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L'Esprit's Chef Jean-Claude Dufour

Often reduced to one line on a menu or review, St-Barths' Chefs are driving forces behind renewal

Around 10pm we headed to our dinner reservation at L’Espirit in La Saline at the recommendation of our WIMCO concierge. The narrow and winding roads between Flamands and La Saline felt devilishly exciting in the pitch black.

L’Espirit, in the dark, was a bit innocuous from the street parking, but once inside, a warm ambiance was cultivated with gorgeous greenery, rough cut lumber, chic white table cloths, furniture from local boutiques and the welcoming ways of our host Chef Jean-Claude Dufour.

We started with a Jeroboam of Rose and small plates of appetizers. Never one to shy away from the local specialty, I ordered the pigeon as my entrée, and let me tell you, Chef Jean-Claude makes excellent pigeon. A very animated waiter explained me that the pigeon was finished rotisserie style – crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

L’Esprit is one of the restaurants that existed prior to Hurricane Irma, but was nearly completely devastated as a result of the most powerful storm in history to pass through the Caribbean channels.

Chef Jean-Claude’s story about the re-envisioning and rebuilding of L’Esprit was one of the highlights of our trip. As the former chef from Eden Rock – previously the most exclusive property on the island that was also completely destroyed by Irma – he immediately recognized the need to provide employment to local staff after the hurricane. With the hotels and restaurants devastated and closed, waiters, concierges, and bartenders were out of work. Chef Jean-Claude’s team of labors was comprised nearly exclusively of local hospitality professionals.

The re-opening of L'Esprit represented a major milestone for him, the hospitality community, and the entire island. It's one thing to weather the storm, but it's another to put mind and muscle together to build back better, and that's exactly what he and his team did.

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