As if to emphasize what I was saying in one of my earlier articles about food being in the midst of everything, BMEX is here and, being the grand exhibition that it is, highlighting all aspects of Barbados manufacturing, food is still one of the leading components.
Food plays such a significant role in this event that it attracts its own group of buyers from across the region and internationally, offering a chance, particularly for our condiment manufacturers, to meet face-to-face with these major players to have the opportunity to sell their product.
This year, buyers are on hand from Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, St. Lucia, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Needless to say, there will be numerous food demonstrations and all the major food manufacturers will be taking the opportunity to re-affirm their place in the market to the thousands that will be in attendance.
I, though, had the opportunity, even before the official start of BMEX, to present what was being offered by our local manufacturers to the regional and international buyers. My job was to convince them that the products were of the highest quality by preparing a meal for the Barbados Investment & Development Corporations’ buyers’ brunch.
My task was to prepare a 100 per cent Bajan meal, utilizing all of the flours, such as sweet potato, cassava and green banana, as well as the endless array of sauces, marinades, preserves, confectioneries, liqueurs and other beverages manufactured locally. I was given the produce with which to work and as I created what we were going to serve and present, I must say that I was very impressed with the quality as far as flavours, textures and consistency were concerned.
In some instances, I was given two or three similar products, but made by different manufacturers and you would be amazed at the difference in flavour in each one. Just to help you to understand the challenge I was faced with, take a trip to any one of the supermarkets and look at the Bajan seasoning or Pepper Sauce aisles and see how many different brands there are, but all uniquely balanced in flavour.
I am always very excited when I am given challenges like these as they set my taste buds racing and activate that flavour folder to which I always refer. What I did this time, though, was to create a gluten-free tempura-coated flying fish and used one of the pepper jams and two more cooking sauces to create a dipping sauce for the finished product. Before being dipped in the batter, the fish was marinated in a fish marinade provided by one of the manufacturers.
As testimony to the full flavours of all of these products, I didn’t have to use any additional herbs and spices or add any additional flavours to these products, so I could have safely said to the members of my audience, who were all amazed by the final flavour, that those flavours came directly from the products before them and no further manipulation or enhancing had to be done.
This was clearly showcased through my demonstrations which I presented as a part of their brunch. My major point here though is to mention the quality of the food products which will be on show and I have no doubt on sales as well at this year’s BMEX.
A key discussion point during the brunch related to the items on the menu, as most of the buyers were surprised to note that such a variety of locally made products was available. Among these and just to mention a few, there was a pancake made from cassava to which only egg, milk or water had to be added, depending of course on your final required texture.
There was also a sweet potato and flying fish cake which was almost totally gluten-free through the absence of wheat flour; the only gluten present being the small percentage in the baking powder which was used as a raising agent. There were omelets filled with locally manufactured cheese; some were stuffed with a Scotch Bonnet Jack Cheese. We also used a Rosemary Goat’s Cheese and a few others that were available.
We had cassava muffins topped with a locally made coconut biscuit, which were a hit at brunch. Of course, we could not forget our Bajan Ham Cutters made from a locally manufactured ham, which was sliced and placed in a medium-ground cassava bread, to which flavour was added by one of the ginger jellies or lemon jellies that were readily available.
Also on the menu, as well as one of the items used in the demonstrations, was a fish sausage which we marinated in a very distinct-flavoured grill sauce, before it was cooked and served with our range of flavour pepper sauces which were also on display.
I thought this buyer’s brunch hosted by the organizers, BIDC, was a wonderful idea and from the feedback received, there was great interest shown by the buyers, as well as an opportunity that was happily taken by the manufacturers. Here’s hoping that it resulted in lots of sales for our hardworking manufacturers.
(Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer.