In 2018 I was very vocal about not going to The Barbados Food and Rum Festival (you can read that article here). As a result, I made a serious effort to attend the 2019 Food and Rum Festival. I went to almost every night. The only night I missed was the ‘Gourmet Safari’ which is basically just dining at a restaurant, maybe with a special menu. I went to the launch, ‘A Night Out in Oistins’, the ‘Food Truck Mash-Up’ and their main event, ‘Epicure – An Evening of Elegance’.
A Night Out in Oistins
If you have ever been to Oistins on the weekend you know the kind of party they have for the launch. There is music, good food and lots of tourists. As part of the Food and Rum Festival there is a food demonstration where there are some free samples and a little extra entertainment from the chefs. However, this is the same event they’ve had for the last decade. At this point it doesn’t even really feel like an event, it feels like a pop up leading to the festival. It is exactly the same format. It almost feels like a waste of an event because it is the start of the festival and they are still trying to convince people to go. The Food and Rum Festival is becoming less of an international event and more of a local affair, as a result most of the people who would consider going have probably been to one of the other free launches or a pop up. If you really want to convince them to attend, you have to reinvent. Give the people a reason to go.
Food Truck Mash-Up
This was the new event this year. Food trucks are a growing trend on the Barbados food scene and this was a smart event to have. It showed that there are different layers to the Food and Rum Festival and that Bajan cuisine is street food and fine dining. Recently there have been a few other food truck events thrown by other people. What was interesting about this event was that there were a couple people represented that aren’t usually a part of these kinds of events such as, Noble Foods and Mike’s Rum Punch. It is always nice to see a few new businesses to try. Unfortunately, there were incredibly long lines. Food being inaccessible is the kiss of death for any food event. It took hours to get through at even one truck and several of the trucks ran out of food long before the end of the event. While, I would consider this event a success because at least it was an interesting experience, the logistics still need to be worked out. I hope they learn from their mistakes and make this event even better next year.
Epicure – An Evening of Elegance
Epicure was the main event for the whole festival. The chefs and mixologists involved in the festival were present, serving cocktails and small plates. It is an all-inclusive event where you can eat and drink as much as you want. This is the best opportunity to taste what every chef has to offer. More than that there was an excellent party topped with live performances. Objectively, this was the usual type of all-inclusive event you would usually get from the Food and Rum Festival. However, this year it was the one real opportunity to get to eat as much as you want from the wonderful chefs. This year felt like if the chefs were really digging deep into the produce of Barbados and prepared some truly wonderful dishes. The star of the night was the roast breadfruit and salt fish from Chef Damian Leach. It sounds like a very traditional Bajan dish, however it was elevated to a whole other level. I love seeing common local ingredients showcased in unexpected ways and this dish was well worth the price of admission.
Overall, I did have fun at the Barbados Food and Rum Festival. It is a shadow of it’s former self but it is still a okay time. ‘Epicure’ was the saving grace for me. I enjoyed it. I liked the food. I liked the drinks. There was entertainment. At times it felt less about showcasing Caribbean food and more about having a nice party. However, at least it is a good party. I will be back next year because it is a Barbadian event and they haven’t committed any egregious crimes so far, so I am still willing to go. The free events are not worth it. Those events leave a bad taste in your mouth where you leave hungry and rather disheartened by the circumstances. If you plan on going to the Food and Rum Festival 2020, I would recommend their main event, Epicure. Whatever their main event is, go to that and forget the rest.
For 2020 there has been some build up for the Festival. Mainly due to the ‘We Gathering’ movement in Barbados. Each month focuses on a different parish and so far there have been Food and Rum Festival events every month. I hope this continues and it becomes more of an Bajan event. All things said, I am looking forward to the Food and Rum Festival 2020. I really hope it can regain some traction. To find out more about the Food and Rum Festival 2020, visit them at www.foodandrum.com.