Cuisine & Entertaining

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Captain of the kitchen

At the five-star Sandy Lane resort in Barbados, a chef who has cooked for heads of state, royalty and top celebrities now sets the standards for his team to follow

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The guests at Sandy Lane’s five star resort expect first-class, personalized cuisine, and rightfully so. But this means that the chefs are presented with the daily task (a mammoth one, some would argue) of delivering a one-off experience to each and every guest, whether a resident guest or a visitor to one of the hotel’s four restaurants.

The task master, who is responsible for making it all happen, is Chef Grant MacPherson, a tall, self-assured Scot.MacPherson is Sandy Lane’s culinary director and head chef. His role is to help refine and forge a new and exciting gastronomic direction for
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Chef MacPherson’s international culinary experience is vast. He has plied his trade on five continents, and has worked in the kitchens of prestigious hotels such as The Regent, The Ritz Carlton, The Four Seasons,Malaysia’s DataiHotel and the superb luxurious Raffles Hotelin Singapore.

In 1998, SteveWynn recruited himto head culinary operations at the 3,000-room Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Here, MacPherson oversaw the creation and operation of 18 restaurants and was responsible for more than 800 employees who worked in them.

A gold medalist at the 1992 culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, MacPherson has also cooked for heads of state, royalty and the world’s best known celebrities. These include former British Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher; former US President GeorgeH.W. Bush;the late Princess Diana; former South African President Nelson Mandela; rock star, Rod Stewart; actors James Stewart, Morgan Freeman and Julia Roberts; and wine producer Robert Mondavi. He has also cooked many times at the James Beard House in New York and at many other charitable events around the world.

 

The extremely fast pace to which he has been accustomed has now slowed down a bit, but there is no change in the demands of this new “gourmet royalty”–just a new location. But it’s a location that challenges MacPherson to be creative daily, and he loves it.

At present, his culinary team is only about 80 employees–the majority being Barbadian. “I show them how to cook simple, but precise,” he says. “We weigh everything.”

MacPherson defines his signature dishes by using only the freshest local ingredients. “Our menu is not fixed, because we use fresh products which we buy daily,” he says.

At the Bajan Blue restaurant, MacPherson serves an à la carte menu on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, with hosted themed evenings as follows: Tuesday: West Indian; Friday: seafood; and Saturday: Asian.

His style is influenced by Cantonese cuisine. (“They use a lot of fish and live products; the flavours are simple but intense.”). And he is not “into” creams and butter at all. “I prefer to cook with tomatoes, olive oils and herbs–refreshing things,” he says. “The acidity helps with digestion.”

MacPherson’s goal is to totally pamper and accommodate every guest, whether they crave pâté de foie gras or a straightforward beef burger. Whatever the choice, you can be assured that the dish will be given a first-class upgrade.

His dishes are simple and easy to prepare, healthy and yet intelligent enough to mpress. Even his simplest dishes have 5-star quality. Today’s soup is a chilled tomato onsommé–a light and

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gorgeously scented clear tomato soup, achieved by hanging the consommé in a cheese cloth overnight. An island of avocado, tomato and green apple sits in the centre of the bowl.

A wide selection of warm, freshly baked breads, along with brilliantly executed classics such as West Indian chicken curry with mango chutney and pumpkin fritters, is also on the day’s menu. So too is pan-seared island fish with buttered spinach and paw paw relish,smoked Scottish salmon accompanied by warmpotato cake with caviar cream, and a wonderful Margarhita pizza straight from the oven.

International flavours also grace the menu: for example, grilled chicken satay with coconut rice and chunky peanut sauce that captured the Thai flavours perfectly, and the Japanese sushi and sashimi platters. An exciting array of desserts fromexecutive pastry chef Gerald Maridet is also on display, including an Earl Grey bitter chocolate mousse.

Each day at Sandy Lane, Chef MacPherson and his team work harmoniously to create a celebration of contrasts, with selections that sometimes push the boundaries of their cuisine. A mammoth task indeed, but much appreciated if the satisfied expressions on guests’ faces are anything to go by.

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