Taste of St. Croix Celebrates Iconic Hotels and Foods

Buccaneer head chef Norman McPherson cooks lamb chops with curry sauce. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

The Buccaneer Hotel is a 4.5-star resort, but it featured nothing but five-star dishes and drinks Friday night on the second day of Taste of St. Croix, a mini-version of the 20-year-old popular food festival.

Due to the COVID pandemic, the event was canceled in 2020 and this year the events were held at three island hotels with limited numbers of guests and proof of vaccination required for participants and guests.

Friday’s Sunset on the Terrace was held at the Buccaneer’s elegant Terrace restaurant, with chefs dressed in white standing behind tables garnished with flowers or fruit and serving hot bites from gleaming chafing dishes. Scattered among the chefs were wine and liquor distributors serving their finest beverages.

Buccaneer General Manager Andreas Conoff strolled around the terrace talking about the dishes being presented by the chefs and answering questions. He said he loved the evening, and the potential of the event is “unbelievable.”

The Buccaneer’s new head chef, Norman McPherson, from St. Thomas’ Ritz Carlton, served lamb chops, cooked to order. He said he wanted to use local bananas, so he topped a slice with a chop and coconut curry sauce.

Other Buccaneer chefs served a variety of Caribbean-inspired dishes. Josime Serrano prepared a bouillabaisse with clams, shrimp, lobster, swordfish, tomatoes, carrots, celery and okra and Qyreen Williams served lobster ravioli in vodka cream sauce.

Volunteer Tasheem Stapleton serves dessert sushi during Taste of St. Croix at the Buccaneer Resort. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

Tasheem Stapleton, a volunteer from St. Croix Educational Complex’s culinary program, said he is allergic to seafood so he served an unusual version of sushi – mango, kiwi and pineapple sushi with a ginger honey sauce.

In the past, the event raised funds for culinary scholarships, but this year Colin Hodge, the organizer and one of Taste’s founders, enlisted the Department of Tourism and the V.I. government as sponsors. Instead of raising money, Hodge said the participants were given funds to create their culinary delights rather than sponsoring their entries out of pocket as in previous events.

West Indies Company wine representative Jennifer Hiltpold welcomes guests with a variety of wines and Prosecco. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

“This year is about our partners. The pandemic has affected our partners more. We changed the format to where they benefit,” Hodge said.

Kimberly Follman, the director of wine for Prestige Wine Group, poured several wines to complement whichever dish people sampled. She said the company is proud to have participated in Taste since the first event, even though “it doesn’t translate to a money event for us.”

Taste of St. Croix guests Shawn Samuel, Christina McPherson, David Jackson and Loni Fraebel relax after sampling food and drinks. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

The pandemic brought about another change to Taste of St. Croix. Live video allows many people to attend events virtually. Anthony Weeks of Kallaloo network and the Caribbean Food Network offered to livestream Taste of St. Croix over the food network. For the first time, foodies watched the competition at the Divi Carina Bay Casino, Sunset on the Terrace and Saturday’s Bubbly Brunch at the Fred.

The group of about 50 vaccinated people attending the Buccaneer in person on Friday enjoyed the food and drinks and some sampled several dishes multiple times.

David Jackson sat at a table with three friends. They sampled all they wanted and relaxed as the sun went down. Asked if they enjoyed the food, Jackson answered, “We’re making dinner reservations tomorrow.”

Former senator and current St. Croix Administrator Samuel Sanes said the event was a sign of a recovering economy.

“Finally, a path of normalcy – we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Sanes said.