Meet The Chefs
Meet the Ocean House Chefs
The culinary team at Ocean House features talented Chefs, from around the country with a shared goal of achieving excellence and perfecting their craft. Each of our chefs, with their own unique background, tells a story through food with an emphasis on local ingredients and seasonality. Click the arrows below to learn more about some of the gifted team members that make dining at Ocean House truly special.
Nicolas Bour joined the Ocean House team as Executive Chef in April 2017, bringing with him 2 1/2 decades of culinary experience, a host of professional accolades, and a steadfast commitment to maintaining – and elevating – the resort’s acclaimed cuisine and overall dining experience.
Chef Nic – as he’s known in the kitchen – returns to the East Coast following tenures as executive chef in some of San Diego’s finest kitchens: Humphreys, a resort-style hotel and concert venue with an award-winning restaurant; Mistral, at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort; and AVANT – named best restaurant of 2013 by San Diego Magazine – at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.
Other noteworthy stints include the InterContinental Miami, the famed Willard Room at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C., and the Farmhouse at Serenbe, named one of America’s finest farm-to-table restaurants by Gourmet magazine.
While Chef Nic’s list of accomplishments is long – he’s cooked for presidents, dignitaries and foreign leaders and was invited to cook at the renowned James Beard House in New York City – he considers working at Ocean House among his greatest.
Growing up in the heavily agricultural Canadian Maritimes, Chef Nic developed a passion for food and quality ingredients at a young age. His family’s bountiful vegetable farm supplemented daily meals, while summers in France – his father is a native Parisian – cultivated his love of fine ingredients.
“I was spoiled with incredible bread, good butter, stinky cheese and funky pâté,” he says. “This left an indelible mark on me.”
Chef Nic started his career training under some of the country’s most highly regarded chefs, including Michelin Star Chef Günter Seeger at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, in Atlanta. He adds: “I owe everything to the great chefs who took the time to both nurture me and beat me up.”
When he’s not crafting delicious dishes, Chef Nic enjoys spending time with his wife, Evenie, and five-year-old daughter, Mia, who is already learning to cook under her dad’s expert guidance.
Banquet Sous Chef
Ask Banquet Sous Chef Jose Pabon about food, and the first word out of his mouth is “steak.”
“When I think about opening my own restaurant someday, all I think about is steak and sandwiches,” he says. “When I find a good sandwich, it just puts a smile on my face.”
Born in Puerto Rico, Chef Jose first set foot in the United States at age 8 when his family moved to North Kingstown. He knew almost no English. But he quickly picked up the language and took a job as a dishwasher at the age of 15.
He says he never had any desire to be a chef, but after watching the rhythm of the kitchen from day to day, “I guess it kind of intrigued me.”
Prior to joining Ocean House’s culinary team as a Line Cook in April 2012, Chef Jose spent eight years at Cedars Steakhouse at Foxwoods Resort & Casino. He also worked briefly at Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse in Lincoln and more recently at David Burke’s Prime. After working as a Grill Cook and leader of Ocean House’s Bistro line, he was promoted to Bistro Sous Chef. In 2015, he switched gears again and took on the role of Banquet Sous Chef.
When asked what motivates him most, he replies:
“When someone gets a plate from me, I want them to be like, ‘Wow!’ Like I painted a picture on their plate. At the end of the day I not only strive to make our guests happy – I want to wow myself.”
PM SOUS CHEF
COAST Chef de Cuisine
Raised in Washington State, Chef Jennifer Backman grew up in the beautiful surroundings of the Pacific Northwest. Deciding to come east to follow her passion and study culinary arts, she discovered the charms of New England while studying for her degree at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. After graduation, she decided to stay in Rhode Island.
That tentative commitment has become an 18-year journey, with jobs in some of Rhode Island’s most celebrated kitchens. Most recently, Jennifer served as Executive Chef at Spicer Mansion and, prior to that, Weekapaug Inn – Ocean House’s sister resort. Before the Inn, she was promoted to Executive Sous Chef in January 2012 at Ocean House after joining the staff as Sous Chef of Seasons restaurant when it opened in 2010.
Prior to her roles with the Ocean House Management Collection, Jennifer spent five years at Castle Hill Inn in Newport; before that she had sous chef duties in the kitchen of the century-old Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington. Taken with the beauty of the coast and the wonderful sources for fresh food, she’s now content to call New England her home.
“I want to create a truly memorable encounter for our diners by preparing the freshest, most precious ingredients our area has to offer, presented in a way that they have not yet experienced,” says Jennifer. “I encourage our guests to immerse themselves in their senses, while indulging in the beauty of each moments’ preparation, course by course.”
