Arising number of travelers are leaving meat and dairy out of their diets, and they will find a surprisingly warm welcome in many parts of the Caribbean.
Caribbean cuisine may be best known for seafood dishes and, in Jamaica, “jerked” chicken, pork, and other foods, but the region also has a strong vegetarian tradition. For example, “Ital” cuisine, an important part of Rastafarian tradition on Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, is vegetarian, and some practitioners follow a vegan diet as well.
Vegetarian and vegan options have been cropping up alongside the Creole restaurants, steakhouses, and other dining outlets at some of the top resorts in the region, reflecting guest preferences but also the desire to serve a more sustainable and locally sourced menu, taking advantage of the abundant and varied fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the islands.
At Aruba’s Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort (bucuti.com), the extensive vegan and vegetarian options on the menu at the Elements Restaurant, including avocado mango tartare and French onion soup topped with house-made vegan cheese, are seen as an extension of the resort’s award-winning eco-friendly operations.
“Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles can reduce emissions, according to a United Nations report stating that raising of animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars
and trucks in the world combined,” says Ewald Biemans, the resort’s owner and CEO.
“The challenge was to develop creations that not only our vegan and vegetarian customers would enjoy, but all of our customers would be enticed to try and rave about,” adds resort head chef Marc Giesbers.
Erik Peters, Blue Diamond Resorts’ (bluediamondresorts.com) corporate director of food and beverage, has been overseeing a menu overhaul that includes introducing more vegan and vegetarian dishes at properties like the Royalton resorts in Antigua and Saint Lucia. The Royalton Grenada opened last month, with its signature Ma Maison French restaurant featuring dishes like a vegan mushroom bourguignon, along with a variety of vegetarian menu options at Taj, serving modern Indian cuisine.
Emerald’s Restaurant at Saint Lucia’s Anse Chastanet resort (ansechastanet.com) was one of the first vegetarian restaurants to open at a Caribbean resort, and is once again assuming a pioneering role by switching to a 100 percent vegan menu. The tapas-style dishes began as a special offering from Miami vegan chef Todd Erikson in fall 2019 and now features dishes like crispy cauliflower accras with lime, scallion, and St. Lucian mango chutney.
Consulting chef Allen Susser, who created Emerald’s permanent vegan menu with resort chef Frank Faucher, said serving vegan small plates “is a lot more approachable than a vegetarian dinner from appetizer to dessert.” And since Anse Chastanet is all-inclusive, it allows guests to experiment. Nearly everything on the Emerald’s menu is grown on the resort’s own farm. “I think because guests go out there on a tour, they make a connection with the farm and they are very curious,” says Susser.
A Taste of Hawaii
One of Hawaii’s most famous chefs has opened his first restaurant in the region, while another resort eatery is devoting itself exclusively to the art of sashimi, including the ever-popular Hawaiian poke bowl.
Opened last fall at the Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman (margaritavilleresortgrandcayman.com), Eating House 1503 is a Cayman outpost of James Beard award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Waikiki restaurant, Eating House 1849. Yamaguichi serves up a menu of Asian/Hawaiian cuisine, including sushi, ramen, and fried rice with Caribbean spiny lobster taken fresh from local waters. Dining at Eating House
1503 is included in the resort’s all-inclusive package.
Meanwhile, at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa (marriott.com) there are plans to soon unveil woto, a sushi, poke, and ceviche restaurant serving only sashimi-grade seafood.