It's not often that you get to witness the beginnings of a nascent food festival firsthand. So it was thrilling last year to have attended the first Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival. There were celebrity chefs, wine experts, travel and food media mavens and moguls, and of course, great food, wine, and rum. With the festival entering its second year this weekend, it seemed time to talk with Barbados' Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy to get his thoughts on last year's festival and what to expect during the next few days and in years to come.
When introducing the festival on last year's opening night, you said there was a new player on the scene — that Barbados would be a stalwart for years to come. Where do you see it in five years?
Barbados aspires to be the best in whatever it undertakes and the Food & Wine and Rum Festival is no different. We aim to be the international destination of choice in terms of food and spirits festivals. In the next five years, Barbados’ goal is to be top of mind in food and spirit festivals — if not in numbers, certainly in quality.
What was your favorite moment of the 2010 festival?
My favorite moments at the inaugural Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival were the interaction of world class chefs and our own local Bajan chefs. Our Bajan chefs were as impressive as their international counterparts. The fascinating culinary dexterity expressed by the international exponents and their Bajan counterparts was a joy to the senses, not least the sense of taste.
Did any one dish stand out to you?
The dishes were spectacular and excited the taste buds. From the feedback I received, that was not only my opinion.
What's the biggest challenge for a nascent festival?
Staging culinary expos is defined by challenges. The key is to hurdle the challenges and turn them into opportunities. Barbados’ foremost challenge in this respect is to become a known and noted player on the food and sprits festival stage. Against the backdrop that Barbados taught the world the intricacies of rum-making, we believe we can lift the two other components of the event and boss them as we do our world class rum.
What are the goals for 2011's festival?
The objectives for next year’s festival are straightforward: To announce and promote the event widely on the global stage in collaboration with our partners abroad and at home; with clear vision and purpose target the highest quality standards for every segment of the festival; and to induce and bring culinary enthusiasts and other visitors to Barbados for the culinary and destination experience of a lifetime.
What are some things about the food in Barbados that people would be most surprised to learn?
Barbados’ food is an eclectic smorgasbord of West African, native Caribbean (Arawaks/Caribs) and British fare. In more recent times East Indian, French, American, Chinese, and pan-Asian cuisines were sprinkled into the melting pot that creates the mouthwatering Bajan dishes visitors constantly praise.
What's the best sandwich on Barbados?
The best sandwich in Barbados is a flying fish cutter (Bajan for sandwich) or dolphin (dorado/mahimahi) cutter. With a light spread of inimitable Bajan hot sauce, cutters are delicious.
Do you have a favorite rum shop?
Barbados contains more than 1,000 rum shops and as Minister of Tourism they are all my favorites. I urge travelers to Barbados to visit and enjoy our rum shops.
What's your favorite of the Mount Gay rums?
My favourite Mount Gay Rum is Extra Old. However, I have a close colleague who swears by Mount Gay Eclipse with Coke, a twist of lime, and five cubes of ice, shaken not stirred. The truth is Barbados is the original home of rum and the multiplicity of brands we produce are outstanding in their own right. Long live the rums of Barbados.