July 29, 2014
It started with sweet potatoes, onions and peppers, expanded to soursop and limes, and now the hotel that serves local produce to guests is redoubling its efforts to support Bahamian business by purchasing fish, conch and when crawfish season opens, fresh crawfish, from local fishermen.
Andrew Tilley, General Manager of Melia Nassau Beach, explains.
“It makes all the sense in the world to buy as much as you can locally,” said Tilley. “It pleases the guests who enjoy tasting true local fare. It is especially appealing because what you are serving is fresh and is being served the same day it was caught. And it supports local business which is very important to the Melia brand.”
It’s important to companies like Dad & Lad, who supply conch, grouper, red snapper and hope to expand to crawfish when season opens in August.
“It’s not often that you find foreign companies wanting to deal with Bahamians,” says Dwight Higgins, one half of the Dad & Lad father and son fishing duo, Dad in Mayaguana, Dwight in Nassau. Dad fishes early, then packs the coolers and loads them aboard a plane. The catch arrives fresh and is never frozen, says Executive Chef Sidney Bullard, who recently won an honorable mention for Leader of the Quarter, a high honour considering competition was 500 strong, the number of staff members at the hotel on Cable Beach.
The younger Higgins, 43, has been fishing since he was in his late teens and this is only the second time he’s had an opportunity to supply catch to a local establishment.
“I wish more people would adapt that same habit of looking for the Bahamian first,” he says. “I encourage Melia to continue what they’re doing in putting Bahamians first. I hope they make a big difference and set the landscape for other foreign owned companies who come in and import everything rather than giving the small business an opportunity. If you provide good service and provide the product that’s coming from the heart and not a conveyor belt it makes a difference and I applaud and compliment Melia for seeing that difference.”
As for how the kitchen handles the catch to make the most appetizing sea-to-table presentation, Executive Chef Sidney, Chef Paul Pratt and cooks like Sandra all contribute, often calling on old Bahamian family favourites and that’s fine with the hotel’s general manager who has worked in exotic locations before.
“When I came here and realized soursop grew in The Bahamas, I knew life in the kitchen was going to be fun,” says Tilley. “I’m looking forward to discovering the soursop drink or ice cream recipe and we’ll add that to the menu of one of our new restaurants.”
Three main new restaurants are scheduled to come onboard as part of Melia’s $10+ million in improvements. In December, the Spanish-based chain reflagged the hotel that opened as the Cable Beach Hotel & Resort 30 years ago. It is now part of the high-end network of some 300 hotels in 30 countries and will become part of the $3.5 billion Bahamar when the mega-resort, residential and retail development launches.