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Musings About a Country: The Food Scene in Nassau
By Chef Tim Tibbitts
Jun 26, 2013 - 7:53:05 PM

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Last week I spent a few days in Nassau.  We are trying to do some collaboration with some names you may know in Nassau and some here in Grand Bahama.  It was an enlightening trip to say the least.  So many positives and quite a few negatives but everything was a good learning experience.  

First off, I’ll start by saying I was born in Nassau but have never felt like Nassau was home to me.  My sister lived in Nassau for many years and I would visit her often and was quite familiar with the east side of the island.  Now, having spent quite a fair bit of time driving around and getting reacquainted with the island let me say this; Western New Providence is beautiful.  

I know many people will start by saying, “I could never live in Nassau!  There’s too much crime!”  Well yes, crime is a major concern in New Providence, however, it is going to become a major concern in every corner of this country if something isn’t done soon to change our education system.  Crime is the result of hopelessness.  Hopelessness comes from being unprepared for the real world when you are leaving school.  The inability to hold a job because of a lack of basic skills and a complete lack of critical thinking ability is the fault of government’s inability to educate its people.  Fullstop.  There’s talk of bringing back corporal punishment.  Why?  If someone is willing to jump your wall and invade your home and shoot you with a gun, they were never afraid to die in the first place.  They knew full well there was a strong chance whoever was on the other side of that fence was also armed as many people are in the Bahamas.  The simply weren’t afraid of dying.  In this case, corporal punishment will have no affect.

On a lighter note though, there are some very good things happening in Nassau.  The road works first off are an amazing improvement to the chaos of driving in Nassau.  It’s going to be easy to drive from the airport to the new mega resort Baha-Mar in just a few short minutes with all the new double lane highways they have built and are building.  To the previous government who have taken a lot of heat about the time it’s taking to complete the road works project, I say well done for having the forethought to actually see the bigger picture and the long term gain.

Also, there is a new burgeoning food scene of small-scale entrepreneurs in west New Providence.  My current new favorite would be Mahogany House.  We enjoyed our lunch visit there so much on Tuesday that we went back again on Wednesday.  The food is simple, but excellently done with thoughtful combinations of ingredients in both traditional and not-so-traditional styles.  It is however simply food to fill you up in a nice comfortable setting.  This is not haute cuisine by any stretch but it is very good.  Also, the staff are very nice and extremely polite and the wine list is fantastic.  Very well researched and thoughtful.  

Another lovely little spot was Blue Caviar near Lyford Cay.  It’s a very small bistro style place with a strong French influence and a good focus on bread and pastry.  However, they did also have a very good burger.  Yes it’s just a burger.  But a really good burger takes thought and planning and very good ingredients and this one had it all.  I tip my hat to them for taking a chance and making the most of it.  

We also had a lovely time at Dune at the Ocean Club.    It’s hard not to like this place.  The view is unparalleled and the room is beautiful.  There’s always the added attraction of celebrity watching when you’re there; and sitting beside us was Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart.  Not that it makes the food any better but it somehow makes the ambience better when famous people are in the room.  The food is, by the way, very well done.  

The only bad food experience we had was a restaurant who shall remain nameless for the sake of protecting the innocent who may not have been responsible, but suffice it to say, it was the most expensive and worst meal I’ve ever had in this country.  Combine it with service that smacked of cash-grab and you have a recipe for a destroyed reputation and the end of an era.

Our next big things were visits to Lucayan Tropical farms and to Bahamas Food Services.  Lucayan Tropical is a hydroponic farm growing a good amount of the country’s supply of cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers. The guy in charge is Tim and he went to the same university as Rebecca so immediately there is a connection.  We chatted a lot about food and quality and he showed us the operation and more interestingly enough the experimental things they are working on.  They have started another farm of organic luxury produce and hard to find vegetables for chefs and the farmer’s market they started themselves a few years ago.  Tim is passionate about food and especially vegetables and we will be working together to establish a Bahamian chapter of the Slow-Food international movement.  

Next and probably most interesting was Bahamas Food Services.  This is not a small operation.  And I have had my problems with this company in the past, which was actually our reason for meeting with them.  I received an email from a gentleman named Jim O’Brien who reached out to me regarding my articles.  I was surprised to hear from him because of our past issues but he assured me that there was something we were missing.  As his guest, we were shown not only the incredible facility they have there but he also imparted some of the company philosophies with us.  BFS has implemented a program of rehabilitation with Fox Hill Penitentiary where they hire recently released inmates and give them opportunity to prove themselves and get their lives on tracks.  They say they have a 90% track record of rehabilitation.  Over 30 men have become contributing members of society because they were given a chance.  I applaud them for  doing this.  Most companies wouldn’t even think about it.

They also showed us some of the more interesting things they do and completely unknown to me, they actually do their own research and development into the breeding and growing of seafood with hopes of providing sustainable farmed seafood in the Bahamas!  Who knew?  I won’t go into too much detail as I’m not positive that I’m allowed to, but needless to say I was incredibly impressed.  Not just by the operation, but by the respect and admiration that Mr. O’Brien received from all of his staff.  They are a very large company with a very small family feel.  Again, I was surprised in a good way.

The one thing that kept popping into my head during our trip and seeing all the great and new things happening in Nassau was, “why can’t anything like this happen in Freeport?”  I don’t have an answer to this but I think it may be time to start asking this question to more than just my mirror everyday.  Something has to happen in our city for the better or we will simply become a ghost town and everyone will be forced to leave to find employment.  

I believe that Freeport can have some of the greatness of the New Nassau, but it comes from people will to work hard and take risks and stand for something good.  By holding people accountable for their actions and by implementing a code of ethics and morals in business as well as your daily life.  Things are changing and it needs to change in this town too.  We are trying to do our part here with our philosophy.  What are you doing to make a change?

About the Author: Tim Tibbitts is the chef and owner of Flying Fish Modern Seafood in Freeport Bahamas.  Flying Fish is the #1 rated restaurant in the Bahamas on tripadvisor.com.  You can see what Flying Fish is all about at www.flyingfishbahamas.com or www.facebook.com/ flyingfishmodernseafood and follow Tim on twitter @flyingfishfreep      

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