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1st Annual BVI Wine and Food Festival

Coco Maya displaying their appetising treats - Photo by Yelena Rogers

Indulged Inclusion at the BVI Wine and Food Festival

Photography by William Torrillo www.photo.vi, Abby O’Neal and Yelena Rogers

Invited to a preliminary dinner party for the BVI Wine and Food Festival chefs, I boarded a ferry from Trellis Bay headed for Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina on a Wednesday evening.

I watched the sun set over Beef Island and admired the luxury catamarans moored off Marina Cay as we motored toward our destination.

When I reached Scrub Island, Kim Huish, the BVI Wine and Food Festival General Manager, escorted me upstairs where I received handshakes and hellos from local, regional, international, and celebrity chefs. They were all energised to be meeting each other for the first time with the focal point of their excitement about the first annual BVI Wine and Food Festival.

Following the greetings, Chef Davide Pugliese—renowned in the BVI for his culinary expertise—drove up; the chefs and I loaded into his pickup and a Scrub Island van to be taken to his cuisine-inspired home, Wali Nakiti.

Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi

The kitchen is the centrepiece of Wali Nakiti and the chefs made themselves at home. Chefs Roberto Leoci and Johnny Day from Leoci’s Trattorio in Savannah, Georgia began making pizzas in the kitchen’s brick oven, quickly followed by celebrity chefs Cesare Casella and Francois Payard, who joined to make their own varieties.


Chef Payard walked around serving slices of their delicious creations and Chef Nelson Mullan of the San Antionio Country Club grabbed a mortar and pestle and began pummelling spices. I sipped wine beside Chef Jennifer Carroll and her partner, Chef Billy Riddle, then chatted about Puerto Rico with Chef Kunal Chakrabarti and Victor Rosado from the Ritz-Carlton Hotels in St Thomas and Puerto Rico, respectively.

Snacking on a piece of caramelised onion and goat cheese pizza topped with fresh arugula and a final piece of food art in a collaboration dessert pizza, with its fusion of local, exotic, international, and commonplace flavours, I was provided with a much appreciated preview of the theme of ‘inclusion,’ exhibited throughout the weekend event.

Thumbs Up from Roberto Lioci - Photo by Abby O'Neal

The spectrum of ‘inclusion’ accounted for the success of the BVI Wine and Food Festival. The event featured a wide range of chefs, wines and innovative ingredients.

After my casual, fun-filled night of being fed pizza by celebrity chefs, I attended the first wine dinner of the event, held on Thursday night in Scrub Island’s Caravela Restaurant, featuring delights made by Chef Jennifer Carroll.

I sat with Steve Fox of OBMI and Lion Dred from Green VI as we nibbled our way through four courses. The innovation of the first course, emerged from the cashew streusel-encrusted rare yellowfin tuna, topped with pickled radish and a mango vinaigrette. At a nearby table, photographer Anya Brewley Schultheiss praised it with glee, and Steve Fox said, “It literally melts in your mouth.” Caribbean Cellars chose a delightful mango-inflected Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to match the dish.

Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi

Next up, an autumn-inspired dish of striped bass, roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower with potato espuma, and carrot beurre monte – the cooking of the fish was flawless, and my tablemates praised “the creaminess” of the fish.

Following, a pork tenderloin with tomato jam, black olive, and soubise, “[was] really well paired,” according to Anya, with a Montes Alpha Pinot Noir.

Then, Chef Chakrabarti’s dessert arrived. Everyone stopped talking. Time stood still.

It consisted of a dark chocolate fudge cake complemented by peanut butter ice cream encrusted with pretzels, surrounded by a milk chocolate whipped ganache, and topped with a bit of gold leaf and a sprig of dark chocolate. We were further indulged by the pairing with bubbles—Chardon Blanc de Noirs Brut. I thought it to be a giddily euphoric dish that perhaps only Americans would appreciate, but Steve—hailing from England—said, “That was probably the best dessert I’ve ever had.

Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi
Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi
Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi
Peg Legs, Nanny Cay - Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi
Peg Legs, Nanny Cay - Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi

The next two days of the festival included demonstrations, seminars, barbecues, and tastings at Nanny Cay in the Grand Tasting Village headed by Chef Ron Duprat, a wine dinner with Chef Payard’s at Scrub Island’s Caravela, and the most inclusive event—a five-course dinner hosted by Chef Davide Pugliese of Scrub Island Resort, featuring Chef Jennifer Carroll, Chef Cesare Casella, Chef Francois Payard, Chef Roberto Leoci, Chef Travis Phillips from BVI’s own The Dove Restaurant, and Chef Imran Ashton from The BVI Culinary Team.

Chef Ron Duprat cooking at Nanny Cay - Photo by Yelena Rogers

International and local chefs had an opportunity to work together to learn from each other and showcase their finest delicacies.

On the last night of the festival, I returned to Scrub Island Resort for the final wine dinner, by Chef Cesare Casella, and joined a table with Sandy Fountain from Baker Tilly (BVI) Ltd, Charlie Brigden from Martin Kenney & Co. Solicitors, Dominic Bufton from Fresh Mango Technologies, Emma Dean from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and Gary Salter from TICO BVI, who had provided the wine choices for the evening.

Scrub Island’s Caravela Restaurant - Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi

The meal started off with insalata del pontormo, a phenomenally inventive first course—the chef’s signature salad of soft-scrambled egg, pancetta, and market greens served with bruschetta and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, paired with Coopers Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

Sandy remarked, “only a Michelin-starred chef could do that dish for this many people.” The combination of flavours and textures tasted at once delicate and robust. I had the pleasure of sitting beside Gary, Sales and Marketing Manager from TICO who continued to patiently answer my frequent questions about the wine pairing.

Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi
Photo by William Torrillo www.photo.vi
Jean Luc from French Deli - Photo by Yelena Rogers

Other courses included farrotto del mare, a risotto-style farro with a shellfish ragu; rosticciana con spinaci e polenta, a Tuscan-style pork spare rib served with spinach and polenta; and a dessert of ricotta cheese cake served with apricot sorbet and pine nut crumble.

At the end of the night, event founders Abby O’Neal and William Torrillo introduced all the chefs, presented a branded demijohn to festival sponsor ScotiaBank, and thanked everyone for making the first year such a success before we returned to the ferry headed for Tortola.

Presenting Sponsor MD Scotiabank and Featured Chef Jennifer Carroll - Thursday's Dinner - Photo by Abby O'Neal

In addition to the divine dishes filled with ingredients from near and far, the festival’s brilliance lay in the organisers’ ability to foster the theme of ‘inclusion’ among the chefs, wine distributors, sponsors, and attendees.

Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

Traci O'Dea is a poet, journalist, editor, educator, and essayist. She lives in the British Virgin Islands where she teaches at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. Her work has appeared in Poetry, 32 Poems, Poetry Daily, Bird's Eye View, Virgin Islands Property & Yacht, Limin' Times, and elsewhere. She also serves as an editor for the poetry journal Smartish Pace.
Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

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