Anguilla is without a doubt the Caribbean’s little darling. This modest, 17 mile island is home to 33 sandy beaches, indulgence that is understated and a quiet culinary movement spearheaded by Cuisinart’s Golf Resort and Spa. Yes, our very own kitchen best friend, Cuisinart, shows us her sultry side with her sleepy white-washed resort, her Caribbean nonchalance and an uncompromising attitude to food. Availing of the best seafood that swims right up to the resort and produce from the hotel’s hydroponic garden, Executive Chef Jasper Schneider is responsible for the resort’s 3 highly acclaimed restaurants. His menus are carefully crafted and distinctly different from each other, showcasing local delicacies, such as crayfish with a splash of lemon and gutsy jerk chicken, as well as dishes reflecting his personal journey with Japanese influences. Chef Jasper gave us a glimpse into his world and just what the thinking is behind those kitchen doors at Cuisinart’s Resort and Spa.
Tell us about your background and how you ultimately came to the Caribbean? How does that manifest in your food?
I started cooking in Hawaii and found a passion for cooking seafood from all the fresh bounty from the sea. I’ve been very lucky to work with other chefs who share the same passion for seafood – mainly Eric Ripert, my mentor, who was extremely influential in my menu selections at the various outlets I worked, both Stateside and abroad. Working in the Caribbean prior to coming here to Anguilla only intensified my love for cooking clean, fresh fish that is literally given to me 90 minutes after it’s caught. Having Cusinart’s hydroponic garden makes all the other ingredients that much more enticing.
What types of cooking classes do you teach?
There are two different classes at Cuisinart – sushi classes on Mondays, and Fridays are “Restaurant Food Made Easy” or local-style cooking.
What is the experience like at the Chef’s Table?
It’s an eight course tasting menu, driven by that day’s freshest ingredients, of course showcasing the seafood and vegetables – all of which are cooked right in front of you. Sometimes I’ll get caviar or truffles flown in and I’ll get inspired to do something special with those. But the intimacy of having the guests right in front of you and explaining to them my ideas and seeing them come alive is very exciting. Plus, they also get a chance to meet the pastry chef as well, so by the end of the night, they’ve come full circle!
What are some of the native dishes one must try on the island?
B&D’s BBQ – ribs, chicken and don’t forget the Jonny cakes! It’s open from Thursday to Saturday. It’s classic Anguilla with it being right off a road, in the back of someone’s house, but it’s so good, people don’t care where the food is being cooked!
What are some of your signature dishes?
Baby beet salad, goat cheese, crystalised ginger, micro arugula, dried cherry vinaigrette pan seared snapper, cauliflower puree, ragu of marcona almonds, cauliflower butter poached lobster and coconut bouillabaisse sauce.
Name a chef who has influenced you most?
Eric Ripert and Michele Bras – chefs who believe in simplicity in both taste and presentation.
Tell us about your herb garden and hydroponic vegetables – how does that influence your menu?
Being able to take the freshest product and use it in its most simplest form is a dream for any chef. I’m so appreciative to have the farm steps away and seeing what comes in each day, because it heightens my creativity. It drives how our menus are written and allows me to experiment and play around with new dishes. When I found out I could have a chance to be the chef of Cuisinart, the hydroponic farm sold me the most because of how it would influence all of our dining outlets.
Saira Malhotra is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. To see more of her work, visit www.passportpantry.com.