Celebrated Trinidadian chef Richardson Skinner asserts firmly that the Caribbean can do much more to promote its cuisine to attract interest and travel to the region.
"In the past, visitors came to the Caribbean for sand, sun and sea ... and the food was just simmering on the back burner," reflects Richardson Skinner, the executive chef at Ti Bananne Caribbean Bistro and Bar, located at the award-winning Coco Palm hotel in Rodney Bay Village in St. Lucia.
Now, however, the chef, with over 20 years' experience in Trinidad, Martinique and St. Lucia, points out that travelers go out of their way for fresh culinary experiences, particularly for meals with a savor of the Caribbean.
"As crazy as it sounds, it's actually what's driving business right now," Skinner affirms. "Look at TripAdvisor, and see what visitors say in their reviews. More often than not, they're talking about what they ate on their vacation. Food matters."
The former auto mechanic, who is now a leading authority on Caribbean cuisine, tips his toque to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), lauding them for launching Caribbean305, the region's newest culinary and cultural celebration taking place at Miami's Jungle Island on Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 8 p.m.
"This is huge," Skinner says, explaining that efforts to spotlight Caribbean culinary excellence need reinforcing. "This event showcases what I have always believed - that Caribbean cuisine can step up to the plate against any other in the world."
"People have high respect for Caribbean cooking," he says, recalling the inevitable flurry of questions about the region, its culture and its culinary arts whenever he hosts cooking demonstrations at events in New York and Toronto.
Skinner believes food can set the region apart from its global rivals: "Caribbean cuisine is right up there with the classic cuisine of the French or the Italians - right there, ripe and ready to be plucked."