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A few decades ago, you could count the number of celebrity chefs on one hand (think: Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child). Smash cut to the present, and we have entire TV networks devoted to flamboyant chefs, who often present programs exploring the intersection of food and travel. This increased interest has led to a growing number of food and wine festivals, especially in the Caribbean. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy these events, which offer a lot of added value to a Caribbean vacation.
One current food-festival trend is to corral at least one well-recognized celebrity chef. Another is to broaden the scope of a food and wine festival to include spirits, such as locally produced rums. The larger events often have one or more sponsoring hotels; if you have a client excited about an upcoming food and wine festival, consider booking them into a package at one of these hotels, where they’ll be in the thick of the action.
Caribbean Food & Wine Festival, Turks and Caicos Early November is when Turks and Caicos hosts its annual Caribbean Food & Wine Festival in Providenciales. The event, now in its fifth year, was held at Grace Bay Club and wrapped recently. The festival draws chefs from around the world; this year’s headliners included Gail Simmons, trained culinary expert, food writer and judge on Bravo's "Top Chef"; and Justin Quek, Franco-Asian cuisine innovator and principal chef of Singapore’s Sky on 57. The festival has street cred for its combination of international flair and local Caribbean flavors and cooking techniques.
The four-day event includes a Gourmet Safari — a progressive dinner that includes cocktails at Grace Bay Club, appetizers at Coyaba, dinner at Seven Stars and The Palms Turks & Caicos and dessert at The Gansevoort’s Bagatelle.
Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival, BarbadosThe Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival is poised to begin cooking its fifth installment from Nov. 19-22. This year’s heavy-hitter host is soft-spoken Food Network star Marcus Samuelsson. Barbados’ island rum is also center stage during the festival, and there are plenty of rum tastings and demonstrations. A guaranteed highlight will be the evening at Oistins, a seaside town popular for its weekly fish fry. On Nov. 19, Samuelsson will join several Barbadian chefs at Oistins Coastal Blend to whip up some serious seafood.
Cayman Cookout, Cayman IslandsThe Cayman Cookout will be held January 15-18, 2016, on Grand Cayman and will be hosted by Chef Eric Ripert. This year, the event will once again feature one of the superstars of the celebrity-chef world, Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown.” Ripert and Bourdain will be joined by well-known chefs Jose Andres and Daniel Boulud.
One of the hottest tickets on the intriguing schedule is sure to be “The Rundown with Anthony Bourdain,” in which he’ll join some of the Cayman Islands’ most celebrated chefs in sampling and discussing Caymanian specialties. A not-to-miss repeat event from last year’s itinerary is “Barefoot BBQ Presented by Certified Angus Beef,” a grilling extravaganza on the beach led by Bourdain, Andres, and Ripert.
St. Croix Food & Wine Experience, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin IslandsThe St. Croix Food & Wine Experience began as a one-day affair in 2001 and quickly grew into one of the Caribbean’s premier food events. The next festival, now a weeklong event, will take place in April 2016, and it’s expected to pull in some celebrity-chef star power. While there will be a variety of special sessions — including a cooking class for kids — the piece de resistance is A Taste of St. Croix, when 50 local restaurants set up at Divi Carina Bay Resort.
Saborea Puerto Rico: A Culinary Extravaganza, Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, an amazing culinary destination throughout the year, kicks into overdrive during Saborea Puerto Rico: A Culinary Extravaganza. Escambron Beach, adjacent to Caribe Hilton Hotel, is the center of the action — which will take place April 7-10, 2016 — with local restaurants serving up exceptional cuisine. A crowd favorite is Bubbles & Bites, in which chefs create bites to be paired with champagne. An all-inclusive one-day pass gives your clients access to an array of cooking demonstrations and tastings.