Grace Bay Resorts Announces Guest Chefs, Winemakers and Events for Caribbean Food & Wine Festival

Grace Bay Resorts, in partnership with the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board and The Wine Cellar, recently announced the official schedule for the Fourth Annual Caribbean Food & Wine Festival. The weekend-long festival brings together international chefs and winemakers who partner with local chefs to create a truly memorable, and always sold-out, event focused on the local food and flavors of the island.

This year the event takes place from November 6 through November 8, 2014, and welcomes all-star chefs from around the world, including Leah Cohen, David Lefevre, Hans Peter Haider, as well as renowned vintners from Benzinger Family Winery, Cuvaison Estate, Weingut Salzl Seewinkelhof and Duck Pond Cellars & Desert Wind Winery. The not-for-profit event will raise funds for The Department of Youth Affairs and the islands’ ‘Little Chefs’ mentor program that supports and encourages young local chefs to pursue careers in hospitality, a vital industry of Turks and Caicos.  

“We are thrilled to welcome guests to the fourth annual festival. This year’s prestigious group of winemakers and chefs reflects the Caribbean Food & Wine Festival’s increasing prominence on an international level, and is a testament to the Turks and Caicos Islands as an epicurean destination in their own right,” said Nikheel Advani, Co-Chair, Caribbean Food & Wine Festival. “Year after year, the boutique nature of the festival allows chefs and winemakers from around the world to come together with locals for a completely unique culinary experiences, with idyllic Turks & Caicos as the backdrop.  It truly is unlike any other culinary experience available.”

Guest Chefs
The fourth annual event welcomes former “Top Chef” contestant Chef Leah Cohen of New York’s Pig & Khao.  Cohen’s first experience in a New York City kitchen was at Park Avenue Café, where she worked under renowned Chef David Burke.  After this, Cohen spent a year in Italy in a Slow Food program, learning the Italian style and the importance of fresh, local ingredients.  Cohen then took her travels to Sicily, where she spent a year at Michelin-rated La Madia learning the bold flavors of the Mediterranean. Upon returning to New York, she spent time refining her craft at Eleven Madison Park and Centro Vinoteca.  While at Centro Vinoteca, Cohen landed a spot on Bravo’s “Top Chef”, where she had a successful run and returned to Centro Vinoteca as Executive Chef. She then spent a year in Southeast Asia and now uses her knowledge of the art of Asian street food at Pig & Khao.  Cohen combines her New York technique with the bold, striking Asian flavors to create truly unique yet authentic dishes.

Chef David Lefevre of Manhattan Beach Post in California will also join this year’s festival. Chef Lefevre followed his passion for food at an early age, attending the renowned Culinary Institute of America and landing an internship at Chef Charlie Trotter’s celebrated restaurant in Chicago. Chef Lefevre developed a close relationship with Trotter, who served as a mentor throughout Lefevre’s early career. During his time in Chicago, Chef Lefevre also participated in more than fifty national and international culinary events, and still found time to devote to travel, exploring new and exotic cuisines and teaming up with leading hoteliers and restaurateurs in Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, Caribbean and Europe. Chef Lefevre served as Executive Chef of the Water Grill, downtown Los Angeles’ seminal seafood restaurant before opening Manhattan Beach Post, a soulful restaurant offering a rustic menu of playful, artisanal dishes designed to shared, complemented by handcrafted cocktails and small production wines in Manhattan Beach, California.

The 2014 festival also features Hans Peter Haider of hotel12 in Austria joining the team of top chefs.  Known for his use of traditional Austrian techniques and classic dishes with unique Austrian twists, Haider began his career with an apprenticeship at Austria’s authentic Hotel Antonie, before gaining prominence in various prestigious hotels throughout the country.  In 2003, at just 28 years old, he became Executive Chef at the acclaimed Hotel Holzknecht.  Seven years later, Haider joined the team at one of Austria’s top seafood restaurants, the Stiftschmiede, as Executive Chef in 2010.  Since 2012, Haider has spent his time at hotel12, focusing on traditional Austrian cuisine made with the fresh and local ingredients.

Guest Wineries
This year the festival welcomes esteemed winemaker Benzinger Family Winery, a family winery based in Sonoma County California that boasts certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods for a portfolio of authentic and memorable wines. 

Cuvaison Estate, a Napa Valley Winery and Vineyard that handcrafts Napa Pinot Noir and Napa Chardonnay will also join the festival.  Dedicated to a philosophy of producing vineyard-driven wines, Cuvaison employs block-by-block farming methods and a hand-crafted vineyard-to-bottle winemaking approach, for wines that are balanced and complex, showcasing the distinctive characteristics of the cool climate estate.

Weingut Salzl Seewinkelhof, an Austrian winery nestled between the lakes and plains of Lake Neusiedl – Seewinkel National Parks feature fruit-driven wines that reflect the terrain of its vineyards. Well known for its Chardonnay, over 30 percent of the vineyard produces white wine including Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gruner Veltliner.

Returning ambassadors include Duck Pond Cellars and Desert Wind Winery,.  Duck Pond has focused on crafting quality wine at an affordable price. Utilizing fruit from the family-owned vineyard sites throughout the Northwest allows the winery to control every aspect of the winemaking process from the vineyard to the bottle. 

