Chaa Creek’s new Open Hearth hands-on culinary experience is a mixture of fun and discovery, guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning appetites
One of our favourite things about travel is learning about cultures. Nothing broadens the mind and adds to an appreciation of the world around us like cultural exploration.
Our next favourite thing is learning about food. Nothing broadens the waistline…
Just kidding. As you’re about to discover, learning about Belizean cuisine at Chaa Creek is actually quite healthy, involving some exercise and a focus on using fresh ingredients.
For example, imagine strolling through a traditional Maya organic farm, harvesting fresh herbs and produce to use while learning to prepare ethnocentric meals under the supervision of experienced cooks in a working Belizean village-style kitchen.
Chaa Creek’s new Open Hearth learning adventure is the brainchild of Bryony Fleming Bradley, who was born while her mother Lucy and father Mick were establishing Chaa Creek as a farm and Belize was becoming an independent nation.
The Flemings quickly became fascinated with Belize’s colourful multiculturalism, and Lucy, first feeding her young family, and then visitors, and then more visitors, and then paying guests, found herself immersed in a wealth of new ingredients and ways of preparing them.
Proving that old adage of the apple not falling far from the tree, Bryony developed her own interests in cultures, cuisine, nutrition and health, eventually creating the internationally recognised Hilltop Spa and serving as Chaa Creek’s Food and Beverage manager.
Even as a child, travelling around Belize with her parents and younger brother Piers, Bryony showed an interest in cultures and cooking, learning how to make tortillas in Mestizo kitchens, Creole style rice and beans, Maya hot chocolate and Kack-ick soup, and, in Garifuna villages on the Caribbean coast, Hudut, Sere and other traditional dishes.
“Whenever we’d visit local villages and homes, I was always drawn to kitchens. Like everywhere else, Belizean kitchens are the beating hearts of households and communities, where you can learn new ways of cooking and looking at the world,” she remembers.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Bryony hits on an idea to share the Fleming’s interest in Belize’s cultural and culinary heritages.
“Last year, with more and more visitors showing an interest in Belizean cooking, we thought, instead of having to travel to various ethnic communities, why not build a traditional Belizean village kitchen here, and invite cooks from different cultural backgrounds to come and prepare their favourite meals?
“It would be a fun, hands-on way for our guests to learn about Belize’s different cultures and cooking styles.”
She and Lucy ran the idea by Mick, who – as any visitor to Chaa Creek can see – loves building things. And,
The Open Hearth concept was born.
In a purpose-built, thatch-roofed Belizean kitchen, hands-on classes will be offered each day of the week with a focus on a specific culture – their history, development in Belize, and their distinctive cuisines.
On Mestizo Mondays, for example, participants will receive a brief introduction in how Spanish and Indigenous cultures blended to form the vibrant Mestizo culture of the New World. A tour of the Maya Organic Farm will reveal how new ways of preparing food evolved as local and imported ingredients and cultural styles blended together over time to create the distinctive dishes guests will learn to cook.
Tuesdays may focus on Belizean East Indian cooking, while Wednesdays will introduce visitors to Belize’s Creole culture and cuisine.
Thursdays are slated for one of Belize’s, and indeed the worlds, most distinctive cultures – the Garifuna. Proclaimed by UNESCO as “A Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” Garifuna culture has produced a cuisine that creatively incorporates coconuts, seafood, cassava, and plantains.
Maya Friday will bring another fascinating culture, and one of the world’s most advanced ancient civilisations, alive. The people who gave the world chocolate and tamales also enjoyed rich stews and soups.
“We’re all very excited about the Open Hearth. Guests will leave with recipes designed to be replicated with ingredients that can be found in the US, UK and Europe,” Bryony said.
“Now, when guests say ‘I wish I could take that meal home with me’, they’ll actually be able to,” she added.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s Open Hearth learning adventure can be arranged on a weekly or day-by-day basis, or as part of an all-inclusive Belize vacation package. Contact your favourite travel agent or Chaa Creek directly to learn more and to make bookings.