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Letter from the Caribbean

It’s high tide and the water is warm, the food smells delicious and the ti’punch has my head spinning just so. It’s a lazy Thursday afternoon: I’m ready to slip into somewhere very comfortable… and I hear Le Petibonum fits perfectly.

Let me tell you how I wound up at this fabulous gem, part beach bar, part oh-so-good French restaurant. Martinique has been overhauling its image, marrying its classic ambience with a je ne sais quoi youthful spirit. Having covered most of Martinique’s lush tropical lands and the exciting new developments in the capital, Fort de France, I went out in search of what sounded like a fabled place. I’d heard very intriguing stories about the proprietor of this beachside bistro and I needed to find out for myself. Was the restaurant and its chef/owner a myth? Were these tall tales about a scantily clad restaurateur? I had questions!

A little off the main road, down a bumpy stretch of land, lay more than I had anticipated. I wound up on a dark-sand beach, with an erection of red canvases shielding guests from the sun, wooden barrels as side tables and a view of the Caribbean Sea. I’d asked for beachfront, toes-in-the-sand and I got exactly that… and saw the stories come to life. Owned and operated by Guy Ferdinand, also known as Chef Hot Pants! Yep, he wears his chef’s coat and hot pants… that is all. His shock of wavy grey and black hair, brilliant smile and hospitable demeanor can’t distract you from the fact that he is wearing only the shortest shorts and a chef’s coat: They simply add to the flair!

The stories were true. He presented nouvelle cuisine that he had whipped up for the day’s menu. Always creating new dishes and delivering them with a combination of French and Caribbean flourish. He asks me to tell him what was in the dish. I try to detect the ingredients, my eyes closed and mouth full, and manage to nail a few off the tip of my tongue, but the complexity of his dishes leave room for him to expound upon his process. My fish had been sous vide – vacuum-sealed with herbs and spices then poached to perfection. Ooh la la.

What really took my eyes upward – and they may or may not have given a light flutter – was the fresh new dish he presented next. A mason jar filled with delectable goodness, too complex for me to dissect and describe. I believe it was heaven warmed over! You name it, Guy can prepare it… but the trick is to be at his mercy.  I opened my mind, eyes were ever so slightly squinting so as to not appear rude as I stared at nothing but his banging shorts.  I mean, they’re right at eye-level when you’re seated and he starts to excitedly describe what he’s about to bring to the table…it’s, right, there – but I digress.

Take a day and head over to Le Petibonum; it’s on the beach on the island’s west coast called Carbet. Swim, eat, drink ti’ punch (the local rum “cocktail…” you’ll have it everywhere you stop and it’s potent). Some say drink it warm, others with an ice cube, some say watch out, others slam it back… try it and you decide. It’s potent! I bid you adieu as it’s time for me to get up from the table because the music is calling me to dance.

And that never changes on Martinique.




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