When Serge Gouloumès was a young chef, he would occasionally come for dinner at Belmond La Samanna. He couldn’t have imagined then that he would later come to call this slice of heaven home. Yet after many years back in Europe—and having been awarded a Michelin star for his work at Le Mas Candille—Serge returned to St Martin as Belmond La Samanna’s executive chef.

A TWIST OF FATE brought Serge Gouloumès to Belmond La Samanna. In 2015 he met general manager, Michael Schoonewagen, at an event in France. Schoonewagen had a simple question, “why not come and join me in paradise?” Serge jumped at the chance to be Trellis’ executive chef. The rest is history.

He explains: “Having the opportunity to come to Belmond La Samanna is very special. Baie Longue is a mile long; you can walk, you can run. It’s unbelievable, our little piece of paradise.” Yet settling into island life wasn’t always easy. “You have to change everything,” Serge reveals, “because you need to create dishes that are more Caribbean, and play the game with the team you have.”

Shaking off the structure that exists within kitchens in France, he embraced the island’s mentality as well as its culinary traditions. While his creations retain a distinctly French feel—deliveries arrive from Rungis twice a week—the cuisine at Belmond La Samanna is punctuated with flavors of the Caribbean. “We need to use the ingredients that are here,” explains Serge. “Because people come and want to have, if not the real Creole touch, then a refined version.”

Indeed, imparting pleasure to his patrons is what truly inspires Serge. Whether that means bringing live lobsters fresh from the sea to your table for inspection, or crafting innovative one-off menus, Serge is more than happy to comply. If guests are staying for long enough, he’ll order produce specially from Paris or America.

Recently, two vegetarian guests called, explaining that they would like to try the hotel’s cuisine. Rather than feeling burdened, Serge relished the chance to create. He prepared a unique four-course dinner, including a beetroot dish finished with orange juice and island spice, and a lentil broth with coconut, coriander and mint. These avant-garde inventions are a key part of Serge’s method. His strong creative impulses ensure Belmond La Samanna’s gastronomy remains forward thinking and unique.

When Serge talks about the new menu at Trellis, he bubbles with excitement. This remarkable chef approaches cooking with passion and exuberance: at no point do you sense that he considers his life’s calling to be work. He glows when discussing his new creations, and his impassioned descriptions are enough to make the mouth water. There’s a playful cucumber mojito with shrimps poached in ginger broth. A duck foie gras cake that’s “smooth as ice cream” with granny smith foam.A tartar of red tuna with basil sorbet that “bursts with flavor and freshness.”

Serge loses none of his zeal when discussing other restaurants around the island. He has high praise for L’Anse Marcel Beach and Le Temps de Cerises, but maintains a special adoration for the island’s Lolos. “At Grand Case, they’re just amazing,” he explains. “You go and you eat some okra, or some Creole sausage: very spicy but so wonderful. You can choose your lobster for them to grill—with the band playing Creole music, it’s perfect.”

This island is blessed with fine gastronomy, but once you’ve tried Serge’s food, you’ll only have eyes for Belmond La Samanna. Leaving is always tinged with sadness; softened only by the fact this generous chef just keeps on giving. “We offer spice mixes, with some recipes, just to remind guests of Belmond La Samanna when they get home. And of course, what we call la sauce de chien. You just put it on fish and it brings it alive.”

Few chefs can bring cooking to life as vividly as Serge. It’s a rare gift, and a true treat for each and every mouth that he feeds.

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