Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival

Last weekend I was in Barbados at the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival, sponsored by Food & Wine and American Express Publishing.

It was the culinary event of the season in the Caribbean, with famous chefs from all over the world in attendance.

Barbados is a gorgeous place and was the perfect backdrop to help showcase the natural beauty of the food.


On Saturday, I watched a sold-out outdoor cooking demonstration for a crowd of 200 put on by internationally acclaimed chef and author Marcus Samuelsson.

I’ve long been a fan of his since his 2010 win on Top Chef Masters and the James Beard Foundation recently honored Chopped, on which he’s a judge, as the ‘Best Television Program’ of 2012.

While Marcus cooked, with waves crashing in the background on the grounds of the Hilton Barbados, he spoke about the path that led him to be a guest chef at the White House under the Obama administration. He planned and executed the administration’s first state dinner for the first family, Prime Minister Singh of India, and 400 guests.

He mentioned that the path to being chosen to cook that dinner wasn’t an easy one. He indicated that a tasting event didn’t go as well as he had wished, and there were scheduling snags because he was in Los Angeles taping Chopped episodes, but received word he needed to be at the White House with very little notice given, and when the President comes calling, that’s kind of important.

These stories really humanized Chef Samuelsson and made me realize that even those who have ‘made it’ aren’t necessarily always basking in pure culinary confidence, and the road traveled can be bumpy and complex.

Marcus has a great sense of humor, he’s kind and gracious, smiles lots, and was a natural cooking in front of the large crowd.

He talked about how he likes to prepare and use rum infusions in his dishes served at his restaurant, the Red Rooster Harlem, which was music to the rum-loving crowd’s ears, and Barbados is known as the birthplace of rum.

Marcus asked the audience for questions and one new-to-television chef asked him what she should do calm her nerves before she appears on camera and he said, “Drink rum infusions,” causing the crowd to break out into explosive laughter.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to watch Chef Anne Burrell’s cooking demo, I did drop-in for the final moments as she was posing with fans and snapped a few images of her.

She had a long line of fans and was graciously hugging her fans, posing for pictures, and signing autographs.

Later that night, she was also cooking at an event called Ambrosia. For that event, she made Seared Mahi-Mahi with Tangerine Compote.

To make the compote, combine 3/4 cup water, eight ounces of chopped tangerines, 1/2 cup orange marmalade, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, one 1-inch piece peeled and grated ginger, 1 bundle fresh thyme sprigs, half cinnamon stick, half red jalapeno minced, and a pinch of Kosher salt and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 15 to 20 minutes.

It was sweet, tangy, with a touch of heat from the cinnamon, ginger, and jalepeno, and I loved it.

Ambrosia was held at the Lion Castle Polo Estate and featured fourteen chefs and their respective restaurants. Each chef served sample-size tasting portions of one signature dish.

There was an open bar and the wine and locally-produced rum were flowing, courtesy of Wine World. A DJ had the music pumping and party mode was in full swing, with attendees dressed up and decked to the nines.

I didn’t bring my big DSLR camera to this event, and I was grateful. The event was crowded, food and drinks were (spilling) everywhere, and it would have been very difficult to manage small plates of food and a big camera. Plus, even with the best camera, dark venues and strobe lights are very challenging. I happily used my iPhone camera instead.

Barbados is known for their fish and the locals eat very little beef, and most are big fish-eaters. Athough I didn’t eat the animal-based protein in the tasting bites, there were plenty of great vegetable mashes and purees that were frequent base layers on which the fish or chicken would be layered.

There was an eggplant-based croquette which I loved, that had great crispness on the exterior with a soft and meat-like interior. And I savored this sweet potato mash which incorporated microgreens, diced vegetables, and a trifecta of fabulous sauces. It was so good I went back for seconds.

And then there were the desserts.

And lots of them.

This was the Mango and Coconut Cheesecake with what tasted like a balsamic syrup or balsamic reduction drizzled on top. The cheesecake was creamy and the sauce was very intense and in case your tastebuds were sleeping, it would wake them up.

Guava Creme Brulee – I could have made a meal out of scooping the sweet and creamy guava filling from the mini pie crusts. It was much lighter and thinner than as other creme brulee fillings I’ve had.

