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,” says 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 Trip Advisor, and see what visitors say in their reviews. More often than not, they’re talking about what they ate on their vacation. Food matters.”
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.”
Skinner encourages aspiring chefs to “use the techniques of your grandparents and don’t abandon your roots” when crafting contemporary recipes for the global palate. He strives to do just that at Ti Bananne, where his menu offers dishes that combine St. Lucian Creole heritage and classic French cooking techniques. “Respect your culture, your style of doing things. Be innovative – and then take it to the next level.” •