Kingston is the heartbeat of Jamaica that is promoting culinary experience
January 2, 2019
With gastronomy tourism growing exponentially, Jamaica has developed a framework to combine and promote culinary experiences, enterprises, festivals and local cuisine.
The island’s Gastronomy Tourism Network (GTN) is aimed at promoting the country’s culinary assets while boosting the tourism sector.
Last March, Devon House was designated the island’s first gastronomy centre and the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Trail Tour -- featuring several eateries and attractions -- was launched.
Surrounded by a self-service kitchen, farmers’ market and food shops, the Devon House experience will offer visitors an opportunity to cook meals after making food purchases from the market.
Considered one of Jamaica’s leading national monuments and a symbol of cultural diversity, Devon House was selected by National Geographic in 2011 as the fourth Best Place in the World to enjoy its popular ice cream.
George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first Black millionaire, made his fortune mining gold in Venezuela before returning to the Caribbean island and purchasing 99 properties, including Devon Penn on which the house was commissioned in 1881.
Two other families resided in the mansion prior to the Jamaican government taking ownership in 1965. Rescued from last-minute demolition by then Minister of Development Edward Seaga, the house was used to showcase crafts and furniture. It underwent restoration on four occasions before being declared a national monument in 1990.
The Blue Mountain Culinary Trail tour includes stops at the Craighton Estate Great House and EITS (Europe in the Summer) Café which are about a 45-minute drive from Kingston.
One of Jamaica’s national historical treasures built in 1805, Craighton House sits 2,600 feet above sea level on 80 lush acres.
During a one-hour tour, visitors learn about the factors that give this coffee its unique and definitive flavour before enjoying a fresh cup straight from the source and brewed to perfection.
Blue Mountain Coffee marketer Alton Bedward
EITS is a rustic eatery in the Blue Mountains that serves up mouth-watering cuisine from ingredients grown on-site at the food basket farm and by neighbouring farmers.
Visitors interested in finding great places to eat and drink can visit tastejamaica.com.
“This is a website and app where you can see every restaurant, bar, food shop and everything that has to do with food and cuisine,” Nicola Madden-Greig, the GTN chair, told a visiting group of North American journalists recently.
To increase the number of tourists to Jamaica for a rewarding food experience, the island will participate for the first time in the South Beach Food & Wine festival from February 21-24.
The festival brings together over 100 unique collaborative dinners, wine tastings, beach parties and cooking demonstrations.
“We are going to be presenting Jamaica to the world on that stage,” Madden-Greig, a former Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association president, pointed out.
Promoting gastronomy tourism builds on Kingston’s designation by the United Nations Education, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a creative city for music that could vastly boost the destination as a leisure market for visitors looking for more than sun, sand and beach.
“If you want more adventure and cultural experience, then you have to come to Kingston,” said Madden-Greig. “There are different experiences for different types of people. Sometimes there is a misconception of what Kingston is about. The real charm with Kingston is that we want you to go out.”
The Bob Marley Museum, declared a protected national heritage site in May 2001, is a popular tourist attraction.
Located at 56 Old Hope Rd., the residence was the artiste’s and Tuff Gong record label home from 1973 until his death eight years later.
Marley’s spirit is very much alive in Trenchtown Culture Yard Museum which was the home of his close friend, Vincent ‘Tartar’ Ford, who passed away in Jamaica nine years ago. It was in that yard that Ford wrote the lyrics of ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and taught Marley how to play the guitar.
Marley’s first guitar and vehicle – a 1970 blue Volkswagen – are on display in the culture yard designated a national heritage site in 2007.
“This is where it all started for Bob,” said chief tour guide Donnette Dowe who lives in the community. “He never forgot his roots and that’s why he often referred to Trenchtown in his songs.”
The Trenchtown Culture Yard Museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tours vary from 30 to 90 minutes and cost from US$12 to US$30.
With marathon tourism gaining traction, Kingston has become an attractive city for visitors seeking a new experience.
The seventh annual Kingston City Run on March 17 will feature a half marathon, 10 and 5K race/walk and a newly introduced 26.2-mile marathon.
“This run utilizes the scenic, cultural and mystical assets of Kingston and St. Andrew,” said Maurice Bryan who is the Courtleigh Hotel sales manager. “The event routes passes some iconic attractions like Devon House, Kings House, the Peter Tosh and Bob Marley museums and Hope Gardens which is the Caribbean’s largest botanical garden.”
Since marathon inception, nearly $15 million has been raised for several charities, including Marie Atkins Night Shelter, Alpha House, Food for the Poor and the Open Arms Drop-In Centre that provides food, clothing and temporary accommodation for homeless men.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome I received when I walked into Open Arms about four years ago,” said Madden-Greig who co-founded the Kingston City Run. “I was greeted by ‘Good Morning Miss’, ‘How are you Ma’am’, ‘Are you OK?’ and ‘May I help you’. It was so refreshing.”
Madden-Greig is also the group director of marketing & sales with the Courtleigh Hotel Group that comprises the Knutsford Court, Jamaica Pegasus, Courtleigh and Wyndham hotels.
The 128-room Courtleigh is a boutique hotel offering personalized service, the Knutsford is a 143-room resort-style accommodation geared for the budget conscious traveller and the Pegasus is considered the Caribbean’s premier business and leisure hotel.
The Wyndham is expected to open later this year.
“This will be our most luxurious property,” said Madden-Greig. “It will bring to Kingston the largest meeting space. Basically, we are going to be offering you a complex where you can stay and enjoy the facilities all of which is really going to make this space unique. There is a new vibe and energy that is Kingston which is the heartbeat of Jamaica.”