In order to survive in the increasingly competitive tourism industry, even the most remote resorts must pay careful attention to their kitchens as travellers are placing greater emphasis on a quality dining experience, the food and beverage manager of a popular Belizean eco resort advises.
Bryony Fleming Bradley, of The Lodge at Chaa Creek in western Belize, said that the days of adventurous travellers being satisfied with food that was simply hot and palatable are over.
”Some years back, our guests would always comment at how happily surprised they were with the quality of the food we served, as it usually exceeded their expectations of what would be found in such a pristine location.
“These days, expectations are definitely higher, and there is a greater emphasis on things like presentation, variety and where and how the ingredients are sourced,” she said.
“Fortunately, Chaa Creek began as a family farm, and we still maintain a Maya organic farm that supplies our restaurant, so fresh produce has never been a problem. In fact, Chaa Creek has been growing healthy organic food for literally thousands of years.”
Ms Fleming Bradley explained that Chaa Creek sits within the Macal River Valley, which was once a large Maya trade and agricultural centre. The Chaa Creek area, nestled on the banks of the Macal River and situated between the two important ancient cities of Caracol and Tikal, was populated by hundreds of Maya farming families who produced food for the urban centres.
“So our Maya Organic Farm is continuing a tradition that’s thousands of years old. We grow much of the exact same food using the same techniques as the Maya did hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. We think it’s great that we can carry on that tradition,” she said.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is one of the region’s most highly awarded eco resorts for its green, sustainable practices and was the first Belizean resort to be awarded the Green Globe Certification “as a mark of quality, sustainability and climate action,” according to Green Globe International. Ms Fleming Bradley said that Chaa Creek’s commitment to sustainability and responsible travel extends to its restaurant and kitchen.
“We strive to reduce the miles between where food is sourced and the plate, which means the carbon footprint of our meals is very small while the food itself is as fresh and healthy as it can be.
“With the nearby Mennonite farming community of Spanish Lookout supplying a variety of cheeses, meats and other produce, combined with fresh seafood from Belize’s vast Caribbean coastline and produce from our own Maya organic farm, we have a guaranteed supply of fresh, high quality ingredients for our talented chefs to work with,” she said.
Judging from visitors’ comments, these efforts are appreciated.
Tina Baldwin, a recent guest said, “The restaurant was superb. We are admitted ‘foodies’ and Chaa Creek did not disappoint us. The flavours, the presentation, and the variety…Oh my, I wish I could come back today! And, all of this in such a beautiful, relaxing setting. I loved the beautiful table settings and flowers.
“The fact that so much of the food was grown on site and organic has huge importance to us…the importance for our health and the planet is essential,” she added.
Ms Fleming Bradley said such comments are not unusual and showed the importance people now place on dining as part of their travel experience.
“Travellers no longer just expect excellent cuisine in places like Italy or France. Even here, in the middle of a pristine rainforest, they want to eat well. And we’re very happy to continue to meet and exceed their expectations,” she said.