It was a swanky and sumptuous affair at Hugo’s restaurant last Thursday as the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) announced the details of the 2018 Barbados Food & Rum Festival to the room of media, influencers, and business partners.
Appropriately launched on International Rum Day, this year’s Festival (18–21 October) will see some changes as the BTMI looks to further refine and develop the nine-year-old series for the long haul. BTMI CEO, William ‘Billy’ Griffith, said that the changes come as the organisation continues to “deliver a product that both satisfies the appetite of our audience, while perfecting those unique selling points for which destination Barbados is known and loved.”
Food & Rum Festival moving to October
The first of two major changes the CEO announced was the shift from the usual November dates to October. Griffith said the decision was made based on feedback from local stakeholders, who requested that the BTMI assist in driving business to the island during this slightly softer period.
“But we didn’t just change the date, we met with restaurateurs, chefs, mixologists, and even event promoters with the idea of expanding the Barbados Food and Rum Festival from just four days to a month-long experience,” he said.
The month of festivities will include food truck crawls, restaurant specials, and bar pop-ups spread across October.
International chef ambassador
The second change announced was the move away from the model that saw multiple international chefs flown in for the Festival to one that maximises the exposure of the plethora of local culinary talent. “We have seen our local talent grow exponentially over the past nine years of the Festival. We now have a pool of award-winning chefs and mixologists that cannot be contained to our previous model… That’s why, beginning this year, we will be further elevating and capitalising on the wealth of talent we have in our island,” Griffith added.
Instead, the BTMI has engaged Michelin-star chef Tom Aikens from the UK to be an ambassador for this year’s Festival. Tom was one of the three international chefs featured during the 2017 Festival at the Tides restaurant. A celebrity chef and the owner of four successful restaurants across the UK, he has authored several cookbooks, and has a large social media following. In his role as ambassador, he will be using his status to officially endorse the Festival, encouraging his customers, readers, fans, and more to journey with him to Barbados to experience the unique festival of flavour.
Among the featured chefs for 2018 are Barbados’ own Damian Leach; Taste of the Caribbean Chef of the Year 2018; Craig Greenidge, Owner and Executive Chef of CM Catering; Michael Harrison, Executive Chef of Camelot restaurant at Cobbler’s Cove; and pastry guru Javon Cummins of Tapestry restaurant, to name a few.
Lead up to the Festival
Even before this year’s Festival kicks off, the BTMI will host a series of Food & Rum pop-ups across various restaurants such as The Mill & Co, East Point Grill, Fisherman’s Pub, Braddie’s Bar, and Golden Sands Hotel. These pop-ups will be held during September, and will give Barbadians a chance to win prizes such as coveted tickets to Festival, as they prepare for the upcoming festivities.
The Festival unofficially kicks off with the Barbados Tourism Media Awards on 17 October, an initiative of the BTMI to celebrate the best in Barbados tourism media. The 12 winners will win a receive to Barbados to accept their awards and will stay on to experience the Festival in its entirety.
On Thursday 18 October, the Festival begins as usual with the free open air fish fry — Night Out in Oistins. Savour the taste of the south as the Festival curtain opens at the historic Oistins fishing village. Be there to witness local chefs preparing fresh, grilled treats under the stars, and relish one of the island’s most talked about experiences of cultural and culinary fusion.
On Friday night, the Festival heads north as the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre is transformed into a true spectacle for the Taste of the Exotic Signature Rum Event. Food and fun will be infused in this night of cocktails, canapés, and sizzling Bajan entertainment. This was the most popular event last year with a completely sold out crowd, with visitors flying from the Caribbean, Los Angeles, New York, and cities around the UK to be a part of the fun.
Those who look forward to the sit-down dining experiences will be thrilled to hear that the Gourmet Safari dinner series has been expanded. Previously incorporating just three restaurants, it has now been opened up to several local stand-alone and hotel restaurants across the island. Guests can look out for Barbados Food & Rum menus at their favourite restaurants, boasting dishes especially created just for that night.
This year, the festival will climax again on the Sunday, but this time at the Holder’s Polo Field with the beloved Taste the Spirits of Polo event. Polo on Sundays is a tradition for many in Barbados, and the BTMI will marry that excitement with refreshing speciality cocktails and food stations.
The island of Barbados is a destination with exceptionally rich culture and history and remarkable landscapes. Rated as one of the world’s sexiest beaches in 2008 by Concierge.com, Barbados’ Crane Beach in St Philip stands as a premier spot for travellers. Barbados is also the first Zagat-rated Caribbean island and is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Barbados has hosted several world class events including: The annual Barbados Food & Rum Festival; the 2006 PGA World Golf Championships-Barbados World Cup; the ICC Cricket World Cup Finals in 2007; the Sentebale Charity Polo match with Prince Harry in 2010; the ICC Twenty20 Cricket Finals in 2010; and the Rihanna LOUD concert in 2012. Accommodations range from picturesque plantation houses and villas, to quaint bed and breakfasts and award-winning, five-star resorts. Grantley Adams International Airport offers even more non-stop and direct service from a growing number of US cities. Barbados was voted eighth in the World by TripAdvisor’s 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards”in its Top 100 Destinations category. For more information on travel to Barbados, visit www.visitbarbados.org, follow on Facebook, or follow on Twitter @Barbados.