ST. CROIX — Lauded as the culmination of food and wine events on the island, the 17th Annual Taste of St Croix brought thousands to Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino on Thursday night. The premier showcase of culinary artistry and excellence brought local restaurants—both long established and up and coming—to the forefront, allowing them an opportunity to compete, but more importantly show off their craft and achieve the overall goal of Taste. Eight Wine and Beverage vendors and fifty-two restaurants participated in the event.
Over the years, Taste of St Croix has been considered a prestigious, go-to event the year, pulling visitors and eventgoers from all over the territory, Caribbean and the United States. Its effect is so far-reaching that even local stores outside of the restaurant business, farming, and hospitality experience an increase in patronage as persons prepare for the event. In effect, it has become synonymous with elegance and exquisite culinary.
However, during a press conference before the event, Kelly Odom, co-founder of Taste of St Croix, said despite being considered the largest culinary party on the island, the intent of Taste is to achieve sustainable farming on the island, and in greater part the territory. She says the goal is to ensure that products being used in restaurants on the island come from our farms and our waters, so that nothing is frozen but always fresh. They hope to achieve this by, “[showcasing] the diverse and delectable cuisine and culture of St Croix with its influences from all over the Caribbean and world,” as quoted from the Taste of St Croix website.
Ms. Odom touched on the success of the first event to kick off Taste—Farmer’s Market—saying she was happy to see more and more local farmers participating, adding that she hopes to see more farms and more school gardens participating in the event, and more local products being used around the island. This sparked some discussion among the judges who reminisced on a time when St. Croix was considered “the bread basket of the Caribbean”; whereas now it imports approximately 97% percent of its food. “The goal is to get us back to that point,” said Ms. Odom.
Another one of the goals, which she said Taste of St Croix has accomplished, is bringing Virgin Islands talent to a wider audience. According to Ms. Odom, through the event, she’s seen a few first-time participants, up-and-coming chefs, and restaurants gain acclaim and flourish.
Also speaking at the press conference was Kemit-Amon Lewis of Reef Responsible, who is working on creating a sustainable seafood community within the territory. He said the goal of the nonprofit agency is to protect the reefs and still provide locally caught seafood by teaching local fishermen how to fish seasonal catch, while simultaneously educating restaurateurs on different methods to identify fresh product and preparation of other none traditional seafood products used locally. As he said, one of their initiatives is teaching restaurants how to safely prepare lionfish, which are overpopulating and killing the reefs.
Reef Responsible currently works with 19 local restaurants: Savant; Dashi; Twin City Coffee House; Café Christine; The Mermaid at Buccaneer; Kendrick’s at Buccaneer; Empress Fresh Foods; Above the Cliff; Rhythms at Rainbow; Ital in Paradise; La Reine Chicken Shack;Baked Café; Shoreline at Chenay Bay; Zion Modern Kitchen; J&V Diner; Un Amore; Kaza House; and Umami Catering.
Taste of St Croix is comprised of several events over a weeklong period, which are:
Categories and Winners:
1st Place-Sandcastle on the Beach
2nd Place- Misfit Island Munchies
3rd Place (Tie) – Brew STX and 40 Strand Street
1st Place-Lyric Sails
2nd Place- Chef Aaron Catering
3rd Place (Tie) – Cibone
Soup and Stew:
1st Place- Sai Gon Deli
2nd Place- Divi Carina Bay Resort
3rd Place – Rowdy Joe’s Northshore
1st Place-Ridge to Reef Farm
2nd Place- La Reine Chicken Shack
3rd Place – Blue Water Terrace
2nd Place- Ridge to Reef Farm
3rd Place – Ra’s Sunrise Daughter Stand Farm
1st Place-Sweet Bites
2nd Place- Palms at Pelican Cove
3rd Place – Eat at Cane Bay
1st Place-Bes Craft Cocktail Lounge
2nd Place- Zion Modern Kitchen
3rd Place – Crucian Ice
1st Place-Savor St Croix
Honorable Mention: Doughboy Pretzels
People’s Choice: Bes Craft Cocktail Lounge
The Founders Taste of St Croix extends their appreciation to volunteers, farmers, restaurateurs, sponsors, media, and of course the patrons and supporters of the event. A special congratulations to all the winners.