Occupation: Executive Chef, Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa
Restaurants: Breezes, Tamarisk, & Shutters
Training: Bermuda College Culinary Arts Programme
Chef DeShields was raised in Bermuda and is of Bermudian and Jamaican descent, and though this may sound familiar enough, his accent can leave you guessing. This is because for 13 years prior to returning to Bermuda, he spoke mainly German having worked in various parts of north and south Germany and still regularly speaking with family and friends there. He admits that as a result of time spent there, and in speaking with some of his current colleagues, at times he still finds it easier to speak his second language.
By his positive interactions with @biteofbermuda on Instagram and by the way he ‘lights up’ when discussing his worldly experiences around food, his passion around:
all exude from Chef DeShields. An invite to try his offerings one Bermudaful Sunday afternoon at the Resort's Breezes Restaurant turned into a great convo around food worldwide and his journey as a chef.
Who taught you how to cook?
My first memory of being in the kitchen actually cooking was with my Dad who was an excellent cook! My mom too, but my dad and I had the most fun cooking. He taught me his favorite things to eat and to cook.
What made you want to be a chef?
All of my siblings can cook well obviously…however a few of us made it into a career. Chester who was a baker and a damn good one, and Calvin who catered weddings and special events, OMG he made some amazing wedding cakes! They were much older than me as I was the youngest. I often helped Cal do his caterings and events when school had break and on weekends. Mega fun. He was so cool and made everything fun! It was then I believe, when I knew what I really wanted to do.
What were your first steps towards becoming a chef?
Even though I knew deep down what I really wanted to do, I toyed with the idea of graphic design (artist) and physical education teacher. The thing is I am a very good artist - painting and drawing.
When I was in high school I found that I had a real talent for basketball, loved playing it and I dreamed about being a professional basketball player, but the realist in me said the chances are slim so, do something that will also involve basketball training and playing. I decided that I wanted to be a physical education teacher.
What is your favorite thing to prepare from the Cambridge Beaches' menus?
It’s kind of hard to choose just one thing to call my favorite, because the menus in Tamarisk restaurant change daily. However, I really love working with fish, the local variety makes it really fun to come up with new ideas and put a twist on old classics.
What is your favorite thing to prepare at home?
I spend so little time eating or cooking at home except when I’m working on some new ideas secretly. At home I make mostly a sort of tuna bolognaise or turkey bolognaise lol. I also really like amber fish and snapper. From these, I make an old Jamaican favorite (brown stew fish). Most times I make enough food to last a few days, that way I save time in the morning because of my former lifestyle of body shaping (not body building), the difference is sometimes hard to recognize and the eating habits are similar. So, let’s say that I don’t have a normal standard breakfast.
If someone was thinking about becoming a chef, what advice would you give them?
One of the best advices I can give any aspiring chefs is to keep a strong, focused mind. Don’t stress so much on the compensation for the time being because it can be disappointing, the pay vs the hours put in. The first few years will be the most challenging so be mentally ready to work hard and learn fast. Once you get past that first stage and can hold your own, while continually getting better and faster the compensation will get better when you get there! And that will depend totally on you. It’s the most fun in a job you will ever have and you can let your mind go free. Expand your senses all five of them, now how cool is that.
I would tell them what I have myself experienced, and that is I have seen so many parts of the world and not just vacation. I’ve lived in the countries and met hundreds of different people. I now fluently speak a different language (German), and if I choose to, I can pick up and leave at the drop of a dime and have a solid very high paying job anywhere in the world I choose to go. Of course, giving my employer ample time to find a replacement.
If you could travel to any country in the world based solely on the food, where would you go?
This is an interesting question, because I’ve done that already. So I’ll answer the question this way. There are still a few more countries that I would like to go to learn firsthand how to make the local dishes and not in a classroom, from a book or the worldwide web. I'd want to get my hands on the raw things and be shown step by step, as well as being told the history of what I’m making and how it came about.
The short answer is most all the countries in South East Asia. The reason is that a lot of the South East Asian dishes have a lot in common with the Caribbean dishes. I think by learning the history of some of these dishes I can have an even better grasp on what I already know.
