You would be hard pressed to find a couple in the culinary industry with the singular success of Benoit (Chef of La Famieke) and his wife Maryse.

The dynamic duo have opened some of the most iconic establishments in Marbella, including La Tricicleta (a gorgeous two-floored restaurant in a beautiful old house in the Old Town) and Zozoï (also in the Old Town).

The intricate iron lamps, cobblestoned streets and whitewashed homes somehow seem fitting for the style of cuisine that Benoit whips up – international, made with top produce and, always, incredibly personal. There is a reason why every restaurant Benoit has manned has become a regular jaunt for true Marbella foodies – and the secret ingredient is passion.

If many chefs have an introverted, quiet air to them, Benoit is quite the opposite. Open, chatty and curious, he states: “You can’t really go wrong with quality produce, can you,” with characteristic Belgian honesty, downplaying his indubitable talent at blending flavours from all over the world.

Benoit was just 14 when he decided to dedicate his life to cooking. “It was at that point in school when the teachers either recommend that you pursue further study, or a trade. In my school there was a culinary department, so I thought, ‘Why not sign up?'” Soon, the non-fussed teen discovered that he had a talent for cooking and, after honing his craft in Brussels, he headed to Ibiza to work at a restaurant, which just happened to belong to Maryse’s family.

The couple fell in love and the rest is history – suffice it to say that Maryse’s wonderful way with people blends beautifully with Benoit’s talent for cuisine.

When I ask Benoit how the couple always manage to build a regular client base so quickly, he answers, “I think it helps to be curious about what is going on around you. In order to keep your regular clients happy, you have to offer something different and keep up-to-date with new developments on the world culinary scene.”

This is something the Chef finds easy to do, since he and Maryse are fervent world travellers who have been to many hidden corners of the globe. “Last year we went to Zanzibar, Ethiopia and Tanzania,” he smiles, and one very much gets the sense that their travels are marked by where their heart takes them.

Seasonality and freshness are very much the qualities that sum up Benoit’s ethos. There are daily specials, depending on the most attractive produce found at the market. French/Belgian techniques are married to Asian herbs and spices (think lemongrass, chilli or cilantro) and fantastic Mediterranean ingredients as well, including staples such as chorizo, top grade meat and Iberian ham. On the evening of my visit, the special is a crispy duck salad, with a sweet/spicy dressing bearing citrus fruits.

Another special is the tuna steak served with Provencal-style seasonal vegetables and dressed with basil pesto. Benoit clearly thinks quickly on his feet, for he has been gifted with an imagination that instantly helps him identify the type of herbs and spices that best complement the fresh produce he has sourced on any given day.

In addition to being uncharacteristically interested in people, Benoit is also an unabashed lover of life. Far from being an ultra-sacrificial type of Chef who claims to be cooking from dusk to dawn, Benoit works every evening, yet enjoys the most the day has to offer. A keen horse rider and sailor, he believes that the best vantage point from which to view life, is the sea, looking in on the land, the people, and contemplating his place in the vast scheme of things.

He also loves driving classic Vespas, which somehow seem so fitting to his fun approach to life. Wherever he goes, we have a suspicion he will be cruising by, never rushing through life, gently negotiating the winding coastal streets that won his heart so many years ago.

Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography Kevin Horn and courtesy of La Famieke

C/ de la Cruz 5, Marbella.
Tel: 952 775 412.
Facebook: La Famieke