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The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas

  • One Ocean Drive, Paradise Island, Bahamas
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Angel Betancourt

Executive Pastry Chef
“Cook without ingredients, cook in your mind.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • At The Ocean Club since 2007, with Four Seasons since 2017
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Current

Employment History

  • One&Only Ocean Club Paradise Island, Bahamas; Club Med, Cancun, Club Med San Salvador; Malabar Restaurant, Caracas, Venezuela; Lola Restaurant, Caracas, Venezuela; Bubo Barcelona, Spain; Epicure Catering Gatineau, Canada; Taverna Viega Restaurant, Coruña, Spain; Peche Restaurant, Montreal, Canada; Signature Restaurant, Ottawa, Canada

Birthplace

  • Caracas, Venezuela

Education

  • Grande Diplome, Patisserie et Cousine, Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Ottawa, Canada

Languages Spoken

  • Spanish, English, some French

“They have all the stress, and we have all the fun,” says Angel Betancourt, with a sly laugh, of the difference between the main kitchen and the pastry operation he oversees at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort in the Bahamas. As Executive Pastry Chef of the beachfront hideaway for more than a decade, Betancourt puts that playful spirit into eye-catching desserts and encourages his team to do the same.

“We work really well together,” he says of the cooks and night bakers who share in creating sweet treats and house-made baked goods for three restaurants, as well as for in-room dining, amenities, and banqueting. “They’re all Bahamian, and most of them have been through the culinary program at the local university. There is a lot of inspiration on this beautiful island for everybody.”

There is also plenty for everyone to do. At Dune, the Resort’s signature dining experience, Betancourt and his team fashion desserts in keeping with standards set by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who opened the restaurant in 2001. But they have freedom to tweak, as well, as Betancourt did adding a new presentation to a frozen cheesecake that was introduced on the dessert menu over a summer season. “The presentation made it more modern. They liked it, and we decided to keep it that way.”

Such freedom is fairly unusual for a celebrity chef-run restaurant like Dune, he adds. “They didn’t just give it to me all at once. I gained it over time.” How so? “They saw my passion shining through.”

Betancourt brings that same passion to the Resort’s poolside restaurant Ocean, where regionally-inspired desserts such as the "Coconut in its Shell" naturally follows the sense of place, as well to Versailles Terrace, where a changeover to a Mediterranean concept opened opportunity for him to put his own spins on classics desserts such as tahini flan and sweet samosas.

Just as he draws inspiration from nature, the beach, and the views in the Bahamas, so Betancourt endeavours to use as many local products as possible in the pastry kitchen. Being on an island, there are challenges to that. But anytime there’s a menu change, he looks for new ingredients and often finds standouts right nearby. The passion fruit he gets locally from Holey Farm, for instance, “is better than anything we would be able to import.”   

Growing up as the child of two doctors in Caracas, Venezuela, Betancourt was often encouraged to think about a future in medicine. “But my parents weren’t pushy about it,” he remembers. “I was always, always, always in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother, so it was pretty clear where I was going to end up.”

It was also pretty clear that Betancourt would be drawn to pastry. “Like everybody in my family, I always looked forward to the last course.” In culinary school, he started in the savoury kitchen just to increase his culinary knowledge, but it really wasn’t his thing. So he turned focus to the pastry kitchen, studying first at the Ottawa campus of Le Cordon Bleu Paris, and then honing his craft over the years with big-name mentors such as chocolatier Laurent Pagès, Nobu Matsuhisa, Sara Tibbitts, and Chef Vongerichten.

Betancourt further garnered international acclaim attending L’École Valrhona in France on behalf of the United States, as well as representing the Bahamian Culinary Team in the competitive Taste of the Caribbean Competition, where he brought home silver medals for Caribbean National Team of the Year and Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year in 2017.

In 2018, Betancourt and his team finished in the top five at Four Seasons Top America, a publicly judged competition between the talent at Four Seasons properties across the Americas. “We did a pineapple upside down cake in an egg shell,” he remembers, gleefully. And if that weren’t enough, he was also invited as a Master Pastry Chef to participate in the third Four Seasons PopDown event as part of Art Basel in Miami, and selected to participate in the Celebrity Chef Tour at Walt Disney World in Orlando with the James Beard Foundation.

Along with soccer and water sports, Betancourt enjoys traveling in his downtime to teach pastry master classes and participate in international culinary competitions, making contacts and sharing ideas along the way.

More than anything, though, he remains enthralled by his craft, with no limits in sight. “I just love the precision of pastry. It’s almost like chemistry,” he says. “When I’m developing something new, I like to add a lot of different elements. If they’re balanced and precise, it opens a world of possibilities.”