I’ve decided to start my first blog post with a little Q+A. I’ve chosen Damien Rinaldi-Dovio who is the chef/owner of La Villa Mahana in Bora Bora. Damien & I have know each other a long time now and I feel like we have similar stories. We both fell in love with Tahiti and ultimately both fell in love with Tahitians and started our families here. We also have a similar work ethic.
Q. What first brought you to Bora Bora? I came as a sous chef for the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort.
Q. How long have you been here? 12 years
Q. How did La Villa Mahana come about? I was looking for a place to be on my own and found this cute little artist house.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your background and where you learned to cook? I started in Lyon at the Institute Paul Bocuse for 2 years of culinary school. I trained at Le Martinez hotel in Cannes and Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris. I then did my military service for 1 year at L’élysée for President Jacques Chirac and the ministary of education for Mr Claude Allegre, then 1 year at Ledoyen (3 stars Michelin ) in Paris , 1year at The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey as a sous chef and 2 years at L’Orangerie Relais & Châteaux , 1 year Executive Chef at Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and I created La Villa Mahana in April 2004.
Q. You grew up on the island of Corsica and your training in cooking is very French. Has the local cuisine, influenced your cooking? Yes of course . We cook with the best we can find, where we are, and here it is Polynesia.
Q. How else has life in Bora Bora influenced you? The beauty of the nature and the nice people.
Q. Are you growing your own vegetables, working with local farmers or do you have to import a lot of things? We import some but local suppliers are getting better in delivery, so it will be 90% in a few months — I hope.
Q. Are there any particular challenges you face in being able to provide such extraordinary food night after night? Yes the one challenge is to be at the end of the world in the middle of the ocean.
Q. You are the only restaurant in French Polynesia to have been reviewed in the New York Times. How did that come about? I didn’t know about it! Very happy to know it from you!
Q. It is obvious you are passionate about what you do and I happen to know you work very hard. What do you do to re-charge your batteries? I spend time with my wife and daughter.
Damien & his lovely wife Vaihere