International Chef Exchange: A Tale of Two Islands


The Bella Luce's Head Chef and Channel Islands Chef of the Year, Simon Mckenzie, headed to St Lucia in February for the return leg of the International Chef Exchange that started at the Guernsey International Food Festival last year.

Chefs-Simon-Mckenzie-Craig-Jones---please-credit-Chris-George-Photography_post.jpgChefs Simon McKenzie and Craig Jones, photographed by Chris George during Guernsey's 2016 International Food Festival.

Simon was hosted by chef Craig Jones of Cap Maison who previously showcased a St Lucian dinner at Guernsey’s 5 star Old Government House Hotel. Having moved to Bella Luce earlier this year, Simon was keen to showcase some of the new dishes that will be appearing on the menus of Bella Luce this Spring.

Offering secluded accommodation – with many suites featuring private pools – in a tropical setting, Cap Maison is consistently ranked as one of the Caribbean’s finest destinations. Craig is executive head chef of two restaurants at the Cap Maison luxury resort on the north west coast of St Lucia in the southern Caribbean, and recently won ‘St Lucia Hotel Chef of the Year’ at the 2016 Caribbean Travel Awards.

“The one thing I had warned Simon about when working out of a Caribbean kitchen, was the heat; as it takes a bit of getting used to”, said Craig. “I think overall he was surprised at all the fresh produce that is so readily available every day. I often head down to the local market with guests to pick up food for that evening’s serving.”

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“I’ve participated in a number of International Chef Exchanges but this has been by far the most challenging and interesting”, said Simon. “Being outside of Europe, it was impossible to import any foodstuffs onto the island, and some of the ingredients that I’d planned to include in my menus simply weren’t available so we had to improvise. At one point, I called on my talented pastry chef back at Bella Luce for some advice on ice cream.”

Tuna-sashimi,-BBQ-pineapple,-chilli,-shallot---Friday-24-February_post.jpgTuna sashimi, bbq pineapple, chilli and shallot from Simon's beach bbq supper.

“That said, there is an abundance of fresh produce available. We spotted pineapples, papaya, coconuts and almonds growing wild by the roadside, and the seafood is incredible. We arrived just before the end of the lobster season so managed to enjoy a few dishes, but there’s a plethora of seafood available year-round including dorado, red snapper, land crabs, shrimp and amazing yellow fin tuna that we enjoyed grilled and as sashimi.”

Dorado,-soya,-lime-&-ginger,-Asian-slaw---Friday-24-February_post.jpgDorado with soya, lime and ginger and Asian slaw from Simon's beach bbq supper

Simon created two dinners during his visit; a four course informal BBQ at the beachside Naked Fisherman restaurant, and a five course fine dining menu at the prestigious Cliff at Cap with views over the ocean to the neighbouring island of Martinique. Dishes included pork belly and shrimp confit with fennel and lemon, and caramelised white chocolate with walnut, espresso vodka and banana.

Caramelised-white,-walnut,-espresso-vodka,-banana---Saturday-25-February_post.jpgCaramelised white chocolate with walnut, espresson vodka and banana from Simon's fine dining menu.

“We had the opportunity to showcase the Wheadon’s Gin from Bella Luce as part of the dinner on Saturday night, with the rock samphire and pink grapefruit botanicals making a real impact on both diners and the kitchen and bar staff. The Caribbean is obviously a rum island, but we definitely made some converts, including Arron the hotels deputy manager who has now ordered a small still to start playing with their own flavour combinations to sit alongside Cap Maison’s own in-house rum – Solera Cask – that was awarded a bronze at the 2016 International Wine & Spirits Competition”.

“Our ethos at Bella Luce is ‘luxury with your shoes kicked off’ and there is much the same vibe at Cap Maison”, said Simon. “Despite the hotel being at full occupancy, there wasn’t ever a sense of it being over-crowded in any way, and the atmosphere was really relaxed for guests. In fact, it was pretty chilled out in the kitchen too.”

“One thing that will really stick me is how friendly everyone has been; St Lucia really is an island of smiles.”

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The International Chef Exchange partners chefs from around the world to promote gastronomic tourism between quality food regions, share best practice in the hospitality industry and create a platform for the export of artisan regional food and drink. Simon’s next International Chef Exchange is to the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival in May where he’ll be joined by Bella Luce’s Luke Wheadon for a Guernsey gin and food matching brunch at Market Restaurant. Bella Luce will also be hosting a programme of guests chefs throughout 2017, and a one-day gin festival.

The Guernsey International Food Festival presented by Taste Guernsey returns in September featuring a heady mix of outdoor events and gala dinners. The programme of events will be available at www.tasteguernsey.gg later in the year. For more information about visiting Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm visit www.visitguernsey.com.

For more information about packages to Cap Maison and St Lucia visit www.capmaison.com.

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Bella Luce