Skylark Takes Philanthropy to Gourmet Heights
The idyllic Skylark Beach Resort, nestled on the immortalised shores of Negril, is home to an international outpost of well-known New York eatery Miss Lily’s and has taken philanthropy to gourmet heights through its charitable ‘Dinner on the Beach’ series featuring renowned chefs from around the world.
Against a backdrop of soft waves gently kissing the shore, and the golden sun painting the horizon with hues of vermilion and pink, the evening’s sumptuous delights of gastronomy were entrusted to chefs Andre Fowles, Danya Smith, Simon Levy and Kahari Woolcock.
The latest in the series unfolded Thursday, December 28, with local and international guests jetting in for the Christmas and New Year break.
The dinner showcased a delightful fusion of Jamaican cuisine with emphasis on local produce and takes on international dishes and use of spices.
The charity dinner kicked off with an array of passed canapés. The tantalising bites included corn and truffle dumplings, oxtail and plantain croquettes, pepper shrimp summer rolls, and local charcuterie skewers. Served with panache, these appetisers provided a sneak peek into the vibrant flavours guests were about to savour.
As the evening progressed, the top chefs presented a meticulously curated menu that promised a symphony of flavours. The first course delighted palates with a roasted eggplant (sourced locally) and pepper spread. This zesty dish offered a harmonious blend of smoky and tangy flavours that awakened the taste buds.
The second course elevated the event’s culinary experience. Whole roasted pig and herb porchetta took centre stage, showcasing the chefs’ artistry and skill. Accompanied by roasted red snapper, crispy oyster mushrooms, confit local potato, and garden-fresh vegetables, this delightful medley of textures and flavours created a remarkable gastronomic experience.
To conclude the evening of indulgence; guests marvelled at the baklava rum cake, a dessert that effortlessly combined Jamaican and international influences. This delectable treat offered a sweet and rich finale.
Behind the exquisite plates, the real triumph of the evening lay in the cause it supported. Proceeds from the dinner were directed to the Rockhouse Foundation, and particularly, the Sav Inclusive Primary School. The concept has been reimagined and high school classrooms will eventually be added while maintaining its core goal of providing access to quality education, empowerment and inclusivity within the community.
Chef Andre Fowles, three-time Chopped champion on Travel & Food Network, spoke about the approach to the evening’s menu.
“I really wanted to keep it traditional and to showcase the best local ingredients, freshest produce, seafood, meats, and to create a show around that. Starting with the pigs, we showcased those two ways: We did a porchetta, wherein we deboned the pigs, seasoned them with pimento, Scotch bonnet pepper and chimichurri sauce to play on that international flavour but still making it Jamaican. Of course, the traditional whole roasted pig was a hit. The canapes were also well-received and included corn and truffle dumplings, oxtail and plantain croquettes, roast meats, salami and goat cheese. These are sometimes deemed international but we wanted to show that the core ingredients of meats and cheese are produced in Jamaica,” Fowles explained.
Chef Simon Levy of Roast Specialty Meats in Kingston summed up the preparation process of the whole roasted pig.
“We add salt to the skin and season the meat with a traditional blend of black pepper, salt, garlic and a Roast Meats house blend of additional seasonings as well as a in house chimichurri to be served with it. This is left overnight and placed on the fire at about noon the next day. Then it’s a dance with the fire as we move the pig around the fire, the left shoulder, right shoulder, flip around and make sure all the areas are cooked properly,” Levy explained.
Vancouver and New York City-based chef Danya Smith of Lulu’s Apron also gave her take on the evening.
“It was an awesome experience to cook on the beach and collaborate with chefs André and Simon; we were able to bring a different flavour profile to the table. In most instances we get used to just using Jamaican ingredients in the way we are familiar with them. It was nice to use oxtail and not in a stew but stuffed into a plantain croquette and served with jalapeño and cilantro. The menu was a perfect fusion as we had ideas and then these just morphed into a nice collaborative idea,” Smith said.