The locavore food trend is flavoring cuisine at boutique hotels and luxurious resorts, as travelers demand authentic cuisine and resorts lower their carbon footprint.
When travelers return from foreign climes, it’s not the hotels, the museums, or the historic sites that cause euphoric rhapsodies. More commonly, it’s the people and the food. The tastes of local foods and the experience of buying in local markets stays with travelers long after the trip.
Locally Grown Foods and Authentic Cuisine in Large Hotels and Resorts
Small boutique properties, eco-resorts, and independently owned restaurants have known the importance of serving local cuisine for years, and they remain the most reliable places to eat authentically, meaning that the food is grown or produced regionally, not shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
But the so-called locavore movement has grown into a hot foodie trend, fueled by two equally compelling factors: It’s good for the environment. And it tastes better. Today, chefs who focus on local products, ingredients, and traditions are in high demands, not only in boutique eco-properties, but in some of the world’s largest and most luxurious resort chains, which are seeking to establish a sense of place and to provide an authentic culinary experience to their visitors.
While a multi-national luxury chain won’t be serving chickens killed in the yard in back of the restaurant kitchen, many hotels are making locavore cuisine efforts that make sense for their operation, and some of their projects have been quite creative, often fueled by the enthusiasm of staff members and chefs.
Examples of Locavore Food Initiatives in Hotels and Resorts
A traveler in Hawaii might not think of the famed Ritz Carlton as a place where food goes from garden to table with mere steps in between. But nestled between the hot tubs, the pool, and the pool-side bar at Maui’s Kapalua Ritz Carlton in Hawaii, is a small herb garden, and beyond the tennis courts is another, much larger garden with hundreds of different varieties of herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees. The produce is used in several of the resort restaurants..
On the other side of Maui, the famed Hotel Hana Maui tries to buy as much food as possible within a five mile radius of the resort. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are grown on nearby organic farms, and fish is bought from local fisherman.
It’s not necessary to grow food on site to be eco-friendly: Judy duPlooy, owner and manager of western Belize’s duPlooy’s Jungle Lodge, an eco-resort in the Cayo District, points out that buying from local vendors who engage in organic and sustainable farming practices may have more long-term benefit than starting an herb garden because prchases support sustainable farming in the community. She also points out that it’s as important to avoid serving some foods: In the case of the central American jungle, cattle have an enormous impact on the land, so duPlooy’s does not serve beef.
Reducing a carbon footprint is not an all-or-nothing equation: Larger international-class hotels may have a clientele that demands beef Bougignon or prime rib, so those items need to be reliably on the menu. But at the same time, a variable menu of local specialties may also be available using locally raised meats and produce. Chefs also need to balance the benefits of rising local produce against reliability issues of local products, who may not be able to meet a constant demand in the high tourist season.
Sometimes, a resort’s eco-awareness can show up in places tourists don’t normally examine. Jamaica’s Couple Negril Resort, for example, a lovely all-inclusive hotel with a green mandate and mazes of lush gardens, sends food waste to local pig farmers, composts vegetable waste, and uses gray water on the property’s herb gardens.
In rural Europe and much of the developing world, dining at small locally owned restaurants gives travelers at good chance of eating authentic local food prepared with regionally grown ingredients. In the United States, where centralized food production is more prevalent, look for restaurants advertising “locally grown,” “farm-to-table, ” or “locavore” meals.
Don’t assume that big resorts aren’t jumping on this bandwagon, too: Fueled by consumer demand and wanting to minimize their carbon footprint, many resorts are taking eco-initiatives that extend to their cuisine.