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- Sunday, 19 July 2015 08:39 | Written by Tim Tibbitts
Living the dream in Paradise?
Chef Tim Tibbitts of
We hear the phrase “I live where you vacation” almost every day. It comes with the territory when you live and work in the Bahamas. Millions of people every year flock to the many islands that make up this beautiful little country to take in the sun, sand and surf that this island nation has become famous for. It truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth and the weather adds to that constant beauty with tropical temperatures all year round.
However, there is another saying used often, “nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there.” While that’s not necessarily true in this case, there are some very unique challenges to running a business here - especially if that business is a restaurant. Even more so, if that restaurant is known as one of the finest restaurants in the entire Caribbean region.
Our biggest challenge is that the Bahamas is a chain of exposed reef islands. They are non-volcanic and as such, have no top soil for growing produce in conventional methods. Other than some small backyard farming set-ups and a few industrious individuals who strive to build something from nothing, farming is relatively non-existent here.
One of these individuals has designed an aquaponics system that provides our restaurant with all of its greens and herbs. As a chef, the locality of product is very important - the closer to the point of origin you are, the better the flavor. However, one of the things we have become very adept to is extracting as much flavor as possible from some products that aren’t necessarily the finest products in the world. The travel time in importing such products has left them less tasty than they began. In times like these it’s beneficial to be very good at building flavor. Recently, I was on a trip through Spain and marveled at the freshness and quality of the produce. I did quite a bit of cooking on the trip and remarked how easy it was to make these products delicious. However, by implementing some of our tricks for maximizing flavor it made great products unbelievable.
Island life can be frustrating, logistics is the biggest part of our business. While most chefs wander early morning markets looking for the best products, my products were ordered 5 days ago. Special items, especially high-end items, sometimes take a 10 day lead time. Since this is the norm, planning is critical to making sure you have product for operating every day. Over the last 8 years we’ve been here, it has become second nature to us to make sure that order days are not missed and that enough is ordered to make it through to the following week.
We have also adapted our menu style. In the beginning, we had a very formal menu that changed seasonally. Now, we have learned that it can cause a lot of waste in product depending on the time of year and the amount of travellers who are on the island at any given time. Recently, our solution has been to print a smaller menu, done every day, to help maximize the products we have in-house. This forces the kitchen to be ultra-creative as the menu changes every day, but the challenge has been met and we are quite enjoying the ability to create freely, without the constraint of the seasonal menu. Each menu is personalized for each guest and date stamped for the day as a reminder for the guest of their time spent here – which has turned into a nice touch that many guests appreciate.
The tasting menu - separate from the regular menu and constantly changing - is where we really like to showcase the spectacular seafood we get here. Fresh and never frozen seafood finds its way to my dock from local fisherman and we do our best to honor that product. Respect for product is paramount in a place like this. You must constantly be aware of your products because of the difficulty in replacing them if they are mistreated -not to mention the extreme cost of importing almost all your product.
Running a restaurant is a challenge anywhere. Running a high-end restaurant is a crazy challenge. Running a high-end restaurant on an island in the Caribbean is one step short of insanity. However, for those who do it, and do it well, it can be extremely rewarding. Perhaps not financially, but definitely in quality of life - after all, I live where you vacation.
Chef Story: Tim Tibbitts
A Bahamian native raised in the multicultural metropolis of Toronto, Canada, internationally-recognized Chef Tim Tibbitts brings a new level of culinary expertise to Grand Bahama Island. Having developed a passion for cooking as a child, Tim spent his younger years watching notable chefs like Julia Child, Martin Yan, Jacques Pepin, The Frugal Gourmet and Emeril Lagasse in lieu of classic cartoons – and by the time he was 12, he had already prepared and cooked his very own duck a l’orange. Turning his personal education into a professional one, Tim’s passion led him to apply for the Canadian Apprenticeship Program at the renowned George Brown College School of Culinary Arts, where he studied traditional European cuisine and discovered his passion for fusing locally-sourced ingredients in unique ways: a hallmark of his culinary style today. In 2012, along with his wife and restaurant Sommelier Rebecca Tibbitts, Tim became Co-Founder and Chef of their global restaurant concept, Flying Fish – an intelligent, modernly eclectic and seasonal fine dining experience that combines Asian, European, Canadian and Caribbean influences with fresh, sea-to-table fare, handcrafted cocktails and an extensive wine list of exclusive grapes from around the world.
For Tim, the art of cooking is about more than a recipe: it’s a product of passion, teamwork and food science, and a commitment to preserving the environment from which he gets his ingredients. Inspired by his experience as an apprentice, when his chef at the time put Tim’s own brown butter Calamari on the evening menu – a signature dish at Flying Fish, today – Chef Tim Tibbitts values input from his culinary team and applies that practice in his own restaurant. Driven by his dedication to sustainability, he only uses seasonal ingredients that are indigenous to the Bahamas and available in abundance. Most notable about his style, however, is his inventive combinations and careful attention to detail with each and every dish – symbolizing his commitment to creativity, quality and offering guests a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Since opening Flying Fish, Chef Tim Tibbitts has gained notoriety throughout the Bahamas and beyond – earning recognition by Caribbean Journal as one of the “Caribbean’s Top 25 Chefs” in 2014. Securing an AAA Four-Diamond rating for Flying Fish, only the third Bahamian restaurant in history and the first on Grand Bahama Island to accomplish this feat, Tim publishes a weekly “Food for Thought” column in The Freeport News. He is regularly featured as a guest chef in the Canadian magazine Bob Izumi's Real Fishing, is filming his first reality show about life as a top chef, and is currently in the developing stages of two additional television shows with the RTR Media, a Canadian production company, about the food industry in the Caribbean.