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Fine Dining Grenadian style: A Culinary Symphony — African Foodways in The Spice Isle

Double Grenadian Chocolate Tart, Banana Ice Cream with Nutmeg Crumble & Ginger Caramel Sauce, a Passionfruit Opera Cake with Mango Caviar, and Coconut Crumble

Grenada is currently experiencing a cultural revival, particularly in its culinary traditions, focusing on farm-to-table practices, sustainable farming, and the promotion of local agriculture. 

Since Grenada’s designation by World Food Travel Association (WFTA) as a Culinary Capital, the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) has undertaken efforts to establish the island as a top culinary destination, by placing significant emphasis on marketing.

This has also led to the forging of a culinary partnership with the James Beard Foundation and renowned Restaurateur Alexander Smalls from Harlem, New York who journeyed to Grenada with five (5) chefs, to be part of the first culinary symphony outside of North America.

Chef Alexander Smalls

On the evening of Saturday, 18 May, Silversands Grenada hosted “A Culinary Symphony: African Foodways In The Spice Isle.” This event attracted food enthusiasts eager to indulge in the fine dining experience with a Grenadian twist.

At the Asiatique restaurant, located next to Silversands’ stunning 100-meter infinity pool, guests were treated to hors d’oeuvres — Breadfruit Croquettes by Chef Nduvoakim Abdus-Salaam, Salt Fish Fritters by Chef Erick William, Scallop and Espuma of Yuca by Chef Cleophus Hethington, and Biscuit and Hot Chicken Tender Bites with Sweet Heat Mango Chutney, by Chef Carla Hall.

While I am sure that many of the other hors d’oeuvres were quite the treat, because of my dietary restrictions I was only able to sample the Salt Fish Fritters which in my opinion tasted delicious. The salt fish fritters were my favorite, with its batter being the lightest and crispiest I have ever tasted. As a typical Grenadian, I welcome any dish prepared using salt fish.

Following introductory messages from the Chairman of the Grenada Tourism Authority Randall Dolland and CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, Petra Roach, Damon Du Bois, Marketing Manager of Westerhall Estate Ltd, invited rum connoisseurs to raise their glasses in a toast before savoring the distinguished Westerhall’s 10XO signature rum. 

Chef Carla Hall holding 10X0 Signature Rum

While I’m not an expert food critic by any stretch of the imagination, I do however believe I can identify when a meal is exceptional in its presentation and flavors. In addition, receiving expert feedback was no problem since I was seated next to Grenadian Chef and food critic Helen Spielman who is known to host the cooking show “Cooking with Friends in Hawaii”.

Finally, it was time to dine as guests were treated to the start of an exquisite 6-course dining experience, accompanied by the soulful melodies of vocalist Laura Lisa Richardson and guitarist Alesia Aird. The starter was a tantalizing collard green salad with coconut dressing prepared by Chef Alexander Smalls. 

For the main course, Chef Cleophus Hethington, renowned for infusing innovative techniques and indigenous ingredients into his signature dishes, crafted a masterful plate of Conch Coconut Custard and Roti, paired harmoniously with a glass of Westerhall #7 Rum, mixed with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, Ice, and chilled Brut Prosecco.

This meal for me was one of my favorites because despite not being a lover of conch, I do love some Indian-style flatbread dipped in Coconut cream sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed the coconut cream sauce, which was incredibly rich and not too thick, with a subtle taste of sweetness that made the evening that much better.

Following this Chef Carla Hall, who first captivated television audiences on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and “Top Chef: All Stars” treated guests to her Cassava in Coconut Sauce and Crispy Okra dusted in Lime Salt. It was truly a delicious “Creole soup” and has just the right amount of seasoned needed to bring out the flavor. While I never had fried Okra before until that moment, it was quite an interesting combination being served with Cassava in Coconut Sauce, and from my inquires from other guests, her dish stood out as being among the best served.