While the location of her kitchen has changed over the years, and her responsibilities have increased, Jennifer retains her strong belief in using the freshest and finest local ingredients, creating unique, seasonally inspired menus that offer an unforgettable dining experience in Ocean House’s brand new fine-dining restaurant, COAST.
AM SOUS CHEF
Bistro Sous Chef
Chef Alex Benson acquired an interest in culinary arts at a very young age. Growing up on a dairy farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York, he developed a strong enthusiasm for the connection between food and farm, something he would take with him later in life.
After graduating from Paul Smith’s College, he moved into restaurants, although it was not until Chef Alex began working at Relais & Châteaux property, Lake Placid Lodge, that he developed an interest in fine dining. After working at three different Relais & Châteaux properties, Chef Alex landed at Ocean House as the Bistro Sous Chef in May, 2016.
At Ocean House, Chef Alex takes his love of farm-to-table dining to a new level, always expanding his knowledge of how different produce grows and pushing for an increasingly seasonal menu. One of his favorite sayings is, “healthy soil makes happy chefs.” With expert guidance from the Ocean House Food Forager, Chef Alex consistently looks for ways to take advantage of the best local flavors. Employing a “clean and simple” cooking philosophy, Chef Alex makes a point of highlighting flavors that are few but powerful, creating a well thought out dish that is both flavorful and approachable for guests.
Executive Pastry Chef
Chef Oralia Perez developed a passion for art and baking at a young age. Born in Mexico and raised in Orange County, California, she fondly recalls spending hours in the kitchen helping her grandmother prepare baked apples, quince paste and other artfully crafted treats. Therefore, it seems only natural Oralia selected a career field that combined her love of art and baking.
“Becoming a pastry chef allowed me the opportunity to create edible art,” she explains.
Oralia received her Associate of Science in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of Orange County. Prior to joining Ocean House’s talented culinary team in 2016, she worked as Executive Pastry Chef at the SLS Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she produced cakes, gelatos, ice creams and other decadent desserts for its extensive collection of restaurants.
A seasoned traveler, Oralia also worked as a pastry chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston, the Ritz Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Florida and other prominent hotel and casinos throughout Las Vegas, including Caesars Palace.
Despite her experience working in some of the most famous, bustling cities across the United States, the peaceful village of Watch Hill had one thing those other cities did not – a triple five-star Relais & Châteaux resort called Ocean House.
“I came to Westerly, Rhode Island because it’s where Ocean House is located,” she says matter-of-factly. “There is only one Ocean House, and neither Boston nor Las Vegas has it.”
While Oralia enjoys all aspects of pastry making, creating personalized dessert amenities and holiday offerings rank among her favorites.
“I’m excited and looking forward to showcasing my work to all our guests. I’m also very happy to be part of a passionate group of chefs that work together to create amazing food.”
Completed Pastry Seminars
• “Chocolatier Art” with Pastry Chef Ramon Morato
• “The Art of Airbrushing” with Stéphane Tréand, Meilleur Ouvrier de France
• “Tartes, Goûter and Entremets” with Stéphane Glacier, Meilleur Ouvrier de France
• “Innovative Techniques for Entremets and Tarts” with Olivier Bajard, World Pastry Champion and Meilleur Ouvrier de France
FOOD FORAGER & DIRECTOR OF CULINARY EDUCATION
Growing up in the small farming community of Colchester, Connecticut, Chef Paul McComiskey developed an interest in cooking at a young age. His culinary career began at 14 when he took a job as a dishwasher at a summer camp, and after showing a keen interest of food, was quickly promoted to prep cook. Early on he came to understand the importance of serving fresh, wholesome food; he recognized that food could not only feed the body but also fuel the soul. This realization kick-started the pursuit of his culinary dreams, and by the time he was 21, Chef Paul had taken every food-related opportunity that crossed his path, working in diners, pizza kitchens, casinos, fish markets, small cafes–even at a slaughterhouse.
His varied background earned him his first position as a chef, running the kitchen at the Williamantic Brewing Company and main Street Café in Connecticut. There, he developed strong ties to the community, working with local breweries and restaurants to expand a beer dinner program and starting a charitable guest chef program that benefited nearby soup kitchens, schools and community organizations.
Chef Paul’s passion for local and seasonal cuisine heightened when he joined the Altnaveigh Inn and Restaurant in Storrs, Connecticut, as the chef de cuisine. Later became a Sous Chef at Weekapaug Inn where, under the expert guidance of Chef Jennifer Backman, he learned the art of hospitality. In March 2015 he moved to Ocean House Food Forager. Paul’s unconventional culinary training and his rise from home cook to sous chef made him an obvious choice for the position. At Ocean House he is able to create relationships with local purveyors, seek out the freshest local flavors and practice and teach his own food and cooking philosophies.