We'd fly south for the winter if we could too, but not everyone has the luxury of a working vacation in the Caribbean. That's what we're imagining when Tom Colicchio makes an appearance at the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival or when Jean-Georges Vongerichten pops up at his restaurants in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico to tweak the menus. Don't be envious — everybody benefits from having five-star food in an area whose upscale dining was once a disappointment.
For a region that knows how to pack some serious flavor — curry goat anyone? — Caribbean resorts have generally been a culinary disappointment. Hotel restaurants often fall into one of three categories: Mass-produced all-inclusive buffets; dumbed-down, bland takes on local specialties; or uninspired foreign fare (think insipid Italian).
Sure you could troll beach shacks and street stands for authentic local eats or lay down the big bucks for more inspired white-tablecloth experiences off-property. But when you're in the islands to relax, you shouldn't have to leave the comfort of your beach cabana just to find an edible meal.
Thankfully a crop of celeb chefs have invaded, helping hotel restaurants to march to the beat of their own steel drum. The newest face? Alain Ducasse at the hip W Vieques. His beachfront miX restaurant applies French techniques to Caribbean flavors for everything from haute beach fare to local Puerto Rican specialties like mofongo.
Other outposts like Eric Ripert's Blue at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman offer elaborate tasting menus combining both new island-inspired dishes and classics that Ripert is known for. Jean-Georges Vongerichten had so much fun creating Dune for the One&Only Ocean Club, Bahamas that he worked on a second project at the St. Regis Puerto Rico. And if you're looking for a taste from home, you can't go wrong with the castaway versions of Nobu and Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill at Atlantis or BLT Steak at the Ritz-Carlton San Juan. Read on for our favorite celeb chef island outposts.