Saint Lucia and the Caribbean are very guilty of traditionally presenting ourselves as a destination of sun, sand and sea and we have neglected a lot of the other elements as a tourism destination and who we are as a people,” Dominic Fedee remarked at a Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) press conference held on Tuesday December 19, 2017.
The “other elements” to which Fedee referred included Saint Lucia Distillers’ Bounty and Chairman’s Reserve rums which have become integral parts of any regular social gathering, as well as the more refined Admiral Rodney, 1931 and Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Casks. Rum, Fedee said, is a proud and main part of our heritage along with our love of food.
Through obvious research and planning by the Ministry of Tourism, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority and the pre-existing Saint Lucia Tourist Board, it’s evident that this island’s most marketable features are its culture and unique experiences. In January 2018 the SLTA will play on two exquisite aspects of Saint Lucian heritage, food and rum, during an annual but enhanced Saint Lucia Food and Rum Festival.
Beginning on Friday January 12, 2018 with Anse-la-Raye Fish Fry and Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party, the Festival will focus on locally- and Caribbean-made rums and cuisine. The finale on Sunday January 14, 2018 will include a gala dinner. The Food and Rum Festival will seduce food lovers from all over the Caribbean and our largest tourist markets in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.
The weekend scheduled for the Food and Rum Festival may invite some scepticism from the public for being soon after Christmas and New Year festivities but Agnes Francis, Executive Chairperson of the SLTA, explained at the press conference on Tuesday, “After the New Year season there is a drop in arrivals and the hotels in Saint Lucia have to put on some significant promotions and discounts in order to attract business for that two-week period.” So, in order to add some numbers, the SLTA will host this “proof of concept event” in an effort to drive some visitor arrivals.
The purpose of the Food and Rum Festival, according to Agnes Francis, is to “celebrate Saint Lucia’s unique culinary offerings derived from our French, British, Indian and African heritage and it will be combined with the finest rums of the Caribbean”.
Although the event is uniformly referred to as the Food and Rum Festival, some activities will be designated by component i.e. either food or rum. However, at every food event, rum would either be incorporated or paired with dishes.
The SLTA is anticipating an unprecedented Caribbean Rum Awards in collaboration with Caribbean Journal, rum tastings, and a bartenders’ competition which will entail participants creating a cocktail based on our local Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum. The winning mixture will be ordained Saint Lucia’s signature rum cocktail which restaurants island-wide will be encouraged to serve on their regular menus.
For the food element, Michael Samuelsson, a renowned persona in the culinary arena, and the genius behind restaurants including Red Rooster, Streetbird Rotisserie and others, has committed to being the ambassador of the Food and Rum Festival. On the introductory Friday, Samuelsson will be at Gros Islet Street Party with camera crews form international media showcasing the weekly event to the world. Throughout the weekend, Samuelsson will be the featured chef of most food events including the cardinal Gala, where he will recreate, with the help of other chefs, the Obama administration’s first State Dinner using Saint Lucian ingredients and tradition.
On Saturday January 13, 2018 restaurants in Rodney Bay will prepare rum-infused sampling booths to offer a diversified element to the usual Saturday night scene. The event will be paired with a live band and
Then, on Sunday January 14, 2018 all roads will lead to a rum-scented Pigeon Island National Landmark for the finale where rums, liqueurs, food dishes and local agricultural produce will be displayed for viewing, tasting and testing. The event is also expected to feature live cooking stations.