“Each year, the Caribbean Food & Wine Festival gives us the chance to spotlight the remarkable culinary talent we have here in Turks and Caicos, and elevate the dining experience for visitors and guests by partnering with some of the world’s best chefs and winemakers for a truly unique experience,” said Anthony Garland, Co-Chair, Caribbean Food & Wine Festival.  “In its fourth iteration, the event continues to bring together an incredible group of participants and attendees, welcoming back beloved traditions like the Gourmet Safari and introducing new events, flavors and experiences that keep guests coming back, even more excited than the year before.” 

Schedule of Events
This year festivities commence on Thursday, November 6, with a starlit Welcome Dinner at Blue Haven Resort’s Fire & Ice restaurant. Featuring a five-course dinner and carefully selected wine pairings this event typically garners more than 100 guests.

On Friday, November 7, the festival will host the second annual Women of Wine luncheon with distinctive dishes and carefully selected wine pairings.  This event was first introduced two years ago to give guests and locals an opportunity to meet the festival’s’ incredible female chefs while learning about new wines in a fun and casual atmosphere. 

Later on Friday evening, the most highly anticipated event of the festival weekend, the ‘Gourmet Safari’ will lead guests on a progressive dinner party around Providenciales. Now in its eighth year, the Gourmet Safari was the original event that served as a catalyst for the festival and continues to be a guest favorite today.  Guests will whet their appetite with innovative cocktails at Krave courtesy of Grace Bay Club and then proceed to the appetizer course at Coyaba. From there, guests will enjoy their dinner at Seven Stars and The Regent Palms, before concluding with dessert at The Gansevoort. This interactive ‘dine around’ is a completely local experience that gives festival guests an opportunity to discover the incredible restaurants and meet the talented chefs.

On Saturday, November 8, guests are invited to attend the annual Food & Wine Pairing event at West Bay Club a Grace Bay Resorts Managed property, featuring four 20-person introductory food and wine pairing seminars, highlighting meat, seafood, cheese, and dessert/chocolate. Each of the tasting rooms showcase the guest chefs and winemakers with support from the young local talent of the ‘Little Chefs’ mentor program.

Following the Food & Wine Pairing, the third annual ‘Island Street Food Fair’ focuses on the expert grilling and barbeque techniques of local chefs around the island. With the growing trend of food trucks in major cities around the world, the founders of the festival created its own street food fair for Turks and Caicos, and this event continues to receive rave reviews year after year, as it gives guests an inside look at the many cultures and cuisines of the island.

The epicurean journey concludes on Saturday evening at ‘Dinner with the Stars,’ an intimate, five-course dinner served under the stars directly on Grace Bay Beach. For their final menu, the festival’s award-winning guest chefs pair prized, signature recipes with the winemakers’ rarest vintages for a lavish dinner experience, all expertly prepared and creatively presented by the local chefs. Selling out year after year, the elegant 70-person dinner offers guests another unique opportunity to interact directly with the featured chefs and winemakers in an intimate beachfront environment.

“Outstanding food and wine, expert guest chefs and lively conversation, all complemented by the beautiful shores of Turks and Caicos create an unparalleled culinary experience in the Caribbean,” said Ralph Higgs, Director of Tourism for Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board. “The Turks & Caicos Tourist Board is proud to support the Fourth Annual Caribbean Food & Wine Festival.  In just a few short years, the event has grown into a treasured island tradition, while still capturing the most current culinary trends and offering guests an authentic taste of local culture.”

Already acclaimed as the island’s premier culinary event, the festival is hosted annually to celebrate Caribbean cuisine and culture.  This year’s event promises to continue the success of the Turks and Caicos Islands tradition.

For tickets and additional event information, please visit www.caribbeanfoodandwinefestivaltci.com or contact info@caribbeanfoodandwinefestivaltci.com.

About Turks and Caicos
The 40 islands of the Turks and Caicos, of which eight are inhabited, are renowned for their award-winning beaches, diving and array of world-class resorts. Additional activities include tennis, golf and horseback riding. The Islands feature a variety of spa and body treatment services and is home to the world’s only conch farm. There are three daily 90-minute direct flights from Miami, a US Airways direct flight from Charlotte, twice weekly flights from New York and weekly flights from Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Toronto. For more information on travel, visit the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board’s website at www.turksandcaicostourism.com or call (800) 241-0824.

 About Grace Bay Resorts
Grace Bay Resorts is a boutique developer and operator of high-end, luxury resorts and branded residences, founded from its flagship property Grace Bay Club which opened in 1993 the brand has grown with an ownership stake in the management of West Bay Club and The Residences, a micro resort with exclusive luxury beachfront villas all in Turks and Caicos. Led by Mark Durliat and Nikheel Advani, the developers and hoteliers behind this renowned brand, and Michael Brewster, previous Managing Partner of Denver-based SV Capital Partners, Grace Bay Resorts provides development, branding and management expertise for luxury five-star boutique hotels and branded residences.  Grace Bay Resorts is expanding its award-winning brand and services across the Caribbean destinations and Latin America, with a target of 10 properties in the next few years. www.gracebayresorts.com

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