My trip to the British Virgin Islands was a great mix of business and pleasure. I was invited to cook at the BVI Food Fete along with two other fellow New Yorkers, Chef Kerry Heffernan of Grand Banks and Chef Christopher Faulkner of Harlem Eatery Solomon & Kuff.
Because the BVI is made up of so many small islands, getting to the islands of where we were staying at was quite the journey. But I am happy to hear that hopefully by the time of next year’s festival, there will be a direct flight to the BVI. We stayed at Peter Island Resort that is situated on its own private island, which is pretty surreal. This four star resort definitely provided first class accommodations, very spacious rooms, better than expected restaurants and of course, breathe taking views.
Our second day in the BVI was most special. We spent the day on the main island of Tortola, visiting the local trade high schools and culinary school, speaking with the students and doing cooking demos. I think for myself and all the chefs, this was the most rewarding part of the trip, giving us the opportunity to give back in a way of inspiring these students to follow their culinary passion.
The following day, some of these students got the opportunity to help Kerry, Christopher and myself in the kitchen preparing for the main event. That day they not only learned proper cooking techniques, but a small window of reality of what it takes to succeed working alongside New York City chefs. A common saying on the islands is “island time,” but the chefs and I definitely drove home the point that precision and punctuality is a must in a professional kitchen.
Working in a place with limited accessibility to what we consider common ingredients and equipment, definitely puts things into perspective of how lucky we are. As they say, the show must go on. Just like the day to day operations of a restaurant, there are obstacles that come up, but need to be addressed without affecting the customers.
In between cooking in the extremely hot kitchens, we got to meet some very amazing people. Xavier Gili, Executive Chef of Guana Island, hosted us for a truly memorable dinner of all local ingredients that were either caught or grown on the island, cooked over a fire in their orchard. I couldn’t think of a better setting to enjoy this very special meal with my new chef friends. For my next trip to the BVI, staying at Guana Island for a couple nights is on my list of things to do.
On one of my free days, I visited the island of Virgin Gorda to explore the baths. I was lucky enough to have my new friend Chef Jermaine George, AKA “Monk,” who lives on Virgin Gorda, to bring me over on the ferry, show me around the island and bring me to the baths to explore. I lucked out on a day when there was no tourist cruise ships there and basically got to explore this world wonder alone.
For the final day, the event was held on Norman Island, with a total of 13 chefs cooking – 3 New Yorkers and 10 local. It was an extremely intimate setting with only 150 guests on the beach lit by torches and moonlight. The organizers of the event did the “impossible” and actually got us a small boat to travel in the dark from Norman Island back to Peter Island. The energy on the boat was amazing after have had the week we just experienced, from the amazing food and people to the success of our event. I’m pretty sure there was a smile on all of our faces the entire boat ride home.