The countdown has begun for the Caribbean’s most anticipated foodie fête: the St. Barth Gourmet Festival. From November 1 – 4, St. Barth’s top establishments will host an array of gastronomy-focused events, which showcase the culinary excellence of France’s leading chefs alongside the ingenuity of local talent.
Hurricane Irma may have forced the cancellation of last year’s festival, but the island has since been rebuilding to prepare for the 2018 – 2019 season, which kicks off with this event. So along with the fabulous multi-course wine-paired dinners, cooking competitions, and seminars, expect hefty sides of top-tier hotel and restaurant re-openings. Here, everything you need to know about the St. Barth Gourmet Festival — from star-studded events to must-see chef battles to where to stay.
Marquee Chefs Headline the Dinners at the St. Barth Gourmet Festival
To be sure, St. Barth has its own roster of star chefs, but the St. Barth Gourmet Festival casts a spotlight on the global leaders of French gastronomy. Meaning France’s Michelin-starred elite descend upon the tropics come early November.
Executive Chef Nicolas Sale of two-Michelin star restaurant La Table de L’Espadon at the Ritz Hotel in Paris leads the 2018 festival. He will be serving up delectable French cuisine at the newly renovated Le Barthélemy Hotel. Joining Sale for the weekend are other toques of Michelin-starred pedigree including Chef Cédric Béchade of La Table de l'Auberge Basque, who will be cooking at Tamarin, and Chef Édouard Loubet of Domaine de Capelongue, who will be cooking at Hotel Le Toiny. You can also find Chef Virginie Basselot at Hotel Christopher, Chef Pierre Augé at Nikki Beach, and Chef Serge Labrosse at Bonito.
Each will host three nights of ticketed dinners (the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the festival), during which patrons can enjoy a four-course menu or an eight-course menu. Reservations begin at 7 pm and can be made directly by contacting the hotel or restaurant host.
Daytime Events Are All About Competition
During the days, the aforementioned top chefs alongside other French greats serve as juries to a series of competitions across the island. Don’t miss the largest event, “Le Concours de Barman” at 10 pm on Friday, November 2 at 25 Quarter in Gustavia. It’s the ultimate battle of island mixology, with St. Barth bartenders going head to head in creating original cocktail recipes.
A new addition this year is the “Joyfood Challenge” at Nikki Beach Restaurant on Saturday, November 3 starting at 10 am. Five local (amateur) cooking teams prepare and present their bespoke interpretation of “joyful food.” Expect a combination of praise and harsh critiques from the personality-driven panel.
You’ll need to wake up early on Sunday, November 4 to watch the most anticipated competition of the festival, “Le Concours St-Barth Chefs Challenge.” From 8 to 10 am, rising talents are challenged to create a dish that embodies "the island of St. Barthelemy." This cookoff, like all the daytime contests, is free and open to the public.
Major Re-Openings Will Be Timed With the Festival
While many of St. Barth’s premier villas proved a quick fix after Hurricane Irma, it has been a different story for the island’s hotels. Yet thirteen months later, significant progress has been made – with favorites like Manapany and Villa Marie having opened earlier this year – and this fall we can look forward to a few major re-debuts in time for the St. Barth Gourmet Festival.
Le Toiny reopens on October 15 bigger and better than ever; check out the new hillside Villa Suites and beachfront pool in between festival events. If you’re looking for a quiet escape on the island’s north shore, Hotel Christopher rejoins the luxury space on October 17 after renovating more than 70 percent of its structures. And for a completely personalized stay, check into Le Barthélemy (which had just debuted months before Irma) for upgraded rooms and custom amenities like a pillow menu. The resort on Grand Cul de Sac will be back in action by October 28.
Featured Photo: Michael Gramm