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
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.
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
and follow Tim on twitter @flyingfishfreep