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Barbados stamps its mark on Caribbean food

Saturday, November 25, 2017
The Barbados Food and Rum Festival kicked off with the Oistins Bay Gardens Cookoff where locals and tourists sampled fresh seafood.

The Barbados Food and Rum Festival which culminated in Barbados last weekend has gone some way to cementing the country’s image as “the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean”.

Barbados might not have the diverse culinary influences of its neighbour Trinidad but it can point to a cadre of chefs and mixologists who are pushing the envelope in the culinary world. In June, the Bajans won Taste of the Caribbean, a prestigious annual competition hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association in Miami. It was the chefs from this victorious team who were the headline stars at the 2017 Food and Rum Festival.

The event is now in its eighth year and according to Barbados Tourism and Marketing Inc (BTMI) chairman Alvin Jemmott, the Food and Rum Festival which took place from November 16 to 19, is “creating a fusion between our visitors and locals.”

Jemmott told the T&T Guardian that the promotion of the country’s chefs has been vital to the Festival’s success.

“Another thing that has happened with the evolution of the Festival is the elevation of our chefs,” he said. “What I have been encouraging is the use of local ingredients in our culinary events.

“It’s not just the local chefs who are using the produce but the foreign chefs as well,” he said. “It helps the farmers, it gives them the avenue to get their products out there and helps to create the commerce in the agricultural sector.”

One event that showcased the award-winning chefs and mixologists was Taste of the Exotic: A Signature Rum Event, held at the Concorde Experience, a stone’s throw from Grantley Adams International airport. For this event, the chefs worked closely with mixologists to produce complementary items. It was a celebration of Bajan flavours, as the dishes were created using mainly local produce and spirits.

Among the popular dishes on the night were Damian Leach’s Lionfish and Tuna Poke which was paired with Philip Antoine’s Bajan Mango fusion, a drink with Cockspur rum as its base. Craig Greenidge’s Deep Fried Cornmeal and Herb Crusted Pigtails was paired with Shane McClean’s Spice Passion Rum Sour made using Doorly’s Rum and John Taylor’s Velvet Falernum.

Over the weekend, tourists and locals had several opportunities to taste fantastic food, kicking off with the Oistins Bay Gardens Cookoff on the Thursday, the Polo Rum Spirits event, and signature dinners hosted by international chefs Chris de La Rosa from Toronto via T&T, Tom Aikens from the UK and French master Jean Georges.

The Barbados Food and Rum Festival should be considered a “must do event” for serious foodies. In fact, food has become such a big draw in Barbados, the BTMI has said that 2018 will be the “Year of Culinary Experiences”, beginning in January with the start of the Rum and Sugar Season.

“Every day from January until March, something is going to be happening with sugar and rum. It’s part of our history, our culture and our heritage. We used to be a sugar economy and it’s part of what we are as a people,” said BTMI chairman Jemmott. The aim of the BTMI is to host events every month leading up to the Food and Rum Festival in November which will develop the awareness of the culinary industry.


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• For information about the Barbados Food and Rum Festival and other events in Barbados, check out the website




Barbados goes for the South American market


Barbados is making a renewed thrust into the Latin American market, with the establishment of a direct flight route from the region in early 2018. In the last ten years there have been several attempts to establish a route from Brazil via Gol Airlines from Sao Paulo and Avianca from Colombia.

“We are working very hard and we are close to securing a direct flight out of Latin America,” said Corey Garrett, director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the BTMI.

Garrett told the T&T Guardian there is a great deal of interest in Barbados, both from a commercial and visitor perspective. “Historically, the Latin Americans have travelled to Punta Cana, and Cancun but those destinations have become somewhat repetitive but there is still this longing to have a tropical destination that can supply their needs and quality of lifestyle and that destination is Barbados.

“At every single level, whatever they’re looking for we can provide it in some form or fashion. And then realising how close this exotic island destination is to Latin America has sparked their interest in Barbados. Also, they’re attracted to the multi-cultural and multi-faceted product that Barbados has to offer.”

Garrett also believes there are niches which Barbados can fill for the clients with exquisite tastes from Latin America.

“When they understand that they can come to the Caribbean and enjoy the luxury and the lifestyle in this tropical setting, it changes the playing field.

“I was in Argentina a few weeks ago and polo is a big sport. There are thousands of polo fields. And while Barbados has about six or seven active polo fields, it’s somewhere can you go to in a tropical destination and experience polo. We are a unique niche market in that regard,” he said.

Although Barbados is growing its outreach around the world, with a new office in Brussels to target potential visitors from France and Germany, they still consider the wider Caribbean as a very important market.

“The Caribbean makes up 20 per cent of our visitor arrivals and Trinidad is a significant proportion of that Caribbean business. We love the Trinidadian business, not only for the events like Cropover and the sports events but Trinis love to come for long weekends and such,” said BTMI CEO William Griffith. “So you will continue to see us marketing in Trinidad. Trinidadians still have the propensity to spend, it’s a short trip and I think that we offer something they enjoy for a great getaway.”


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