One international chef meets a plethora of local flavor

In coordination with the Ministry of Tourism and the U.S. Embassy, Violets are Blue partnered with Chicago-based chef Judson Todd Allen on an island-hopping food and cultural visit.

Known as the “architect of flavor”, Chef Allen hoped to get an insider’s perspective on life in The Bahamas as well as food-related opportunities in a country in need of becoming more self-sufficient where food production is concerned.

His visit began with a guided food tour of Downtown Nassau led by Alannah Rodgers, founder and chief culinary tour guide of Tru Bahamian Food Tours. Incorporating bites of social and cultural history with savory and sweet samples from Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant and Bar, Graycliff Beer Garden and Chocolatier, Van Breugel’s Bistro and Bar, Athena Café, Pure Caribbean Specialty Store and Tortuga Rum Cake Company, the tour provided a comprehensive overview of the country’s sociopolitical development as well as its diverse culinary palate.

Making good use of his time, Allen traveled across New Providence to the western district, where he explored The National Piggery on Gladstone Road, known for producing high quality, local pork. The chef also made a stop at local producers Goodfellow Farms and Field to Fork where he and representatives of the Embassy and Violets are Blue met with chefs and farmers responsible for offering locally-grown produce and exposing would-be backyard farmers to the variety of fruits and vegetables they could grow at home.

Going off the beaten path, Allen made his way to Eleuthera, where he learned of the island’s famed pineapples. Sustainable fishing industries were also part of the lesson; visiting a lionfish derby was one of the getaway’s highlights. The chef also got a chance to meet up with a local fisherman to find out more about the local sustainable stone crab industry.

Armed with an idea of the country’s suppliers, produce exchange and food artisans, the chef moved on to tackle one of the trip’s main objectives. Partnering with local culinary superstar Chef Simeon Hall, the duo worked with local schools to offer healthy meal programs and highlight a range of deliciously good-for-you and affordable lunches. Tying this into another of the trip’s purposes – the chefs used their time together to push for public education on wellness, eating and healthy meal choices. Hosting a cookout at a Hay Street basketball court, Allen and Hall served up grilled vegetables, lionfish sliders and smiles all around in the Grant’s Town community.

His visit culminated with a cook-off at Hillside House, where the two chefs “battled” to produce the best dishes with all locally-sourced food, gathered during the course of the week.

With the Ministry of Tourism’s designation of October as Culinary Month, Allen and Hall look forward to the American chef’s return. In the meantime, Violets are Blue will be keeping the flame burning under its growing health food program for local schools.