Christmas has passed and New Year's is upon us. It’s a very busy time for us. But I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on all the things I’m grateful for and things that I hope for in the coming year. No resolutions for me. I don’t believe in them. Success is not made by resolutions. In order for a resolution to exist, you needed to be previously complacent about something you now wish to change. I’ve learned to just do it the first time and save a lot of energy. It’s one of the greatest lessons I teach my team.
I am so humbled by what we have achieved at Flying Fish this year and the year still isn’t over. I know there is still one more, big list to be revealed in the next week or so and I’m hoping for a very good result. More on that in a moment, but first, this is our 2014 in a nutshell:
We started 2014 with a wonderful review from Foder’s. It’s one of the world’s largest travel books and is used by millions of people annually. The highest accolade in the book is to be “Foder’s Recommended” and we were fortunate enough to get that distinction early in 2014. We knew we were in for a big year from this point forward but had now idea just how big.
In February I was named #11 of the Top 25 Chefs of the Caribbean by Caribbean Journal magazine. It is the top magazine in the region for all things Caribbean. I was so floored by this honor, as our restaurant didn’t make the Top 50 list that was released just a month before. Apparently we made our way onto someone’s radar just after the restaurant list was released to get such an honor.
In April, we were stunned to be awarded with a 4 Diamond Award from AAA. It is equivalent to 1-2 Michelin starred restaurants, as a lot of other 4 Diamond recipients in larger cities have the stars as well. This was probably the biggest award of the year for us. The criteria are insane. Judging takes 3 months. Every aspect of the restaurant is judged from the phone mannerisms to the décor. From the plates and cutlery to the style of service. From the chairs to the music. Every aspect of the restaurant is heavily scrutinized. This award is so important to many that even the celebrity chefs I have met this year don’t have it in their restaurants. We are the first in Grand Bahama history to earn it, and the third in the history of the Bahamas. There are less than 30 in the entire Caribbean. That’s crazy.
In early May I was invited to the inaugural Minority Chef’s Summit in Nassau to benefit the Culinary department at the College of the Bahamas. Chefs from around the world came together to work with the students, collaborate, discuss, demonstrate and learn from one another. It was 1 of the highlights of my year. Great relationships came from this event. So many great chefs have become great friends because of it and a core group of students who were involved have started to realize what it takes to be a top level chef. I’m looking forward to doing this again in the upcoming year.
At the end of May we hired a new PR team to do all the things we were starting to have trouble getting done while running this place. It was the best thing we did for our business this year. The team at ThinkInk is spectacular. We have had so many incredible opportunities and so much media attention because of their hard work to get us noticed. Sometimes it really is better to leave it to a professional.
July 10th was a career groundbreaker for me. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Chef Anthony Lamas to cook at James Beard House in New York City. For those who don’t know, JBH is the “Carnegie Hall” of the food world. Only the best chefs get to cook there. It was an incredible experience and working with Anthony helped me to see what it takes to get to the next level. He’s become a great friend and a great person to bounce ideas off of. He’s been so successful in his career that it’s nice to have someone at that level to talk to about how to proceed.
August meant another trip back to New York City to do a charity event featuring top Caribbean chefs from around the region. It was a fun event and I met some very important people on that trip. The first being Michael Laskonis who was the chef responsible for the single best bite of food I ever ate more than 5 years ago. He’s now the director of culinary education at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC. I was stunned when he walked into the prep kitchen we were working in. Nice, down to earth guy who gave up his job at one of the finest restaurants in the world to teach kids to cook. He is one of a kind. Next is DeAnne Gibson, the director of culinary tourism for the Ministry of Tourism. She is such a sweet person and would give you the shirt off her back. She toted 30 pounds of conch and 192 lobster tails to New York City for me for the event and only 48 hours after lobster season had opened. It was an amazing display. I love working with DeAnne and look forward to working with her again soon.
September we took to the road on a culinary road trip of the South. In Charleston we met up with my friend Kevin Mitchell, who we met through the Minority Chef Summit. He is the director of Culinary Arts at the College of Charleston. He gave us some great insight into the food and restaurant scene in one of the most beautiful cities in America.
After that it was off to Louisville, Kentucky for a collaboration dinner with my good friend Anthony Lamas again, this time at his restaurant Seviche. We did a 9 course tasting menu, trading off courses, with Rebecca pairing wines with each course. It was a big hit with those who attended. I look forward to doing another of those here.
In October the media really started; we were named 1 of the “5 Top restaurants worth travelling for” by Fort Lauderdale Daily. There were also many features in different magazines and an interview in USAToday. It was a whirlwind month that would just get crazier as November hit. I was also given a wonderful award from the Ministry Of Tourism for my contribution to Bahamian Culinary Arts, as part of Culinary Tourism month in a ceremony in Nassau.
November brought us another special award from right here in Grand Bahama. We were awarded the Grand Bahama Chamber Of Commerce Developing Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2014. It was very special to win an award that was chosen by the business community of Grand Bahama. To be recognized by your peers is always special. Mid month we were named the #2 Restaurant in the Caribbean by TripAdvisor for 2014. We also received a Traveller’s Choice Award: the only Bahamian restaurant to receive one this year.
The end of the month we held an event that I will always remember. My 3 best culinary friends in the Bahamas came to the restaurant to do an event with me. A spectacular 13 course meal that left everyone speechless. It was an unforgettable night with many young cooks joining us in the kitchen for the experience. It was definitely one of the highlights on my year.
It’s now December. There’s one list left to come out. The Top 50 Restaurants list from Caribbean Journal will be released in the coming days. Last year we were very disappointed that we didn’t make the list. I know this year we will be on it but the question remains, where will we be? We are hoping for the Top 5 but I’ll be happy in the Top 10. That is my Christmas wish: to end the year with a bang! My team deserves it. They’ve worked so hard this year to maintain the standard, even with me being away from the kitchen so much. That speaks volumes about how good they can cook.
I hope for an even bigger 2015. There are so many opportunities coming in the coming year. We hope to grow even bigger and continue to be a catalyst for the return of Grand Bahama. We hope to see all of our friends and colleagues here in Grand Bahama flourish in the New Year. So from us here at Flying Fish to all of you in Grand Bahama, Happy Holidays and all the best for the coming year!