Organic Food at Cap Maison

Organic Food in Saint Lucia-How are we doing?

Let’s look at how Organic Food and/or Local Produce in Saint Lucia is doing in the eyes of a local chef. It is challenging to live on a small island in the Caribbean and create menus for restaurants that wish to present themselves as a fine-dining venue and at the same time use all local produce. Chefs in top restaurants only want the finest ingredients. As a result, in Saint Lucia, we have imported a great deal of produce from the United States and the UK in the past. In today’s world, however, hotels and restaurants find themselves under pressure from customers to show that they are proactively reducing their carbon footprint. To do that, they have to try to reduce imports, amongst other things.

It has been possible to get fresh provisions from Covent Garden or fish from Cornwall in our shrinking world. Now that planes are flying again, it is tempting to order truffle oil or Wasabi from overseas. In a fine dining establishment where menu items are often expensive, costs are not always the priority. The customer was often happy to exchange the excess for prestige.

I don’t believe many of us think like that anymore.

I am sure we’d all agree that the pandemic has made us much more aware of the impact of climate change and the hotel and tourism industry is no exception to be galvanised into positive action. 

Speaking for the world of travel, the premium agent consortium “Virtuoso” ran a survey last year that revealed 85% of luxury travelers would, in the future, prefer to book those hotels and destinations that demonstrated a responsible approach to tourism and hospitality.

Sustainable tourism is the new watchword.

 

Picture of Carrot tops emerging from earth

Achieving Objectives

In my book, the key to achieving objectives of both offering fine cuisine and reducing imported ingredients lies in two areas.

For the first, can I offer up an analogy?…Photography.

In pre-digital times when a camera had to be loaded with 35mm film and that film subsequently developed, it took a lot of skill to produce standard magazine images and creative photography. Today and for some time now, the digital world changed that. Digital cameras and now smartphones can take stunning pictures, and whilst I concede that great photography also needs the added skill of the photographer’s ‘eye’, let’s be honest, almost anyone can set up shop as a photographer.

 I understand of course that there are highly professional and brilliant digital photographers producing fantastic work. My point is that when only film was available, it was difficult to jump on the bandwagon without real skill.

To me, that resonates with the world of cooking. Give an average chef the finest produce from the worlds best markets, and that chef will most likely produce a ‘gourmet’ dish. But, give that same chef more humble ingredients and then see what can be delivered. A great chef can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. We are lucky in Saint Lucia to have many notable chefs, who can produce international dishes utilising local produce as far as they can, in addition to producing delicious, local Creole food.

Cap Maison is also proud to have a great chef. In fact, this guy was awarded the Caribbean Chef of the Year, pre-COVID. Craig Jones, aka the dreadlocked Welshman, has lived and worked on Saint Lucia for many years, and the island is now very much his home.

 

The “Dreadlocked” Welshman on Organic Food in Saint Lucia

I talked to Craig about organic produce and where we are with it on the island right now. Naturally, he is speaking for himself and Cap Maison.

“Cap Maison’s walled herb garden is full of the best island herbs, which I use throughout the menus at The Cliff at Cap, The Naked Fisherman & Suite Service. I have Shadow Bennie, Basil, Thyme, Lemon Grass, Mint, Tarragon, French Parsley, Spring Onions and Rosemary. Also, we have a Cinnamon spice tree and Scotch Bonnet pepper bush!

We make a fantastic local dressing called “Sui Kaye” using local Peppers, Tomatoes, Garlic, Spring Onions, Limes, Shadow Bennie & Coconut oil. All these ingredients are diced and mixed together. The dressing goes so well with any grilled meats and salads – perfect balance of tangy heat.

Our Kitchen purchases as many locally grown organic foods as possible. I know a couple of imaginative farmers who look after the hotel very well. Working with them closely, is crucial as that way we succeed in developing a variety of foods exclusive to Cap Maison. Baby carrots, fennel, mixed salad leaves, citrus fruits, heirloom tomatoes and mushrooms.

the future of organic food production

“The variety of Organic produce gets better year on year as the local farmers better understand the importance of these organically grown foods and the demand that the hotels and restaurants have for specific ingredients.

Fish and seafood that we cook at Cap Maison have to be the freshest on the island, as it is caught only 5 minutes away in the fishing village of Gros Islet. I have had a great relationship for over 12 years with a passionate fisherman who knows precisely how I like the fish kept. As it comes out of the sea, he puts it directly on crushed ice facing the way it would naturally swim (a chefs dream).

He also keeps my lobsters in pots near the shore to receive them fresh daily for the restaurants.”

(Note to Chef – The amateurs amongst us really need to understand why the fish needs to be facing the way it usually swims!)

 

Lobster Fishing in St Lucia

Making a difference

In the Hotel and Restaurant industry, making a difference to the environment depends on the desire of the hotelier and /or restaurateur, with support from local government. Making a list of all the foods and products that could be sourced locally is an excellent place to start. There will always be stuff that has to be imported, but we can still reduce the impact. Buying as a cooperative with other businesses can consolidate shipping costs for instance. Timing orders for non-perishables may mean shipping by sea rather than by air.

Wines are a particular area of interest. We don’t have vineyards in Saint Lucia. Even if we tried to grow them, the tropical climate doesn’t work well for the vine. Again consolidating shipping is a good plan, but also researching organically produced wine from the countries of origin can reduce the overall footprint.

The opinions in this article are the author’s

Caribbean-Fruit-and-Vegetables

 

 

Author Michael Bryant, independent marketer and writer, living in Saint Lucia.