Spiced Pineapple, Banana, and Vanilla Cream Cake – The little cakes were gently spiced and made from bananas and pineapple, and were floating in a sea of whipped cream.

Ambrosia was a great time and it was the spotlight event of the festival, the Big Deal, so to speak.

On Sunday afternoon, I watched a cooking demonstration with Chef Paul Yellin.

He is an advocate of sourcing and cooking with local ingredients and teaching children where food comes from. He mentioned there’s been a recent rise of diabetes and obesity in the Caribbean and cooking healthier and educating people about healthier food choices is a priority for him.

He said that salt is over-rated and that although yes, it can and does lend flavor to food, so does citrus. Then he promptly squeezed lime juice over the coconut-infused rice he made, which made me appreciate him and his style of cooking even more, as I am a no to low-salt person.

He poached red snapper by placing it in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, with coconut oil and seasonings, and then dropped the bag into boiling water, where it boiled on a touch-and-go portable stovetop. Mother Nature decided to grace us with high winds and rain for the outdoor demo but it didn’t seem to phase Chef Yellin one bit.

He was funny, out-going, personable, and seemed genuinely gracious for the nice-sized crowd turnout, despite the wind and rain.

This is the finished plate of local Red Snapper poached via Ziplock, and rice that he made.

Many thanks to the Barbados Tourism Authority, Food & Wine, American Express Publishing, and to those who were involved in pulling off the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival because it was such a great time and event.

Although I was not in Barbados on a sit-on-the-beach vacation, for the three days I was there, waking up to this view sealed the Barbados deal for me.

Have you ever been to Barbados?

Or a food and wine festival, food-tasting, or food fest of any kind?

In many ways, the Barbados trip reminded me of when I traveled to Mexico City a couple years back, with just a handful of people and a Saveur photographer. We photographed the real life sights and sounds of the real Mexico City, and I saw the real culture, food, and had the real-deal full-immersion experience. I saw the good and the bad, the beautiful and the gritty.

Over the years I’ve been to many local food festivals. A few I’ve blogged about include a Greek Festival, San Diego Cityfest, Taste of Adams Avenue, and even Farmers Market visits can be a great way to experience locally-grown food and showcase great items from the region.

I loved the Food & Wine Festival in Barbados and love food festivals in general; all the different sights and sounds, foods and flavors, are all in one place.

49 comments on “Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival”

  1. Those desserts look amazing! What a great way to enjoy food for a few days :) I like the citrus over salt tip!

  2. Looks like a beautiful place! I’m glad you enjoyed the food and wine festival. I’ve never been to one myself, it I’ve been to the annual wine festival where my parents live. They will showcase the local restaurant’s best food, along with lots of great wine. Always a good time!

  3. sounds like you had an amazing time! thanks for sharing all your experience! so jealous you got to see marcus samuelsson cook!! love, love, love him.

  4. What a fantastic experience on such an exotic island. I’ve never been to anything like this. Everything looks so beautiful.

  5. Loved the pics, I felt like I was there!! I love Anne Burrell but those little cheesecakes…yum!! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful weekend. Great chefs, food and parties all in paradise what could be better? And a chef who know not everything needs to be coated in salt. Perfection.

  7. i am sitting here in awe. WOW! Amazing event and i love marcus. I bet you soaked it all in, knowing you. Thanks for sharing!

    last food and wine festival i went to was in New Zealand. LOOOOOVED it!

  8. Oh my! Everything is so lovely. The desserts… Swoon! I’ve never been to Barbados, but the last food festival I attended was the Vanity Fair food and wine festival in Epcot. We accidentally ran into it while we we were there.

  9. You had me at Spiced Pineapple, Banana, and Vanilla Cream Cake! omgosh. What an event! SO cool

  10. OMG, the view!! Love this post – the food looks great and what a fun event to see the best in action. Thanks for sharing, Averie!

  11. well isn’t this a nice treat!
    what a great time indeed.
    glad you had fun in the sun and cold rum drinks at night.

  12. As we leave Thanksgiving behind and move towards Christmas, the ocean and those blue skies are looking pretty good to me! Aaahhhh, sun!

