemented by the use of the best local ingredients, highlighting the natural resources of The Bahamas.
How has traveling influenced your flavors and recipes?
It has been my good fortune to work in great locations, which has allowed my menu to evolve. I have enjoyed combining the best fare from previous environments to highlight a well thought-out menu here in The Bahamas.
What was your experience at French Laundry like?
Amazing! The pace was intense but the results were enormously rewarding. My work in the pastry department exposed me to the newest, most innovative techniques in the field. I still draw from my experiences there when making decisions regarding VUE.
On your night off, where do you like to head for a bite or glass of wine on Harbour Island?
My favorite local snack is the aptly named “Scorched Conch,” found only at a small family enterprise, the Queen Conch, on Bay Street. I originally started out with the tame and classic “Conch Salad” but after tasting a “Scorched” (as we say on the island) it became my new favorite. I have not mustered up the courage to sample a dish called the “Old Fashioned” which is so hot it must be measured in degrees Fahrenheit.
What are 3 things you can’t cook without?
I use Flue de Sel, (French for “Flower of Salt”) which is harvested from the sea, to add unique texture and flavor to certain dishes. A sprig of Fresh English Thyme is the perfect seasoning to perk up various meat dishes. Finally, when a recipe calls for butter, only Plugrá European Style Butter will do.
If you were on Iron Chef – what would you hope would be the key themed ingredient for the cooking battle?
I’d go with yellowfin tuna. This is a very common fish, and a versatile commodity in the kitchen. It works as sushi, but can be fried, grilled, and morphed into a nearly endless number of scrumptious delights.
What is the strangest request you’ve ever received from a guest?
Following a sumptuous multicourse chef’s tasting event, my presence was requested by a very appreciative table of patrons. When I asked one man how he enjoyed the meal, looked straight at me, and seriously asked if he could do the six course meal again.
Who do you admire in the culinary world?
Marco Pierre White, featured on the British reality show, Hell’s Kitchen. His creative flare changed the way professional chefs approach international cuisine. Alas, he has retired from the kitchen to pursue a career as a restaurateur.
Would you kindly share a signature recipe with us?
It’s definitely not on the VUE menu, or even featured at Sunsets Bar And Grille, but this is a sentimental favorite. When I was a student at the Culinary Institute of America, I lived in a small apartment in upstate New York. I could only fit one pot on the stove at a time, so necessity drove me to this simple concoction, which has changed only slightly from its humble beginning. This one-pot-wonder is called “Chicken Pasta”, and proved to be both delicious and easy on a student’s budget. Enjoy and best wishes.
Chardonnay Braised Chicken With Rigatoni
Serves: 6 People
Chicken Breast, medium dice 2 ½ pounds / 1.140 kilos
Olive Oil 2 TBSP / 30ml
Salt And Pepper
Shallots, minced 8 each
Garlic, microplane 4 cloves
Chardonnay 3 cups /350 ml
Chicken Stock 1 quart / 2 liters (Swanson’s Chicken Stock)
Rutherford Sachet 1 each (see appendix)
Lemon, juice 1 each
Rigatoni, DeCecco Pasta 1 pound
Basil, brunoise 2 bunches
Grana Padano 3 ounces
Season the chicken and sear in olive oil in a medium pot. Add shallots and cook for two minutes, then add garlic and deglaze with chardonnay.
Add sachet, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add lemon juice. Turn down to a slow simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add pasta and place lid on the pot for 5 minutes. Do not forget to stir every so often as to keep the pasta from the sticking to the bottom. On medium to high heat continue to cook until pasta is cooked. To finish, place microplained cheese into pasta. To finish add diced basil and season.
This is it. The one pot wonder. Something that back when I lived in New York and all I had was one pot I came up with this recipe. Much different from what it originally was this has evolved into what you now see. As I mentioned in the introduction this takes practice to perfect. Knowing when to add the lemon juice is key, as well to this successful cooking of the pasta to turn out a perfect dish. This is my signature and I hope that with practice you’ll be able to master it quicker than I did.