I’ve spent lots of time in the
and the French Caribbean of island remains one of my all-time favorites. So when my friend James Jondreau told me he was on his way there, I asked him to keep an eye out for juicy news. James is a chef and serious Francophile who splits his time between St. Barts and the New York . “But if I had my way,” he says, “I’d definitely add St. Barts to that list!” On his last trip, James was lucky enough to stay at the very-tony Le Toiny, where he found an interesting story right under his feet: a chef who’s growing his own produce despite some very strong odds. For more about James, visit his blog CafeJondreau.com or email him at email@example.com. Meanwhile, here's what he wanted to share. Hamptons
Local is an oxymoron on the chic French
of island , where virtually all the food arrives by plane from s St. Bart or Guadeloupe . The tiny island is known as "the St. Tropez of the France " and its grand super Caribbean is stocked with French cheese, pâté and aisles of marche . Nothing grows on the rocky island and there is zero agriculture. So for Hotel Le Toiny executive chef Stéphane Mazières to have a garden, like so many other chefs these days, seemed about as likely as winning the lottery. Champagne
But when Guy Lombard arrived at the five-star Le Toiny three years ago as the new manager, Mazières’ dream began to take shape.
“Growing up in
, my parents always had a vegetable garden,” Guy explains. Later he oversaw the garden at Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson’s hotel in the France near Atlas Mountains . Despite being told repeatedly that nothing would thrive on St. Barts, Guy decided to give a shot. He was determined to keep food costs under control and to improve the quality and supply of herbs and vegetables for Mazières’ exquisitely beautiful presentations. Marrakesh
Together they decide what to grow. Le Toiny sits high on a hill and has a little land leading to a beach where coconut palms once grew and enriched the soil. Rather than the typical glass-enclosed temperature-controlled greenhouses, the duo went with green cylindrical tents commonly known as hoop houses or hoop-style greenhouses. The temperature hovers around 80 degrees in St. Barts year round, so the tents provide protection from the intense sun--and from the ubiquitous, voracious iguanas.
Guy started with one greenhouse and today has three; one is hydroponic and all are organic. They yield a wide range of produce, including tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and herbs such as basil, coriander and chervil. Le Toiny’s “garden” now supplies 80% of the restaurant’s herbs and about 30% of the vegetables.
“It definitely save some money,” Guy reports, “but locally we also play an education role as we have school children come over for educational projects such as biodiversity.”
Le Toiny, with 15 private bungalows, is one of the most-exclusive properties on St. Barts. The island has nearly five dozen restaurants--most of them French--and Le Toiny’s Le Gaïac is considered among the very best. Mazières was named a Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef in 2010, the only one in
that year. North America
If you’re a foodie, you might want to know about Le Toiny’s new Bon Vivant package, good from March 1 to
. The promo includes a four-night stay in an ocean-view villa with private pool and terrace, two one-hour spa treatments, meals at some of the island’s premiere culinary venues and a 90-minute class at Absolutely Wine, a new wine bar and school. The Bon Vivant package also includes round trip airport transfers, a convertible SMART car and breakfast daily. For more info on Le Toiny, click here. December 19, 2012
If you’re planning a trip to St. Barts this winter, here are some events that might appeal. There will be a traditional
( Christmas Village ), with a European-style market and festivities at the harbor in Gustavia. The annual New Year’s Eve Regatta ( December 19 to 23, 2011 ) is a “just-for-fun” sail around the island, open to visiting and local boats alike. The St. Sylvester New Year’s Celebration ( December 31, 2011 ) offers live music throughout the evening and fireworks on the docks at . And the St. Bart’s MusicFestival ( December 31, 2011 ) features top classical, opera, ballet and jazz. For more info on the island and its events, click here. Jan 7 to 19 , 2012
And whether you’re already a fan of St. Barts or just dreaming of visiting one day, you may want to check out this gorgeous book: In the Spirit of St. Barths by Pamela Fiori, published in April, 2011 by Assouline. You can order it from the publisher here.
Photos: Le Toiny chef Stéphane Mazières; one of Le Toiny's three hoop-style greenhouses; grilled filet of turbot, with home-grown zucchini, oyster tartar, and lemongrass sauce; all Le Toiny villas have private pools like this one; the hotel's private beach.