Chef Lisa Sellars and Her Island Paradise Garden

by Julia Loschiavo | July 11th, 2013 | Chef Interviews

chef lisaLocated on the beautiful British Virgin Islands, the Peter Island Resort & Spa offers two restaurants on its tranquil and welcoming property. Between the upscale Tradewinds restaurant and the relaxed Deadman’s Beach Bar & Grill, Chef Lisa Sellars uses garden-grown produce to create delicious menu items. You’ll be in paradise with the fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, not to mention the gorgeous landscape and casually elegant atmosphere.

I was able to speak with Chef Lisa Sellars to find out more about how she creates the ultimate dining experience.

JL: What types of foods do you grow in your garden?

CS: Arugula, mint, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, lemongrass, scallions, basil (tea, purple, Thai), cilantro, eggplant, sweet peppers, pumpkin, squash, cherry tomatoes, bok choy & chilies. Again the garden keeps growing, it is a tiered boxed garden, and I just keep adding boxes! Also around the island we have planted fruit trees, mango, papaya, passion fruit; we have wild tamarind trees, coconut, and sugarcane. For me the freshness of the herbs is amazing. Our arugula is really peppery, and works well with the slight sweetness of the local Angenda lobster.

JL: Are there any seasonal items that you are growing/using right now?

CS: At the moment, mint, rosemary, cherry tomatoes, thyme, lemongrass, arugula. The mangoes are seasonal and are out now and so we are using them, we also dry the seeds and use them in our weekly grilling/BBQ smoking class to smoke some of our items — cold smoked Mango Wahoo, or the coconut husks for our pulled pork. The garden doesn’t produce enough to supply both our restaurants on a daily basis so we do weekly Vintners’ dinners, with 20 guests, that are farm-to-table. The five-course menu is planned each week around what we’ve just picked from the garden and the guests are given a brief history of the inspiration behind each dish. The herbs are used in the kitchen daily by our chefs and the bartenders make cocktail specials.

JL: How do the seasons influence your menu choices?

CS: There are no real seasons in the British Virgin Islands, apart from the local fruit. So we can plant generally the same items all year round. And we are always trying to grow something new. We just finished our first crop of cherry tomatoes, and as there are no large farms in the BVI, we work with the smaller farmers in the BVI and buy what they produce too. Cucumbers and breadfruit are in season now and we have a farmer that grows our micro greens in Tortola, so we try to showcase the food of the islands.

JL: Which fresh-grown ingredients inspire you most?

CS: This is a tough one, as a chef your style & inspiration changes as you develop in the moment; I love how herbs can really change the character of a dish and like to be spontaneous with flavors.

JL: What atmosphere do you aim to create in your restaurant?

CS: We have two restaurants on the island — Tradewinds is all about enjoying fine food, wine and the people you are with. The style is a mixture of my European background, with the taste of the Caribbean islands where I’ve worked.

Deadman’s Beach Bar & Grill literally sits on one of the Caribbean’s best beaches — overlooks the sand, sea and distant islands of the BVI. This restaurant is all about local flavors and fun! Here we want guests to kick back, relax and enjoy our magical island.

JL: Any particular favorite menu items?

CS: Seared scallops with ginger mango glaze and wilted arugula, chili & coconut marinated local red snapper wrapped in plantain with pickled local vegetables, sugarcane skewered mini buttermilk doughnuts, watermelon & a mango “POP” cone.

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