The diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds in the Caribbean islands has arisen what just might be the world’s most dynamic culinary scene. It’s only natural that food and fun should come together so beautifully in the region’s many annual culinary festivals. From the savory to the sweet and beyond, there’s a Caribbean food festival to suit every taste. Here, we explore a few favorites.
St. Croix Food and Wine Experience
St. Croix has recently risen to the upper echelons of the Caribbean culinary scene. Exciting restaurants, helmed by a new generation of local and international chefs, have earned praise from the likes of Food & Wine Magazine, The New York Times, and Saveur. The best time to visit the island to see, taste, and experience it all is during the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience.
Each year, for one week in mid-April, the festival encompasses a series of immersive events throughout the island. Celebrity chefs from all over the world come to exchange ideas and techniques, compete in the kitchen, and raise money for worthy local charities.
Festival goers are invited to rub elbows with this gastronomic glitterati, especially during the Taste of St. Croix main event. This elegant showcase of the island’s best culinary offerings allows guests to sample dishes from more than 40 local restaurants, catering companies, and private chefs. Live music, wine, and spirits tastings, and a fabulous after-party presented by Moet Chandon and Hennessy make this the social event of the year.
Jade Mountain Discover Chocolate Festival
Known as the “Helen of the West Indies,” the lush island of St Lucia is home to the Jade Mountain Discover Chocolate Festival hosted every December in the shadows of the iconic Piton Mountains.
The decadent celebration is anything but typical. At various events, participants are invited to sample selections of chocolates and cocoa-infused dishes. And guests can enjoy many opportunities for sweet tooth indulgence at the popular chocolate cocktail party and wine-and-chocolate tasting sessions.
True to its name, the Jade Mountain Discover Chocolate Festival takes a more investigative approach when creating your immersive cocoa experience. Guests can explore the history and alchemy of the world’s favorite dessert on an exclusive tour through their organic Anse Mamin cocoa plantation. Here, participants can witness the full journey of chocolate—from cacao seed to truffle—amid lush, tropical farmland where the plant has been cultivated since the 1700s. Plus, attendees can try their own hand at chocolate making at the truffle workshop.
Le Burger Week Haiti
When thinking of Haitian cuisine, hamburgers aren’t likely to be top of mind. Haiti’s rich culinary traditions are flavored with items like savory djon djon seasoning, red creole sauce, and soup joumou. The notion of the Caribbean’s premier hamburger festival on the French West Indian island must seem improbable… yet that’s where it is.
Its capital, Port-au-Prince, has the distinction of being the sole city in the Caribbean to participate in Le Burger Week—a global culinary festival dedicated to the world’s favorite sandwich. Paris, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the other annual Burger Week destinations, putting Haiti in the great culinary company.
In early September each year, the event challenges local Haitian chefs to create ever more inventive hamburgers. And they embrace the tasty task head-on. Standard fixings get a major makeover with Kreyol-style ingredients like plantain chips, roasted corn aioli, rum-caramelized bacon, and peppery pikliz. Chefs also get creative with cuts, featuring locally-sourced beef, veal, turkey, and even pâté. Attendees are invited to sample these festive burgers by visiting participating restaurants around Port-au-Prince and Pétion-Ville over the course of several days.
Taste of Jamaica Culinary Competition and Expo
Jerk chicken. Beef patties. Ackee and saltfish. Ting. Pickapeppa sauce. Jamaica’s culinary gifts are beloved all over the world. Foodies keen on discovering Jamaica’s latest and greatest creations will want to head down to Montego Bay in October for the annual Taste of Jamaica Culinary Competition and Expo.
The event is a showcase of the very best in Jamaican cuisine. More than 300 chefs representing the finest restaurants and hotels across the island participate. Each submits entries in 25 different award categories with the goal of being hailed among the top chefs in the country. Expect towering show cakes, inventive rum concoctions, and a bounty of savory bites. If you love Jamaican food, there’s no better singular place to enjoy it.
In 2019, the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston walked away with virtually all of the top awards (Chef of The Year, Pastry Chef of The Year, and Bartender of the Year)—definitely something to consider when next your travel plans take you to the island’s capital city.