One has to love the French for their contribution to the art of cooking, especially the names for those of us in the kitchen- chef de tournant; chef de partie, and my favorite – chef garde manger. Beautiful words wrought with layers of meaning, but all boiling down to one thing…he or she is a cook and hopefully a good one!
Well this ‘cook’ is spending the winter on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands at the Rosewood 5 Star resort of Caneel Bay, ‘slaving’ away in a kitchen larger than the entire property upon which the Horse sits. As Anonymous once said “It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.”
While the Horse sits shivering in sub-zero temps and being buried by that lovely white stuff, I walk a mile and a half to work each day in 84 degrees; spend my day creating dishes with a group of professionals that love what they do and who they do it for (some of the staff at Caneel have been here since the sixties!); and when the work day is done, I clock out and head for one of Caneel’s amazing beaches for a refreshing swim before walking back to my humble abode in the village of Cruz Bay.
Besides the sybaritic pleasures of island life, the real reason I chose Caneel for my winter exploration was the chance of working under their new executive chef, Anthony Dawodu. Dawodu was seduced away from the Boston dining scene by Caneel a few years ago and given a great challenge -restore Caneel’s reputation as a 5 star dining experience and do it quickly.
If you’re familiar with island life anywhere, the word ‘quickly’ is seldom used in conversation; in fact it is anathema to the zeitgetz of living under palm trees surrounded by water. Dawodu, however, was up for the challenge and has, in less than three years, restored the gloss to Caneel – the quality of the dining experience aside, the business acumen and cultural understanding shown is impressive by any standards.
And so, here I am, seeing first hand a resort business recovery model in action; improving my kitchen chops; and filing away ideas, recipes and techniques to bring home to the Horse to make your dining and lodging experience even better in the coming years. It’s a great way to spend the winter, and most importantly, I don’t have to shovel snow!