  13. I’ve never been to Barbados but it is calling my name!

  14. Oh my god Averie, how did you manage to drag yourself back on the plane?

  15. Sounds like an amazing trip–thanks for sharing your experience! I’m a fan of Top Chef and Chopped–so cool you got to see Marcus. I bet the food was to die for ( those desserts sure look good)! I might actually try poaching some fish in a ziplock bag–sounds simple and a nice way to cook delicate fillets. The soup went over well and everyone agreed the peanut butter makes it extra delicious!

    • Glad that the soup was a hit, including the peanut butter addition!

      And the fish poached in a ziplock was such a great tip – I would have never thought to do that but it worked so well! He used about 1/4 cup oil I’d guess, the natural juices from the fish, a bit of citrus (orange and lime I believe) and then some spices, sealed up the baggie, and let it boil. I was surprised the bag didn’t disintegrate or melt but it held up just fine!

  16. Looks like you had a blast! I’ve been to several food festivals, including a Wine & Food festival in Newport, RI which is one of my favorites, but haven’t been to Barbados! I’d love to go one day, too.

  17. Ummm awesome! Now that is how you do a festival…if you need an assistant or anything on the next one in Barbados just let me know…I come cheap hahaha!

  18. That looks so awesome! I am super jealous…of the weather AND the food! Thanks for sharing!

  19. What a fun and educational trip! Talk about the perfect venue! That water…so blue. I love how he just basically steamed it inside the bag in a pot of boiling water. What an easy little tip! Great tips on the lime vs. salt, too. I don’t use salt on my food anymore – EVER. It just works better for me. So I am all about oranges and lime and lemon and herbs ground fresh to make my food taste better. Thanks for sharing the photos and experience, Averie! :-)

    • It was pretty cool with the ziplock trick – I was surprised that it didnt melt but no issues whatsoever and it was easy poaching! And lime vs. salt, yes, always!

      We are the same, I NEVER salt my food. If something has salt in it, fine; but I am mindful of the pre-packaged items, i.e. sauces, dressings, dips I buy b/c they are salt slick city!

  20. What an amazing event and location. It looks as though you had a ball, Averie!

  21. How awesome! I went to the rum plant there many years ago for work!

  22. Thank you for sharing all the fun, Averie! Marcus is my favourite Chopped judge, he has such a laid-back, cool elegance that comes through the camera…how exciting to have watched him cooking in person! Barbados, rum, fresh fish (and veggies!), I don’t think I would want to leave.:D

  23. Looks like an amazing event! Love MS ~ such a stylish & fun guy!!!

  24. Woah – what a fun trip and event! I’m particularly jealous of the opportunity to meet Chef Samuelsson; he’s obviously an amazing chef, but he also just seems like a really good guy. And was it me or was he wearing GOLDEN CHUCK TAYLORS during his cooking demo?!!? If so, I now love him even more.

    I’m so glad that you got to attend such a lovely event, Averie! What a wonderful way to really start off your holiday season. Now maybe you can make some rum-infused Christmas cookies… :)

  25. that looks like a total blast! Next time I’ll have to meet you!!

  26. This looks like an AMAZING trip Averie. All the food, the people, the sights, the sounds, the rum… perfection. I want that spiced pineapple banana vanilla cream cake!!!! I’ve never been to a food festival before but I’ve been to a few beer festivals before! I kinda love beer. Just the girly, fruity kind!! I’m not afraid to admit it! I want to go to Barbados now!

  27. Wow, looks like an amazing event – so much food and fun! Great pics too!

  28. I love chef Marcus…and Top Chef so addicted to that show…never been to Barbados…but seeing your pictures view from your room makes me put it on my next travel to place…wow…and wow too the food and drinks look amazing!

  29. Hi Averie, thanks for the tour to the Food, Wine, and rum festival! It is always nice to see unpolished photos of celebrity chefs (a.k.a. in real life). I haven’t been to Barbados, I haven’t traveled to that part of the World, not yet at least. :)

  30. So cool! I’ve never been to Barbados, but I really want to go there one day.

  31. Great photos Averie and a good piece all together. Nice event.

  32. Pingback: November 2012 Recipes

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