THE DIRECTOR of food & beverage at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts in the Maldives explains his low food miles menu.
David Burrows: Could you give us an idea of the set up at Jumeirah Vittaveli – the size and the restaurants/bars you have?
James Sutcliffe: Jumeirah Vittaveli caters to all types of guests, and wherever possible we customise our cuisine to suit individual preferences. We have an all-day dining restaurant, a beachside grill restaurant, a 360-degree bar, and a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant. In addition, we offer a range of dining by design options so that guests can enjoy private sandbank picnics, beach barbecues or even a dinner in the pool.
DB: As you know, Footprint is all about sustainability in the hospitality and foodservice sectors. It’s a huge issue here, but how about in the Maldives? Climate change is affecting the islands already but are businesses being encouraged to become more sustainable?
JS: The Maldives is definitely becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability. The economy is mainly driven by tourism, so it is mostly resort owners (as owners of the biggest businesses in the area) who are adapting their practices to become more environmentally sustainable.
DB: What are the most important areas of work for you?
JS: Energy and carbon reductions are the single largest area we have control over. Being on an island we can focus on reducing this through working on related areas – like reducing the air miles in importing our goods.
DB: Speaking of food, I understand you’ve just launched a “low miles” menu – how did that come about and what’s involved?
JS: As a culinary team who care about and take responsibility for the environmental impact our meals can have, we wanted to promote and practise the concept of cooking a meal without contributing harmful greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Our ingredients for this menu are sourced locally with minimal air or sea miles required to bring them to our resort.
DB: Was it hard to complete?
JS: With a team that is made of Maldivian colleagues and foreign colleagues who have spent many years in the Maldives, it was easy to brainstorm and put together a delectable menu using fresh ingredients. We are obviously a little limited in what can be presented on a menu that we know is available locally. The direction that has been taken with the menu is to not only offer local produce but present dishes which are themselves traditionally local.
DB: How will you be communicating the new menu to guests?
JS: The menu is featured on our main menu and publicised throughout the resort to raise awareness. As we are trying to offer a cooking class for the guest in conjunction with the menu, the experience has really been selling itself. One of our aims is to offer each guest a “Stay Different” experience and this low-food-miles menu certainly helps guests and staff to remain culturally connected. This menu not only allows us to promote sustainability, it allows us to showcase traditional cuisine to our guests, some of whom will never have the opportunity to try it again.
DB: There is a debate building around whether local food is, in fact, more sustainable. What are your thoughts on this?
JS: The majority of the Maldives’ locally available food is grown or living in natural environments within close proximity to the resort. Considering that produce that is not available locally has to be flown in from overseas I think the argument that local produce is less sustainable in the Maldives is flawed.