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CONTRIBUTED - Chef Glenroy Walker making jerk marinade for his jerked fish.
Jerk fish and breadfruit on the grill

Destination Jamaica - Where the world's foodies dine

"I love preparing Jamaican meals because the flavours can't be replicated anywhere else!" exclaimed Glenroy Walker, senior group executive chef at Sandals Resorts International. "I love how you can transform the food in a novel way, and it is exciting. To hear the oooohs and aaaahs and see the look of satisfaction on the guests' faces is gratifying," he said. Such is the magic and allure of Jamaica's cuisine.

The gastronomic offerings are all wrapped up in the island's bold flavours and tasty notes. Many foodies have travelled from far afield to the island to imbibe sumptuous treats. Likewise, many food aficionados have packed dining halls and five-star restaurants in Europe, North America, and places in between, just to indulge in the unmistakable flavours that are uniquely Jamaican.

Jamaica definitely punches above her weight in the gastronomy arena. Unlike cuisines such as the French and the Italian which have had centuries to perfect their craft, Jamaica is a relative newcomer to the culinary landscape, earning recognition in recent decades. People are always in awe of the flavours and want to know how they can get the ingredients so that they can replicate the taste in their own kitchen. The use of locally grown produce, the aroma and zest of the island's herbs and spices create pleasantly unexpected fusions and mouthwatering menus. This makes Jamaica a bucket-list destination for creations that delight the palates of foodies.

UNIQUE BLEND OF FLAVOURS

"Our authentic spices create a combustion of flavours. The allspice, ginger, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper that come from the land is beautiful," said Walker. "I do believe persons come to Jamaica for our cuisine. Jamaica's culture is warm and welcoming, and people gravitate to the culture easily. That warmth oozes out of the food that we prepare, and this draws people to the island," he said.

One of the reasons for Jamaica's distinct cuisine is access to fresh produce, and for Martin Maginley, executive chef at Round Hill Hotel and Villas, that is key to making phenomenal dishes. He loves the fact that he can design dishes that create an experience for the clients because the ingredients are accessible in their organic form. "I take the fresh products that are found on the island and transform them above and beyond to create recipes that you can create at home," he explained.

When he shares kitchen with international chefs, they are always interested in the Jamaican-infused meals that he prepares. "Chefs gravitate towards the cuisine, because of its bold flavours, and it gives me joy to share my knowledge and products with them," he said.

The magic of Jamaican-infused meals is not served only in five-star restaurants, but is available in the most unexpected places on the island, like in a patty shop, in a roadside kitchen simmering on a coal pot, at a jerk joint, on an off-the-beaten-track farm-to-table event or in the Rastafarian ital stew. It is these authentic encounters that are among the memorable experiences that visitors and Jamaicans alike keep talking about.

To add another layer to the culinary experience, some attractions and accommodations offer guests the opportunity to participate in the cooking experience. For example, Yaaman Adventure Park offers a culinary tour that allows the guests to participate in the meal preparation. At Goblin Hill Villas, the housekeepers prepare freshly cooked meals, which guests can help to prepare. Additionally, many hotels on the island are now offering farm-to-table experiences. The See, Touch and Taste Programme at Round Hill Hotel and Villas is very important to Maginley as it gives him opportunities to interact with the guests in the hotel's organic garden and to cook together. This goes a far way in promoting Jamaica's cuisine with people from all over the world.

To hear a guest say, "this is what I came here for", is music to Walker's ears. And this sentiment is proof that people the world over visit Jamaica to indulge in her enticing gastronomic offerings. 

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