I love tuna. Cooked or raw, in all its forms, I love it. That is why I was especially happy to be going to The Stone Grill Restaurant, Vanuatu, to interview its owner, Eric Chatelain, while enjoying a lovely fresh piece of tuna cooked on the hot volcanic stone.
Eric landed in Vanuatu back in January 2014, after ten years living in New Caledonia where he successfully managed many restaurants before opening three of his own.
He visited Vanuatu on holidays several times while living in New Caledonia. He loved the country and the people and decided to sell up and give Vanuatu a go.
Since his arrival a little over two years ago, Eric has been in the fast lane: He opened and started the Stone Grill Restaurant, re-launched the War Horse Saloon with Troy Neel Jones, and with several different partners, opened another four businesses; Lava Lounge, Burger Station, YumYuz, and Ilot Bijoux.
The Stone Grill restaurant was inspired by the concept behind one of Eric’s restaurants back in New Caledonia.
Originally from France, Eric left the motherland in his early twenties for a life of travelling and adventure. From 1990 till setting in New Caledonia in 2003, he lived and travelled through the Caribbean and Central America, USA, Asia and Europe, spending four years in Miami.
Eric has worked in restaurants for over twenty years. During that time, he has worn every hat in the business; from washing dishes to cook, waiter, front of house, manager and finally, owner.
He has rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, being invited to Versace parties and hanging out in Miami’s most exclusive bars, frequented by Madonna and the likes, during his time in Miami.
But Eric says the best times were whilst travelling on a shoe string. ‘The best times of my life have been backpacking around the world. I never had much money, and have always ‘worked to travel’, alternating and combining both!’
The most beautiful place he has ever been to is a little island off south Thailand. ‘It was many years ago. It took me and my girlfriend three days by boat to get to this very remote island. From the island, we could see a tiny atoll in the distance and we asked a local fisherman to take us there. He dropped us off in the morning, on the most beautiful one-palm deserted tiny island you could imagine. It was the most romantic and perfect time ever, until we realized – what if the fisherman did not come back? We started to get a bit nervous by three o’clock in the afternoon. By four o’clock he was still not there. Finally, around five o’clock, we saw the little boat in the distance coming to get us. We were safe!’
In Vanuatu, his favorite place is Havannah Harbor. ‘Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to go there as often as I would like to!’
Eric is a bit of a workaholic but when he is not working, he likes to spend his time doing absolutely nothing. ‘I love hanging out at home relaxing, listening to music, reading, watching a good movie and doing very little else!’