For years it latched onto an international brand name, then Barbados brought things home with a totally local flavor, and now the island feels ready to compete worldwide as a culinary and drink connoisseur destination.
When the island’s Tourism Marketing department held the 2017 media launch of ‘Barbados Food and Rum Festival’ a few days back, the thrust of the celebration was that the overwhelming majority of chefs and bar mixologists will be Bajan, therefore offering a true home touch to the eating and drinking of exotic foods and rums in November.
The satisfaction comes from the fact that between the year 2010 and 2015, Barbados hosted this fete under the world renowned ‘Food & Wine’ publication franchise, and had placed the term ‘Rum’ at the end of that label for the festival.
But Barbados felt enough confidence in the local food and the rum — a drink which the island invented — to shed the international image and break out on its own in 2016 an indigenous food and rum festival.’
Speaking last week at the 2017 festival launch that runs from Nov. 16 to 19, Tourism Minister Richard Sealy recalled how the change came about, “I thought it was important that when we were celebrating our 50th year that we should make the shift, the quantum leap and allow our local talent to do the heavy lifting for the festival.
“It is a classic example of how you can see a festival coming of age. We were importing the talent in the main before but we have effectively seen the crossover. We have gone over the Rubicon, we’re seeing the locals are taking up the challenge.”
Sealy’s swank was in no small way encouraged by the recent showing of Barbadian chefs who walked away with top honors in the 2017 Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition at the Hyatt Regency in Miami in June, further establishing their international ranking.
Individual honours at the Miami event went to Ryan Adamson as Caribbean Bartender of the Year; and Damian Leach for top seafood chef.
Some of the champions from that team who make up the local headliner local chefs for the November 2017 festival are, Michael Harrison, Michael Hinds, Henderson Butcher, Craig Greenidge, John Hazard, Damian Leach, and Willis Griffith.
They will be joined by only three international cooks from Barbados’ tourism source markets to retain the worldly touch.
Ryan Adamson will be among the mixologists along with the 2012 Caribbean champion Jamaal Bowen.
“We pair great food and fine rum with the diversity of the island for a savory medley that includes polo, fish fries and even a sunset beach party it doesn’t get more Bajan than this,” said Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. Chief Executive, William Griffith.
This flagship event of eating and drinking of Barbadian flavors begins at the popular Oistins Fish Market and spreads across the island throughout the four days to beaches, hotels and even a Polo match under themes such as ‘Taste of the Exotic: A Signature Rum Event,’ ‘Gourmet Safari’ and ‘Feet in the Sand.’