By Ron James
So far, I’ve gushed about all of the great dining Spanish and Portuguese establishments reviewed in this feature. And no wonder – these are the best of the best we experienced in the land of delicious and innovative dining. This brings me to Le Moi and hospitality artists Jeff Bormes and Sylvia Kogler, who take dining entertainment into the stratosphere.
Our three-hour evening at Jeff and Sylvia’s home in the hills above Mijas brought new, unexpected delights, one dish after another. Their combination of showmanship and service, creativity and comfort, ambiance and artistry, cooking mastery and even music, made this evening an unmatched joy.
Jeff describes his creations as “Coolinary Food Design, exploring new horizons of the Cross-Over Fusion-Cuisine. I do not cook what I can — I create what I feel.” He found his vision after working a decade around the world, from South Africa to the Caribbean. “The travel and jobs helped me develop a different artistic concept in combining various cuisines,” he says.
In 2011 the chef and wife Sylvia opened their restaurant Casa Gecko in Marbella, Spain, to put his gastronomic vision to work. Sylvia acted as GM and handled the front of the house while Jeff made magic in the kitchen. The next year they found the “perfect” location that provided more creative freedom and moved Casa Gecko to nearby Mijas 2012.
The restaurant was a hit with food lovers from around the world – earning five stars on Trip Advisor – a challenging standard to attain – and earning a coveted certificate of excellence. The chef was inducted into the exclusive Society European Culinaria, and in 2016 in Prague, and received a Golden Spoon award. With Sylvia by his side, he has become a celebrity chef featured on television and in magazines. He also travels the world, showcasing his distinctive style and showmanship at special culinary events.
When the daily grind of running a full-time restaurant became too much, the couple reluctantly decided to close Casa Gecko. They now have the freedom to explore new opportunities while raising a young family. A Coolinary Event
Sylvia had messaged us with detailed directions to their home in the hills above Mijas. I chose to rely on Google Maps instead, but our digital assistant soon had us going in circles. We pulled up her instructions, and, thankfully, we were soon in front of a gate and greeted by their son, who escorted us to the house.
As we exited the car, we didn’t know what to expect – we were at someone’s home, not a restaurant, and that made us a bit nervous. Met by Sylvia, we instantly felt at ease as she ushered us to a patio table set for two and swiftly producing two glasses of excellent Spanish Cava and a delightful savory cream puff appetizer. As we toasted our fortune in finding this place, a man dressed in black chef’s gear appeared at our table, also wearing a great smile that would light up his face again and again as the night progressed.
Jeff Bormes looks like a rock star with slicked back black hair, a salt and pepper mustache and goatee, and some very artistic tattoos. He exuded confidence, genuine warmth, and as the night progressed, an almost boyish delight as he presented his tasty whimsical creations.
Sylvia was the evening maitre d, orchestrating the room design and lighting, entertaining us between courses and keeping wine glasses full of lovely vintages perfectly matched to the dishes. She was a pro, and yet came across as an old friend sharing her home and dinner table with us.
This dining experience was not the stuffy evening finicky gourmands endure in Michelin-starred temples. No, this was let-your-hair-down dining where you relish the deliciously unexpected with smiles of satisfaction. The closest we had been to this kind of dining was at Citronelle in Washington, DC, with the late-great French-born chef Michel Richard. Like our Le Moi chef, Richard brought flair and imagination to his kitchen seasoned with whimsy and humor. He had the same mischievous smile – the same Coolinary grin – as Jeff.
After we polished off the bubbly, Sylvia led us into a large room aglow with dozens of flickering candles. We shared the room that night with a couple from Switzerland celebrating their engagement. The young man said he had dined here three times before with his father, who was a regular when he visited his condo in Marbella. He said both he and his fiancee favored Le Moi over the area’s many starred destinations when stepping out for exceptional occasion dining.
From our table, we had a clear view of the kitchen filled with all matter of cookware and containers holding the making of the chef’s exotic dishes. In front of four handmade plates, like an artist in front of a blank canvas, Jeff used sauces, foams, bits of this and that ingredient until he was satisfied with his gastronomic painting. Then Sylvia swept them away to present at the tables.
The rest of the evening was a blur of color, sounds, and tastes, as we checked off each of the dozen courses on the special menu headlined “Welcome to My World.” In this culinary universe, there are dishes like “Cones are Made for Fun,” “Guacamole Iberico Scenery,” “Asian Carpaccio of Wagyu,” “The Med Fusion – Portugal-Spain-France.” “Galicia Tribute,” and the very playful “Taste n’ Art.”
At dinner’s end, Jeff and Sylvia took off their chef and hostess hats to join us at our table, where we chatted like old friends about travel and life experiences over a delicious bottle of wine. Jeff popped himself a beer and looked as satisfied as we were after our incredible Coolinary journey.