Keeping It Local with a Twist

JEREMY BEARMAN, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE RESTAURANT AT MALLIOUHANA

“I’ll let you into a little secret,” whispers Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman. “There is plenty of local produce grown right here on Anguilla. In fact, there’s a plethora of small farms that offer a really nice selection to choose from.”

Chef Jeremy Bearman points to one he visits regularly, called Rainbow, which grows okra, tomatoes, basil mint, spinach, avocados, and papayas, among other fruits. That’s good news for Bearman, who until recently served as the executive chef of the five-time Michelin-starred Rouge Tomate in New York City as well as corporate chef of SPE Certified, where he was responsible
for creating and executing menus with health and sustainability in mind.

When he first got to Anguilla in August, the height of Carnivale, Bearman hit the ground running, familiarizing himself with island living. He made the rounds at the local hot spots to get an idea about traditional flavor profiles and dishes, and began to cultivate relationships with local farmers. Bearman had high hopes for the grounds at Malliouhana to be one of those providers— and was off to a healthy start with a small onsite garden that unfortunately didn’t make it through a hurricane that ripped through Anguilla a couple of weeks before the hotel’s opening in November. With the help of the resident head landscaper, his goal is to have an even larger plot carved out in no time at all. “We already have fruit trees on the property, a small amount of herbs like rosemary and thyme, and purslane that grows wild here.” And now he has a strong local network of farms that supply him with a steady stream of produce.

He works with farmers that use clean farming techniques because the subtleties in his food is where his mastery shines: “The food I cook allows you to taste the nuances of each ingredient used, rather than having them covered with heavy sauces or overly seasoned preparations.” He has challenged himself over the years to prepare food that is full of flavor, texture, and visual appeal, starting with the best ingredients possible. What he can’t source locally comes from other local islands like Dominica and the Dominican Republic, the mainland—and, of course, at times Europe. “We get goat and pork locally, but I get the bulk of my meats from the States,” he admits. He also depends on the U.S. for his dry goods. But when it comes to fish, it’s 90 percent local.

“We have the best conch in the world right here in Anguilla,” Bearman says, grinning. “Snapper, mahi, spiny lobster, crayfish, and tuna—they are pulled out of the water locally.” Daily? “It depends on the weather. When the water is calm, the fishermen fish; when it’s rough, they don’t.” Regardless, his phone constantly rings. “Most of the fishermen have their specialty as far as what they catch.”

Good ingredients aside, how does a Michelin-starred chef from New York adapt his cooking skills to the needs of an island? “It’s about going somewhere and figuring it out by what product is available that we can use and put on the menu, understanding the culture as well as your clientele and what they are looking for, and then doing something that works for both, since you want to create a sense of place.” And that is exactly what Bearman does: traditional dishes with a refined twist. “One of the more classic dishes in Anguilla is a West Indian curried goat with rice and peas. It’s rustic and wildly popular, and so we built off those flavors and made our own curried goat sausage that is served with basmati rice and pigeon peas, along with a whipped banana and sweet potato puree with ginger jus. We basically took a lot of the traditional flavors and modernized the dish, and people love it.” Another example is his squid ink pasta dish. “All the flavors that go into this are those you would normally see down here. Local Scotch Bonnet peppers are pickled and served with corn, lobster, and a sea urchin butter. It’s our way of incorporating a bit of the flavor of the island in everything we do.”

He points out a house-made ricotta dish featuring Guadalupe melon from Dominica. “This is an orange melon similar to a cantaloupe with stripes. It’s sold all over the streets in Anguilla and, when ripe, is not only sweet but has a really unique and interesting flavor.” He uses it in salad that is not so much a cultural dish as a celebration of local ingredients: “The melon, the mint salad—these ingredients are locally grown. That’s the other approach to the dishes.”

While he adapts his dishes, Bearman has stayed true to himself and his cooking philosophy. “I love to work with classic yet authentic flavors and ingredients of an individual region and twist them into a more modern American preparation. This allows me to transport the diner to a specific place through flavor while not just giving them the common, classic preparation.” And as far as healthful eating, once again he has maintained a steady course, offering dishes that are rich in flavor but not heavy. “I believe the dynamic has changed for people going on vacation. Now they tend to continue to eat healthy even when they aren’t at home to maintain what they have worked so hard at. Besides, when it’s hot out, the last thing you want is a really heavy meal. We have lightened it up and it all kind of works together here. You are in an area where there is more product that is naturally light and healthy because you are in the tropics. In addition, we cook with minimal use of cream and butter in our savory items. The idea is for the guests to leave feeling good about what they just had.”

“Snapper, mahi, spiny lobster, crayfish, and tuna, to name a few, they are all pulled out of the water locally.”
— Chef Jeremy Bearman

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