Written by Josue Merced-Reyes
Throughout my years in the industry, I have watched a trend develop in the food and beverage industry. This trend began very slowly in the 1970’s and started picking up speed when Reagan’s cutbacks in the American federal school lunch program elicited criticism that there was no longer funding to provide a “balanced diet” to schoolchildren, including fresh vegetables.
Over the past 40 years, mindful eating has become the a staple. Mindful eating is not a diet, but a clear understanding that food is critically tied into a our health and overall wellbeing. Baby boomers have embraced mindful eating as a way to better manage their health, while for millennials this “health awareness” has intuitively become one of their core values. This blossoming realization in today’s F&B clientele has spread to the culinary conscious tourist we find visiting the Caribbean. Therein lies the Caribbean’s greatest culinary challenge
The Caribbean Challenge
Professional chefs know that high quality, fresh ingredients are paramount to creating a memorable and delectable meal. However, our unique Caribbean cuisine is traditionally devoid of healthy selections or healthy accompaniments at our eateries. With the high historic population of African slaves and indentured servants, our cuisine was based on subsistence, making it heavy on caloric count and left-overs. A meal hearty enough to work the fields.
Fresh vegetables and a balanced diet were not a consideration. Traditional Caribbean cuisine, in most Caribbean nations, consists of rice, peas or beans – if meat is provided it is often well done, fried or stewed. How do we add Caribbean flavor to these healthy meal trends without offending our well-loved grandmother’s cooking.
Mindful Food Trends
An Opportunity for Reinvention
These trends prove that the Caribbean now has the opportunity to reinvent itself, and promote healthier menus in its restaurants and eateries.
I know many of our Caribbean National Culinary Teams competing at Taste of the Caribbean this year have already integrated these health trends into their cuisine thereby offering their clients a menu that is both local and healthful. The true challenge presents itself with our young apprentice chefs and bartenders-to-be. They are the future of our industry and will be part of a key economic engine in each of our countries.
The challenge is ours. Are we doing enough to guide our young professionals what these global trends are and how to “Caribbeanize” them? These global trends are the mark and value of today’s traveler. We need to embrace them for the good of our businesses and our clients, our local agricultural industry and our people.
About Josué Merced-Reyes
Josué Merced-Reyes is a food, wine and beverage educator; a critic and journalist, as well as a food and beverage marketer. He is an honorary member of the Taste of the Caribbean Hall of Fame and has been head judge for the Taste of the the Caribbean Bartender Competition. He is President of InterEmarketing , the Caribbean gastronomy, food and beverage consulting firm that specializes in the Hospitality Industry, as well as promoting products and services we enjoy.