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.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

29 Responses

  1. 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!

  2. Cheryl says:

    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

  3. Doreen says:

    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

  4. Michelle says:

    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

  5. 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

  6. 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. 🙂
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  7. A.K.Andrew says:

    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

  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. 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

  10. 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 @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…The Beautiful Place: Bonita LugarMy Profile

  11. 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!
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  12. Patti says:

    “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

    • Doreen says:

      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

  13. 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.

    • Doreen says:

      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

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

  15. 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

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