By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-The root call yam will be the featured food for this year’s restaurant week that would be hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Tourism in July.
Speaking at a launch ceremony for the double ministry initiative, Director of Agriculture Melvin James stated that the purpose of Restaurant Week is about creating resilience and livelihoods in the federation with a focus on linkages with agriculture and tourism.
“Particularly focusing on things Kittitian and Nevisian that patrons visiting our restaurants will get a better appreciation and acceptability,” he said.
He noted that in the past emphasis had been place breadfruit and sweet potato but this year the focus will be on yam dishes.
“We are emphasizing yam because we know that we would like to diversify the cuisine and diversify what is served. Our people, ingenious as they are, have many different ways of producing and preparing these products,” he said.
He added that there has not been much focus on yams and indicated that greater efforts are needed to make the product more appealing to the public.
“It is served mostly boiled and mashed, and so it is of significance that we put our creative minds to work and to come up with other noble preparations that makes it more appealing, that makes it more desirable.”
He however indicated that yam stocks in the federation is nowhere near what it used to be or as good as it can be but is confident that there is enough to fulfil the demands.
“We still plant and produce yam and we believe there is enough to work with and have some fun,” he stated.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Carlene Henry Morton explained that restaurant week is a transversal sector initiative designed for the benefit of local producers.
She added that they are seeing ever increasing trends of visitors who desire experiential travel.
“These visitors want to forge a connection with the places they visit through the music, hence the music festival that we have in June. They want to participate in the type of entertainment that locals would normally want to participate in, they want contact with local people, and they want to consume the food that we eat and that is produced locally.”
Mrs. Morton stated that food or culinary tourism and the local dining scene is big business globally and is seen as a vital component of the tourism experience.
“At the Ministry of Tourism, we are certainly taking notice and we are preparing to capitalize in this trend through initiatives such as Restaurant Week. But make no mistake, Restaurant Week is for the benefit of our residents and local economy.”
She added that the federation can only benefit from food tourism if the food is local.
“It is about re-acclimatizing our pallets and remembering our older folks and eating some of the things our grandparents prepare whether we eat at home or dine out.”
She then urged a pattern of consuming local foods beyond restaurant week but rather throughout the year.
“Money spent on imported food is money leaked right out of our economy and Small Island developing state we do import an alarming high amount of food.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Al Edwards stated that his ministry was proud to be involved in the restaurant week activities.
“The department of agriculture who is involved in local production is more than delighted to get involved in supplying and meeting all the demands with respect to the products.”
Mr. Edwards gave a historic look into how the week was develops stating that it was part of the Agriculture Department’s eat local initiative through expanding its Eat Local Day.
“And so the Ministry of Tourism engaged, when they had their month of activities, and adopted it and took us on board…”
Edwards however urged individuals to not just focus on yam dishes but also use other locally grown foods to come up with creative dishes that can be sold at restaurants in the federation.
He also questioned whether the federation would be able to feed itself if the boats importing food were not able to arrive on time.
Restaurant Week 2017 will run from July 19 -30 and will see participating restaurants in the federation offer special dishes at discount prices.