Taste The Islands Experience
Chef Danny Peñalo representing Taste the Islands - Photo by TJ Brown

Fans of Caribbean cuisine, culture and travel enjoyed a weekend of indulgences at the 3rd annual Taste the Islands Experience, held April 27-28 in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Following the success of its third outing, event producers Island Syndicate are already making plans for a stronger showing in 2020.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend,” says Taste The Islands Experience producer Calibe Thompson. “Our partners and vendors presented an amazing level of food, consumer products, and travel options. Seeing the Caribbean presented by Caribbean people and being so well received is a real point of pride for our entire team. We’re looking forward to exponential growth in the coming years.”


Taste The Islands Experience
US Virgin Islands Chef Ralph Motta during his cooking demonstration – Photo by TJ Brown

The weekend-long event offered a variety of fun and fanciful activities for the discerning food and travel connoisseur. The highlight of Saturday’s main event included culinary demos by Chef Ralph Motta of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mixologist Marv “Mr Mix” Cunningham of The Bahamas, Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna of Haiti and singer J. Perry, Mixologist Philip “Casanova” Antoine, and Hugh “Chef Irie” Sinclair and singer Julian Marley.

Taste The Islands Experience
Haiti’s J Perry and Cynthia ‘Chef Thia’ Verna after cooking demonstration – Photo by Xavier Russell
Taste The Islands Experience
Jamaica’s Hugh ‘Chef Irie’ Sinclair with Julian Marley during his cooking demonstration – Photo by Anna Keith

Marley held a meet-and-greet with adoring fans. Special guests received his new album and samples of his new olive oil from his CBD brand Juju Royal. J. Perry headlined the night, thrilling fans with a set that attendees thoroughly enjoyed.

Taste The Islands Experience
Julian Marley signing autographs for the fans – Photo by Eric Greaves

Guests were able to sample drinks and bites from around the Caribbean region in the “Island Pavilions.” Host islands included The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and the US Virgin Islands. Culinary offerings included loaded mango, jerk chicken sushi rolls, bacon-wrapped scallopfongo and sofrito braised chicken.

Taste The Islands Experience
Chef Sheron Chin’s unique Jerk Chicken ‘Soushi’ Rolls – Photo by Xavier Russell

For that feeling of ultimate escape from everyday life, guests also enjoyed the glam studio hosted by Makeup by Rory Lee and Natural Trendsetters, and massage studio courtesy of Goldson Spine.

Taste The Islands Experience Chef’s Table

Taste The Islands Experience
Chef Winston Williams of CC Catering dropping some knowledge during the chef panel – Photo by RJ Deed

A coalition of celebrated Caribbean chefs also held a panel, discussing their role as evangelists for Caribbean culture via cuisine. Participants include Chef Sheron Chin of Standing Ovation Catering and one of the special few to “Beat Bobby Flay;” Chef Winston Williams of CC Catering – a U.S. Virgin Islands native who has appeared on Cooking Channel’s “Carnival Eats;” Chef Danny Peñalo of Yarumba Dominican Restaurant; and  “Taste the Islands” TV show hosts Chef Thia and Chef Irie.

The lounge area also housed a cigar bar, a rum sommelier presentation by Swirl Wine Bistro and Real McCoy Rum, and a live Yellow Cab Karaoke session.

Guests were also treated to a repeat of 2018’s Caribbean Culinary Museum and Theater. The new Tasting Tour feature offered an audiovisual exploration of the Caribbean, sampling signature dishes from each island.

Food, Fashion and Travel

Taste The Islands Experience
Designer Tanya Marie (center) with models – Photo by RJ Deed

Guests of the Sunday Brunch enjoyed a tropical menu by Chef Irie and Chef Kevin Small of Coalfire Catering. Courses included ropa vieja, macaroni pie and jerk chicken omelets, served alongside a phenomenal mimosa bar.

Taste The Islands Experience
Mixologist Philip ‘Casanova’ Antoine, trip winner, and Barbados Tourism Rep Seymour Bailey – Photo by RJ Deed

Korbel Champagne and Barbados teamed up to present four specially-created cocktails by award-winning Barbadian mixologist Philip “Casanova” Antoine. The colorful presentation and edible flowers included were a well appreciated touch, as was Barbados’ giveaway of a 5-day, 4-night stay at the luxurious Treasure Beach Hotel

Taste The Islands Experience
Garçon Couture Designer Jean Francillion with brand ambassador Richard Lecoin – Photo by Eric Greaves

The highlight of the brunch, however, was the beautifully coordinated fashion show. Tanya Marie Design and Garçon Couture presented a selection of exquisite signature suits and summer wear that had the audience engaged from start to end.

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