Food Talk: Chef Kirton’s Unusual Combos Make Dishes Speak Bajan

Written by Dawn A. Davis
Appointed executive chef at Fairmont Royal Pavilion resort in St. James last year, Barbadian Kirk Kirton has reached a milestone in his culinary arts career. After 18 years of climbing the creative food management ladder, Kirton continues to use his culinary creativity as a guiding principle. “My style is really taking local produce and trying to translate that into a form that guests will enjoy,” he explained. “Rather than just using only our indigenous ingredients and spices and overwhelm their palates, it’s presented in different ways, and modifying classic dishes in such a way that it incorporates some of our stuff. Is it fusion? Not necessarily.”

KirtonKirk chefAccording to Kirton, fusion started with transforming Asian into classic French, especially since most chefs are trained in the French classical cooking style. His “fusion” comes from classic French, modern English and European, and, of course, Barbadian styles combined. “I was taking all these things and figuring out how do we translate that into a unique taste,” Kirton explained. “I’ve worked with local suppliers here to help come up with different and surprising ingredients for our guests.”

SPICE UP

For example, a breakfast of pancakes usually comes with classic maple syrup. However, Kirton wanted to create a different taste, so he partnered with a local company called Caribbean Treats to introduce mango, guava and cherry jams to the breakfast table. Instead of maple syrup he came up with a thick sweet liquid made of sweet molasses, tamarind and ginger. Always on the hunt for out-of-the-ordinary tastes, Kirton experiments with local produce to spice up his table.

“We wanted to make a new version of our fish cakes,” he said. “So, instead of using the usual flour we decided to use breadfruit instead. It went really well for the first function, so we decided to put it on the breakfast menu and it’s still a favourite - Bajan breadfruit and salt fish cake with homemade pepper sauce - which we make ourselves.”

The traditional Barbadian pepper sauce is hot and spicy, a problem for the majority United Kingdom visitors. So, Kirton wondered how to use available ingredients to cross that bridge. Pureeing something like breadfruit and adding to the sauce makes a huge difference, he said. Foreign visitors do have preferences. Among the most asked for dish at the resort are scallops, which is not native to the Caribbean.

CLASSIC

“Scallops and leeks are a classic combination,” said Kirton. “So, I asked myself how do you take that and infuse some form of Bajan into it? Scallops wrapped with bacon are also a classic dish. So, instead of using bacon, we used pork belly. Barbadians eat pork quite a bit. When the settlers first came here we were overrun with wild pigs, that’s why Bajans eat pork.”

Kirton explained that the team use a pork belly, cured for 16 hours then slow-cooked for 18 hours at a low temperature. Then it is sliced thick, seared and finished with molasses, tamarind, ginger sauce and a little rum. All this placed between the classic scallops and leeks creates a stunning Barbadian-infused spin on an otherwise ordinary seafood dish.

What inspires Kirton’s creativity? It comes down to the ingredients. He uses only the best and most wholesome produce. He also partners with a farm called Archers Organics, where he gets his greens and herbs. Sticking to his roots with a bit of creativity thrown in, Kirton can produce a British, European, American or Asian dish peppered with local environmentally friendly produce to make it speak Bajan.

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