By Kurt Campbell
The first-ever Agri-Investment Forum and Expo wrapped up in Georgetown on Saturday and a large audience of locals and foreigners in Guyana used the opportunity to revive interest in indigenous-based foods with a twist.
The plantain rice and cassava pizza were massive hits, alongside other authentic Guyanese culinary delights like vermicelli rice, ice cream and dark chocolate made with homegrown beans sourced from Amerindian communities.
It was Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley who opened the forum on Thursday with a call for “mindset change” among Caribbean nationals, saying the region must consume what it produces and ensure that visitors to this part of the world do the same.
“We bring people here and want to feed them what they eat from where they come. Our responsibility is to give them a flavour that may entice them to return,” Mottley had reasoned.
Local chefs were already lined up to do just that and the ‘Discover Guyana’ booth became perhaps one of the most visited during the three-day event at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
With a focus on showcasing the linkages between agriculture and tourism (agri-tourism), local mixologists and chefs received the support from the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce and the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) to show how local food can become part of mainstream menus at restaurants and hotels and the process through which it can make its way from the farm to the plate of a visitor.
Mottley had also called it an offence to an independent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that foods like tin juice were being imported from other parts of the world when the region has an abundance of fresh fruits.
According to GTA’s Director Kamrul Baksh, the food served at the ‘Discover Guyana’ booth, along with smoothies, mocktails and hot chocolate were a “massive hit.”
“We want to create value for the refinement and development of these menus as mainstream local products,” Baksh told the News Room.
Meanwhile, local renowned chefs Delvin Adams and Kester Robinson had their hands full as the demand was beyond expectations.
Adams from Backyard Café was behind the making of the plantain rice which was prepared through a process of blending the plantain after which it was seasoned with vegetables and sauces added before being served.
The plantain rice is not only a healthier and more filling option for some but certainly a display of how local ingredients can be used for this purpose.
Robinson was behind the making of several ice creams, including the Vermicelli rice cream and the Guinness; sorrel, and coconut ice creams, all of which were made with local products.
“When you’re able to bring that nostalgia, people are surprised because of the flavour and what it [the local ingredient] is able to make and they are excited. Persons have been responding really well. We found ourselves having to make more and more and more,” Robinson told the News Room.
He was also behind the making of salsa using the heart of palm which is grown in Guyana but mostly exported. That salsa was served topped on a waffle made from plantain, sweet potato and cassava flour.
Chefs Eon John and Jessica John from Singing Chef Adventures, who specialise in experiential and culinary-based travel, were behind the making of the cassava bread pizza, using cassava bread and coconut oil as a base marinated and topped with local ingredients.
This was definitely a hit with scores leaving riveting reviews on social media and at least one major restaurant already expressing an interest in placing it on the menu.
Local chocolatier, Andrew Campbell, also used beans sourced from indigenou
s communities in Region One to serve a series of chocolate-based delights, such as dried pineapples dipped in dark chocolate.
Baksh said the response from samplers to all of these foods was “through the roof.”
He hopes that these foods to make it on the menus of hotels and restaurants so that value can be added.