Worldwide, food is fast becoming a popular motivating and defining factor for the new tourist’s final decision in travel destination choices. Culinary tourism, gastronomic tourism or food tourism is quickly ascending into the role of storyteller for any and every destination. The immersive experience of visiting specific locations for food and beverage, food festivals and participation in food activities distinguishes destinations’ cultural identities from each other. If developed and promoted effectively, this niche can serve as a sustainable model for destinations going full throttle behind culinary tourism. There is infinite potential for revenue generation with multiplier and economic trickle-down effect for communities. Overall, national policy makers and planners should strive to include clustering of industry sectors and show economic infrastructural support for small micro and medium enterprises.
In Trinidad and Tobago, we have changed so many hands of ownership that our food is now a reflection of our history. It gets a bit more complex than that, as what we eat, where we eat, how we eat and why we eat are interlinked and juxtaposed to provide any outsider with a first hand intrinsic view of our people. We celebrate Christmas with an array of dishes paying homage to our Spanish influences. Similarly, Divali, Eid, Indian Arrival Day and Chinese Double Ten Anniversary are earmarked by delicacies from our ancestors from the Far Eastern and Middle Eastern countries. Strikingly, these recipes are not untouched ancient relics but modernized and innovatively curated to suit the West Indian palate which gave birth to Trinbagonian Cuisine. Iconic and emerging chefs have risen to the occasion and challenged themselves as the game changers and champions for development and promotion of this niche tourism; culinary tourism.
Trinidad and Tobago is keeping up with the demands of the new tourist with the supply of culinary tourism. One such professional who is shaking up the local culinary scene is Chef Rishi Ramoutar. He is a true son of the soil hailing from Arima in East Trinidad. His work compels the viewer to wonder what a walk through his creative mind would look like. One can only imagine it would be far from complacent or boring. Chef Rishi grew up in a space where his immediate environment exposed him to the seeds of hard work, entrepreneurship, customer service excellence, humility and consistency. Of course, the love for food and helping his parents in their local roti shop also sparked his culinary interest.
Chef Rishi saw his parents labour in love for the community and environs through their passion but the young chef was a picky eater. Often, he was found experimenting and creating his own culinary masterpieces in his makeshift home kitchen lab. However, he understood and adopted a zero wastage policy in his kitchen. Whenever there were leftovers he found a way to use them to innovate a new culinary creation. Little did he know that when your intentions are pure in heart and you are desirous of pursuing a particular path the universe listens and conspires to get you just what you asked for. Chef Rishi continued to create and share his passion for food with friends and family at events and social gatherings from beach limes to river limes just to name a few. His social circle realized his potential, talent, creativity and skill and supported his culinary quests.
Chef Rishi’s unwavering food inquisition and innovations backed by support from his loved ones led him to enrol in Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (one of the top culinary schools in the region). There, he honed his skill and talents and grew thankful for his culinary mentors one of which includes the icon, Chef Khalid Mohammed. In due time, Chef Rishi graduated and took over his parents’ business; C & J Roti Shop otherwise known as C& J Restaurant and Bar. Notwithstanding, his culinary adventure did not stop there. The advent of social media began to bridge a gap with the overwhelming desire of domestic tourists to experience Trinidad differently. People found themselves living vicariously through Chef Rishi’s mind blowing culinary creations and explosive food fusions on various social media platforms.
If only there was a way to bring people together to experience such creativity and culinary expertise. In 2019, there was a major “light bulb” moment and Chef Rishi decided to bring the supper table dining experience to Trinidad and Tobago. A supper table is somewhat like a supper club where persons socially gather to dine at a specific location. It can also be referenced to Chef’s Table. The dining experience is called,”12 by Rishi”. Chef Rishi has already hosted several events for this year with his competent and experienced team. Together, they aim to host “12 by Rishi” twice per month. The supper club has been well received by food adventurers locally. This is not a surprise as the more Chef Rishi creates the more creative he becomes and the more he works in tandem with the universe to live his purpose during his time with us. Patrons who miss the event may have to join a waiting list because “12 by Rishi” seats only twelve guests. Once the event is advertised on social media it is usually booked and sold out within a few days. The cost of attending “12 by Rishi” is affordable and on par with the quality, taste, service, food diversity, attention to detail and presentation.
A creative dining experience such as “12 by Rishi” elevates niche tourism, in this case culinary tourism. It creates a sense of pride for nationals that this is a home grown event. Chef Rishi uses local, fresh, home-made and high quality produce that satiates the senses and makes tourists taste the difference. He buys from local farmers and suppliers lending support to sustainable best practice. When Chef Rishi shares his passion through his purpose he directly and indirectly inspires others to do the same. His work is tastefully and artfully crafted to the point that it engages learning interface through conversation over food. This instinctively provokes the mind of the food adventurer to think creatively. The food explorer discovers Chef Rishi’s concepts, his creative process of ideation to execution which includes problem solving. These food tourists are now subconsciously nurtured to apply creative thinking to their own lives to design and apply problem solving there.
” 12 by Rishi”, a modern, authentic, creative and culturally sustainable initiative is a step in the right direction for culinary tourism. The event diversifies the domestic tourism product in Trinidad and Tobago. It makes the destination even more attractive. So next time domestic tourists feel the need to escape they should stay to getaway and enjoy one of the best culinary experiences this island has to offer. As our nation’s motto boasts, ” Together we as aspire, Together we achieve”, we should band together to support local and buy local because when one of us is victorious, we all share in the victory of being Trinbagonian.
Avid food explorers and culinary enthusiasts can discover more about the supper club, ” 12 by Rishi” from the listed contact information below:
Phone #: 643.2189 or 384 – 2200
Location: C & J Roti Shop
#6 Paradise Lane, Tumpuna Road, Arima