While Caribbean luxury resorts are not known for their local, sustainable food menus, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is setting out to change all that. The classic Little Dix Bay property, the private island resort of Jumby Bay, and the soon-to-open Rosewood at Baha Mar have each committed to sourcing as much food locally as possible—both from farmers in nearby communities and the resorts' own gardens—for use in the hotels' eclectic kitchens.
Because water is scarce, much of the land in the Caribbean is not farmable, and local economies are largely unregulated, making for difficult ongoing partnerships. The common wisdom in the tourism industry has been that most foods need to be imported in order to serve the more than 6 million guests who visit the islands each year. But staff at these three Rosewood properties have been painstakingly building relationships with local farmers to see what kinds of partnerships they can form that will be mutually beneficial.
Well known as an early pioneer in the ecotourism movement, Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda (BVI) has long grown mango and coconut on site, and has been working to develop relationships with local growers to source watermelon, squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Local fishers meet kitchen staff at the docks daily, and menus are planned around the haul.
"Our local produce is largely organic because farmers here cannot afford herbicides. That's a win-win," said Edward Linsley, managing director. He goes on to report that the most recent purveyors they've secured relationships with are delivering cilantro, arugula, basil, lemongrass, oregano—and even seaweed. But his personal favorite is what he calls "hog heaven," pigs raised just up the road. The kitchen staff concocts a variety of sauces from local chiles, tamarind, and guava as well.
Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort, is a private island retreat accessible only by boat from Antigua, offers guests a farm tour that includes the backstory on the unparalleled black pineapples and mangoes grown nearby. The affable executive chef Sylvain Hervochon spoke about the foods he's sourcing locally that hasn't been previously available. "I'm asking the farmers I know to experiment with foods I like to use in my cooking that they might be able to produce in large quantities, including Chinese eggplant, the biggest success to date," he said. He also works a great deal with conch and the wonderful, spiny anegada lobster, found throughout these parts. In addition to pig, lamb and goat are becoming increasingly desired on the hotel's menus.
The Rosewood at Baha Mar resort (Nassau, Bahamas), set to open its doors on May 7, is one of the brand's only boutique hotels, designed to offer exclusivity in a small, private setting. Luis Fernandes, managing director, who works with executive chef Cupertino Ortiz on these efforts, says that, despite the region's economic and culinary history, there is a local "culture of agriculture," and the hotel is actively participating in it. The biggest challenge is getting the volume they need to serve guests, but they've been successful in doing so with citrus, lettuces, tomatoes, micro-greens, bush teas, and the area's famous avocados. He says that, not only do the partnerships help sustain the local economy, they encourage the younger generations to take up farming and fishing.