Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport, Hon. Alando Terrelonge, says Jamaica’s amazing local cuisine is underutilised and could be an important tourism value-added product.
Minister Terrelonge, who was speaking at a recent Culinary Arts and Gastronomy Symposium at the Cardiff Hotel & Spa, Runaway Bay, St. Ann, said there is a tendency by some hotels to provide visitors with cuisine from their native land, a move he said that was not doing justice to brand Jamaica and “what we have to offer by way of food.
“If our chefs and culinary creatives are invested with the power they truly wield, they could revolutionise the whole economic chain and linkages from our local farmers,” he noted.
“Our chefs are the creative glue that join tourism to agriculture. They control the destiny of Jamaican cuisine. The menu is the business plan.”
The Minister added that through their menus, local chefs and culinary artists could leave millions of dollars in the economy, noting that if organic and authentic Jamaican cuisine is infused into tourism, “it supports the environment because this is linked to the methods of farming which look after the earth”.
“It 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,” he further added.
Minister Terrelonge 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”.
The Minister said he expects his position to find favour 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,” he added.
“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,” he continued.
Minister Terrelonge said there must be a national mindset 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 said 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 modernised cookbooks and cooking shows that show off what we can create. We need to document and protect the intellectual properties and propriety of Jamaican cuisine,” the Minister added.