What do you think about Bermuda's food scene?
I have been back in Bermuda for 5 years April gone, and in this time I’ve watched the Bermuda food scene gain momentum and has caught up to some of the places known for good food. I’ve seen the rise of the foodies (LOVE IT!!) guys like you, you bring awareness to the people on island who want to have a good food-wine and all around restaurant experience. I have seen restaurants and chefs having fun, once again cooking interesting foods and having good ideas. This seems to be inspiring other chefs on island to do the same.
Where do you enjoy dining out in Bermuda?
My absolute favorite is Wahoo’s - maybe it's a good thing I work and live at the other end of the island because I would be there way too often.
My other favorite is Waterlot Inn. Two very different styles and concepts but both are very consistent.
However, Wahoo's has an edge, 'for me'. The owner is born Austrian, that has lived here for a long time - super guy! He has given back to Bermuda and is still giving back. If you have been there and I know that you have because of your postings, I know you have noticed the absolutely awesome service by a dominantly Bermudian wait staff! Man they are good!! I can sit there and watch them do their thing. One young man stands out in particular, he has so much style and charisma. He has a way with his guests and full menu knowledge. You can imagine how much I value that in a waiter.
What inspires you in the kitchen?
I get inspired by a number of things, it can be a staff member that wants to learn a new dish, or conversations of a time past where I came in contact with new ways of cooking. Another insertion is knowing that I have real food lovers in the house, the buzz I get from that knowledge tingles my brain to come up with something that will make them never forget being in this restaurant.
The menu is driven by both my creativity and available resources. My biggest inspiration I must say is fresh quality products. Often local farmers will call offering fresh crops from that a special for the day emerges. When ideas are coming to me, I will contact the farmers looking for key ingredients.
It’s a shame to not do your best work when you have really good fresh high quality product.
How has working in Europe and the Islands influenced as a chef?
I had the opportunity to work with some amazing chefs in Germany. It was eye-opening learning about perfection and how to treat fresh ingredients. The pinnacle of my experience was working with a French/German chef working in a Michelin 2 star/Gault Millau 19.5 points restaurant (In us food lovers' terms - a near perfect restaurant). Doing 50 covers in such a restaurant is no easy task. They have to be 50 perfect covers – pulling out rulers to measure. The plate is treated as a canvas, art strokes, carefully plated.
At the end of the day I'm a better chef for it. You have a whole new respect for your kitchen. In Bermuda, the porter will do all the kitchen cleaning. In Germany, the kitchen-staff take care of the kitchen. The porter does the pots and pans, dishes. But the kitchen care is yours. Taking the vents down and cleaning them, scrubbing the floors, counter top. You have a kitchen that is 20 years old still looking brand new. But that’s just the culture of Germany.
German influence has made me a lot stricter about running a kitchen. Initially, I got some push back at certain intervals but, honestly, there’s no compromise.
What inspires you about Bermudian cuisine?
Some of the inspirational things about Bermudian cuisine, well it’s that connection between Bermuda and some of the countries that have very similar dishes. The pride that Bermudians have about our cuisine and that some of it has become international. When guests ask me to do local dishes, it really is a pleasure to accommodate them.
What is your favourite Bermudian dish?
My favorite Bermudian dish I must say is properly done Shark hash!! It’s a very specific taste and texture and when paired traditionally with sweet potato or pumpkin, the Bermudian word used is “its vell bye “
While he's been back home for the last five years working at Cambridge Beaches, Chef DeShields has been focusing on consistently improving the experience for his guests. He has recently released a new concept called ‘Atlantic Rim Cuisine’ at Tamarisk, and has started to show the world (and to tease us) with these new creations in his social media posts.
After meeting with him in person, it’s safe to say we are fans of Chef DeShields - both on and offline. His passion and creativity, plus the food and service from the team at Breezes Restaurant, and the promise of something special at Tamarisk (which we are yet to experience – stay tuned) has us wanting to make monthly visits to Cambridge.