Cooking in some of Barbados’ five-star hotels is a far cry from his grand-mom Adella’s kitchen, but Chef Kirk Ruck owes his love of Caribbean cuisine to her.
Raised in the Parish of Christ Church in southern Barbados, food has been an integral part of Chef Kirk’s life since his childhood.
It is little wonder he ended up working in the food industry, re-inventing dishes he learned as a child.
Chef Kirk loves the fact Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean is becoming a cuisine destination for many tourists.
Catering to this demand, Chef Kirk believes in using the freshest and best quality Caribbean produce available, resulting in dishes where you can almost taste his love of food and past memories of cooking with Adella.
Can you describe your childhood and the role food played in it?
I was born and raised by my mother and grandmother, in the Parish of Christ Church in the south of the island of Barbados.
My family is very big and I have relatives living in the Caribbean and all over the world.
My grand-mom Adella took up the role as chef of the house during the time she was alive and food played a big part of family life because of her.
Adella made sure of it – she used to cook every day and nobody could eat until everyone was present at the dinner table and we could all eat together.
How did you end up working in the food world and where has it taken you?
Well, I always loved food while growing up and my grandmother taught me to cook at a very young age.
The aromas, colours, and the taste and texture of various foods have always excited me.
Since finishing my training as a Chef, I have worked at a few different places, including Hanmark Inc Bougainvillea Beach Resort as Chef de Cuisine; at Hugos Restaurant Barbados as Head Chef; I was Sous Chef at Lone Star Restaurant in St James; and Executive Sous Chef at Fairmont Royal Pavilion.
What is it about the food world that keeps you motivated to work in it?
When I see young chefs, who are hungry for knowledge and to learn skills, I feel motivated about my choice to work in the food industry.
I love seeing the next generation coming up through the ranks and I also love how creative chefs are becoming – trying to reinvent foods and food trends.
What is unique about Caribbean cuisine that should be shared with the rest of the world? How do you use it in your cooking?
Caribbean cuisine is unique because it has a ‘carbon footprint of food’ like nowhere else in the world when it comes to the use of ingredients.
When I am designing a dish, I always think of what Caribbean ingredients I can use, with a twist, to compliment the entire dish.
I also always use locally-sourced products as it benefits the local farmers and producers, while also giving my guests an opportunity to eat local ingredients and proper Caribbean cuisine.
My favourite dish to make and eat is very traditional – we call it 123.
It is a combination of any macaroni of your choice; a corned beef sauce; and boiled potatoes – all combined, and hence the name.
What can the Caribbean do to become a food destination hub?
I believe the Caribbean is already a food destination – many of the restaurants, food stalls, rum shops and practically anywhere that sells local food are frequented often by tourists looking to try Barbados and Caribbean products.
Good marketing by shops and restaurants will draw tourists in, as well as tourists being willing to try local products and dishes.