Kirk Kirton

Kirk Kirton

Executive Chef, Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados

Background:
With more than 18 years of progressive culinary experience, Kirk Kirton, a local Barbadian, arrives at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion from the popular Lone Star Restaurant, in St James,
Before his time at the Lone Star, Chef Kirton worked at a number of resorts in Barbados, including Treasure Beach hotel and the Royal Westmoreland resort, among others. He has also worked as a sous chef for Nico Ladenis at the three-Michelin-starred Cheznico restaurant in London and for over two years as Head Chef at Ladenis’s Brasserie, Incognico, before coming back home to Barbados.
Chef Kirk has a strong commitment to providing guests with an extraordinary dining experience. Using the freshest ingredients sourced from local purveyors, while adding a creative flair to every single dish in the newly created menus, the culinary adventure that awaits under his direction is one utterly delectable; from sunrise to sunset, and from banquets to romantic dinners, there is much to savor at Fairmont Royal Pavilion
Kirk holds an Associate of arts Degree majoring in Culinary Arts from the Florida Culinary Institute. He also attained an Executive Diploma in General Management from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill School of Business.

Interview:

CTA: How did you become a chef and how you got interested in cuisine?
KK: I was studying A level Math, Accounts and Economics to pursue a career in Accounting/ Business, however after 8 months of study, I realized that that career path was definitely not for me. I did an internship at a local resort hotel and when I got to the kitchen, I was so enthralled by the diversity of tasks and the precision and discipline required to be a chef that I stayed for 4-5 months. I then took out a loan from my parents, went to the US, lived with my Aunt and attended Culinary School on a full time basis. While doing my Associate’s degree I volunteered for community projects, ACF competitions and even apprenticed to one of the top ice carvers in the States. I then returned to Barbados and worked my way up through the industry to the position I occupy today. My personal philosophy is that you are only as good as the team that surrounds you and it is an honor to be in a position to inspire and develop the next generation of Barbadian chefs.

You promote Barbadian cuisine and Caribbean food through major events and food festivals in the region and abroad - can you elaborate the main ones?
I participated in the Food & Wine & Rum festival last year with Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster fame in New York, (see attached photos) I greatly enjoyed being able to expose our local ingredients to the New York clientele at the US media launch in New York with my Jerk Pork Tenderloin, Sweet potato mash and Plantain chutney and at our own local press launch I was able to showcase our food again with Bul Jol and Breadfruit Tostones and BBQ Pig Tails with Plantain canapés. I look forward to working with the Food & Wine & Rum festival again this year as it is an international event that brings great attention to our region.

Do you see increase awareness amongst the wide public and the tourist about the Barbadian (and Caribbean) food experience?
More frequently these days I am having conversations with our guests to the island and I find that collectively they are far more willing to try new and interesting local ingredients than say 3-5 years ago. I make it a point to only use local fish on my menus and my guests at the hotel are very engaged with this. I also promote local jams and chutneys on our tables and there has been great acceptance and appreciation for them by our guests. In conversation with my guests I am able to point out the local influences in our menu offerings and explain the stories behind the influences in our cuisine.

What should be done to promote food tourism and support the industry?
To support Food Tourism it is important to embrace existing internationally sponsored food events like the Food & Wine and Rum festival and work on bringing more talent to the islands on a more regular basis. We have some prolific authors like Rosemary Parkinson with her excellent books that could do with greater promotion outside of the region. I also believe that, much in the same way that Chef Robert Oliver and the REAL PASIFIK tv show has brought Samoan cuisine to the fore, we need to embrace the concept and use the media to promote our cuisine to the region and to our closest large market, the USA. Inviting Food Network or Cooking Channel to do even an episode in the region could spark tremendous interest in our local cuisine, in much the same way that by watching Emeril Lagasse one would want to go to New Orleans to try the traditional creole cooking there.

At Fairmont Royal Pavilion, do you source your ingredients to local to farmers and agribusiness and have you plans to increase it?
I currently use about 55% local produce, all my lettuce is local, hydroponic & organic as is my edible flowers and my herbs. I would love for that figure to climb higher, but currently face major consistency issues in quality and supply of the local ingredients and some of the ingredients that I want to work with, that my customers demand, I cannot find local supply. I am working with local organizations to try and change that but it is an uphill battle at present.

Any positive experiences to share with us?
Wonderful positive experiences from my collaboration with Caribbean Treats, a local jam and preserves producer. I placed their local jams into circulation about 3 months ago and my guests love them!! I have also collaborated on a local breakfast syrup with them that is based on local molasses and tamarind which is also now in front of my guests. I have also started working with Archers Organics, a new Aquaponic farm in the island and their produce is amazing, fantastic organic greens, flowers, micro leaves, mustards etc. I also work with a local artisan cheese supplier, Hatchman’s Cheeses, whose cheese I feature on the lunch and dinner menus currently.

What is your next challenge?
I am currently assisting my Executive Sous Chef in preparing for local team competition, in the hopes that he is able to make the Barbados National Culinary team and by extension, promote our hotel and the cuisine that we are working on here to the wider region. I plan on exploring our meat industry here more in the off season with a view to increasing my ties with the local agricultural organizations and assisting with their promotion and direction. I also am interested in working with Chefs for Development on the regional promotion of our agribusiness linkages both locally and regionally.