The Bahamas Weekly Facebook The Bahamas Weekly Twitter
Sales & Promotions : Flying Fish Restaurant : Food for Thought - Tim Tibbitts Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Re-inventing Bahamian Cuisine
By Chef Tim Tibbitts
May 31, 2013 - 12:09:46 PM

Email this article
 Mobile friendly page

This morning I was watching an interview with a chef widely considered the best in the world; Rene Redzepi. His restaurant Noma in Copenhagen Denmark is currently ranked #2 in the world after spending the last three years at #1 on the World’s 50 Best list. He is credited with reinventing New Nordic Cuisine by utilizing only the most ultra local ingredients picked at their height of ripeness and served the same day they were harvested. He also pushes the diners boundaries of what is acceptable and delicious.

In the interview he spoke of how the restaurant started by cooking classical French cuisine using some local ingredients and then evolved to its current ultra-local philosophy over the course of its 10 years in existence. We at Flying Fish have kind of begun this way as well. Starting with classic dishes we try to put in place local seafood and ingredients into the food of the world. But as he explained the evolution of Noma it seemed to me that we are, and should be, on a very similar path.

A couple of weeks ago I did an event for the Freeport chapter of the Chaine Des Rotisseur society, focusing on local food. We paired locally grown produce with our local seafood for what was a fantastic evening. It also made me think. We are becoming more food aware.

Six years ago when I moved back here there were no local farms, the food stores were pathetic, and no one seemed to care much about the food they were eating. Now we have multiple small farms, the food stores are 100% better, and there is a movement of backyard farmers providing top quality local organic produce. We even have started a monthly farmer’s market for these farmers to sell their wares and raise awareness about what they’re doing. I have hope, and an idea.

Over the next several weeks I am trying to get my TV series shot. We are doing a show about the Bahamas and the food that we have here. My hope is twofold: to enlighten people about our beautiful country, its people and the bounty we have here naturally; and to raise awareness about our new food scene and food cultural heritage. We will be visiting many different islands and doing food, based on the local ingredients available, and trying to reinvent Bahamian cuisine for a modern esthetic.

For the most part, Bahamian food is considered to be rather unhealthy. Too many carbohydrates, portion sizes are WAY too big, and the Bahamian sweet tooth is widely recognized. I want to reclaim Bahamian food, by taking local ingredients and our food history and using modern methods and techniques to lighten it up, freshen it up, and give it new life. I believe this is where we are heading.

One of my favourite ingredients to work with is conch. It is ubiquitous to Bahamian food. We are the largest consumers of this sea snail anywhere in the world and for the most part have yet to tap into its full potential. Cracked conch, conch salad, conch fritters, stew conch, scorch conch and conch chowder kind of cover the list of Bahamian dishes we have done. I believe there is more to be done. The versatility of this ingredient, because of its texture, is the key in my opinion and over the next few months I will try to explore how we can transform this simple Bahamian staple into the ultimate high end dining experience.

For a long time now we have carried seafood from around the world on our menu. As of the summer menu, we will be dropping a lot of those ingredients from our menu and focusing primarily on local. Some local folks might miss things like salmon from our menu but I feel it’s not a good representation of our philosophy. Salmon that has to travel around the world to get here is not the freshest ingredient we can give you so I would rather find something interesting and local to use instead.

For example, the lionfish is one of my favourite local fish. Most people avoid it because of the venom that it carries in its spines. However, when cleaned, it is one of the sweetest and the most tender of white fish. It’s also environmentally beneficial to get this fish onto menus across the Bahamas. It is an invasive species that is threatening our snapper and grouper populations. If we can find a way to utilize these fish in a major way we can get the numbers under control, while providing a supplemental income for our local fishermen. Take the time and learn to clean and cook these fish. You will be well rewarded.

As many Bahamians fear and continue to complain about foreign people in our country, I embrace them. They not only bring vital investment and skill set to our economy, but they bring influence through culture to our cuisine. There is much we can learn from people from other countries and apply it to what we do here. Even something as simple as the way I clean fish; much different than the way a Bahamian fisherman would. I was taught to clean fish first in a classical French way, but then refined by Japanese trained sushi chefs. They can get the best flavour out of a fish simply by the way they cut and trim it. The texture and flavour are all affected by the way they are cut. We can learn a lot from that.

Spices and techniques from around the world have become synonymous with Caribbean cuisine. Curry spices can be found widely throughout the region, although they are not really indigenous to the region. These influences from explorers and travelers are all important factors in defining our own cuisine and also in finding better methods and techniques in preparing our cuisine.

As mentioned in Redzepi’s interview, he also spoke of travel. The importance of visiting other countries and other cultures cannot be measured. Understanding how big our world is and how varied each culture is can only be observed by traveling. As a rule, I believe the should be a space of time for each young person to go and see different parts of the world and to get a grasp on our differences before coming back here to enter the workforce. I believe our culture and the level of work done here would greatly benefit from some global awareness.

In the end it comes back to food for me. How are we at Flying Fish going to take a static and rather uninspired cuisine and refine it for a new age? I don’t know yet but the challenge has been issued and I will respond. I look forward to the challenge. It’s what keeps us fresh in our work to constantly strive to better ourselves and our product. I see most of the top restaurants in the world and their commitment to locality and seasonality is all the same. As the next year unfolds, we will see where we end up with our new ultra-local focus. I believe it will be successful and I hope to share it with all of you. Until next time, Happy Eating.

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

Bookmark and Share

© Copyright 2013 by thebahamasweekly.com

Top of Page

Receive our Top Stories

Preview | Powered by CommandBlast

Food for Thought - Tim Tibbitts
Latest Headlines
One More For The Road
Bring Back Food to Food TV
The End of The Bahamas Tourism Product
Musings About a Country: The Food Scene in Nassau
Summer’s Here! My top 10 favorite summer food splurges