State Minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Alando Terrelonge, is taking issue with the continued practice of some hotels providing tourists with mostly cuisines from their native lands.
According to Terrelonge, the approach by some hotels is not doing justice to brand Jamaica and “what we have to offer by way of food”.
Terrelonge declared that “If our chefs and culinary creatives are invested with the power they truly wield, they could revolutionize the whole economic chain and linkages from our local farmers.
“Our chefs are the creative glue that joins tourism to agriculture. They control the destiny of Jamaican cuisine. The menu is the business plan,” he added.
Terrelonge was speaking at the recent Culinary Arts and Gastronomy Symposium at Cardiff Hotel & Spa, Runaway Bay, St Ann.
While stating that Jamaica’s local cuisine is being underutilized, the state minister said the foods that Jamaica has come to be known for could become important tourism value-added products.
Ackee and salted fish.
Further, he said through the menus, local chefs and culinary artists could leave millions of dollars in the economy, especially if organic and authentic Jamaican cuisine is infused into tourism.
“It (also) helps food security. Our chefs get to create soul food and cook from the heart. Less food is imported, and a tourism brand of fine Jamaican cuisine emerges as a source of pride,” Terrolonge argued.
He said while he understands the different dynamics within the context of a resort, his contention remains that if “our” food is good enough for us at home, then it should be good enough for any restaurant menu, “anytime, anywhere”.
He said he expects his position to find favor with local farmers and other stakeholders, pointing to the inextricable link between tourism and agriculture and the worldwide love for Jamaican cuisine.
“How do we then get a wholesale swing of Jamaican cuisine on to menus in resorts and elsewhere? I believe we must redefine and encourage the development of local cuisine,” Terrelonge proposed.
Continuing, he said: “Local cuisine requires local agriculture. It means us developing the sector to ensure consistent quality and supply… from the yam farmer to the coconut vendor to the fisherman.
“It requires a whole system reengineering from how we do the business of food supply to how we think about our own food.”
Meantime, Terrelonge said there must be a national mind-set that Jamaican cuisine is a luxury brand with its own identity, noting that it is also a health brand at the top end of value in terms of food.
He opined that there is a gastronomic revolution that needs to happen in repositioning and valuing Jamaican cuisine, adding that “our food is organic, and we grow superfoods naturally.
“I believe there is an opportunity to transform the art of Jamaican cuisine into an exact science. We need modernized cookbooks and cooking shows that show off what we can create.
“We need to document and protect the intellectual properties and property of Jamaican cuisine,” suggested Terrelonge.