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Executive chef Nduvoakim Abdus-Salaam served spicy cinnamon honey-glazed Mahi with pineapple-spiked coleslaw. Chef Abdus-Salaam has worked at establishments including Central Park Tower, Ritz Carlton, the Palace Hotel, and Le Cirque. 

I recently switched from being a vegetarian to becoming a pescatarian, so I only eat fish.

So, I was excited to try the spicy cinnamon honey-glazed Mahi Mahi, but it ended up being my least favorite dish not because I didn’t like it but more so that I prefer my fish to be blackened with a salty seasoned taste and a crispy outer texture, rather than prepared in this way.

Guests were treated to Oxtail with Glazed Carrots and Potatoes, served by Chef Erick Williams, founder of Virtue Hospitality Group, which includes Virtue Restaurant & Bar, Mustard Seed Kitchen, Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern, and Top This Mac and Cheese.

Again, due to my dietary restrictions, I had to rely on the reviews of those seated next to me. This time I lend on the expertise of Grenada’s own Rosana John-Mitchell, an attorney by profession who goes by the alias radikalrose on Instagram where she promotes her Foodie Tours & Culinary Experiences around the island. From her feedback, she mentioned that the seasoning did not have enough time to penetrate the meat thoroughly, which took away from the taste experience.

To conclude this culinary experience, local Pastry Sous Chef Nelcia Mapson served a Double Grenadian Chocolate Tart, Banana Ice Cream with Nutmeg Crumble and Ginger Caramel Sauce, a Passionfruit Opera Cake with Mango Caviar, and Coconut Crumble with a glass of Wasterhall’s XXO served with Kahlúa, Espresso, simple syrup, and Grenada Chocolate grated powder for serving. 

The dessert was the highlight of my evening. I had been eagerly waiting to taste the Banana Ice Cream with Nutmeg Crumble and Ginger Caramel. Firstly, the artistic preparation of the desert was quite interesting, and it truly ended the night on a fantastic note.

This culinary journey transcends the act of simply sampling dishes; This is a step towards ensuring that African cuisine gains visibility and recognition in the global culinary landscape. 

The roots of many Caribbean dishes can be traced back to the time of slavery. In the Caribbean, certain parts of the chicken such as the liver, heart, and gizzard, as well as treats like chicken feet, oxtail, cow skin, and pig’s feet, ears, and tail, were once considered unwanted, but are now regarded as delicacies.

The culinary traditions in the Caribbean did not originate under positive circumstances. These dishes were initially scraps left on the plates of slave owners. It was enslaved Africans who brought with them their cooking techniques, which encompassed roasting via fireside, steaming, boiling/simmering and frying which they combined these scraps with seasoning, and over time, they evolved into the national dishes of the Caribbean. 

In South America and the Caribbean, these age-old practices are still prevalent, frequently involving the use of large leaves from diverse fruit trees to wrap food. It is with this history in mind that Chef Smalls has curated these experiences by putting his unique spin on traditional African recipes, which earned him a coveted James Beard Award and an international reputation.

Additionally, he has taken steps to give exposure to other chefs who share his vision, not only by bringing chefs from the US to Grenada but also by providing local chefs with opportunities for mentorship from seasoned professionals.

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During his visit in Grenada, Chef Alexander Smalls and Grenadian Chef Belinda Bishop both journey across Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique to sample some of the best dishes served up by five (5) Grenadian chefs which was documented Grenadian filmmaker Teddy Frederick and produced by Randall Dolland, Chair of Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) and Petra Roach, CEO of the GTA.

One of the primary tasks for the visiting chefs was to team up with local students and chefs, involving them as part of their teams in preparing their respective dishes.

It was also heartwarming to see that the five (5) professional chefs took under their wing, the young talented local chefs, with one of the local Chefs Ibhubesi Tisfa Noel receiving a knife set from Chef Erick William. Overall, it was an amazing experience to see Grenadian-style cooking elevated to the level of fine dining, showcasing the best of the island’s gastronomy to the world.

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