“When envisioning the plans for Secret Bay and The Residences at Secret Bay, the idea was to create an intimate, sustainable, and timeless experience that worked harmoniously with nature,” says Gregor Nassief, proprietor of Secret Bay and Chairman and CEO of GEMS Holdings Limited, of the property’s dedication to the environment and sustainable food systems.
Secret Bay is the only property in Dominica and just one of seven Caribbean hotels to be accepted into the Relais & Châteaux brand. The resort’s six-star personalised service, commitment to sustainability and culinary ingenuity are among the qualities that led to its selection as a member of the ‘World’s Finest Intimate Hotels.’
Intertwined with these objectives is a focus on home grown, environmentally regenerative gastronomy. As Dominica works to become the world’s first climate resilient nation through renewable energy, organic agriculture and sustainable infrastructure, Secret Bay is doing its part to innovate and support government initiatives while also creating its own sustainable ecosystem.
The hyper-local, mostly organic culinary offering of Secret Bay’s Zing Zing restaurant is critical to this mission. Secret Bay’s Green Garden Initiative, based on a system of permaculture, provides staff with an opportunity to engage with food, from seed to plate, reducing the likelihood of disturbing the natural ecosystem and mitigating carbon emissions.
The Green Garden enables Executive Chef, Grant Lynott’s “commitment to fresh” and provides the foundation for Secret Bay’s garden-to-table, no-menu culinary experience. The garden’s layout encompasses strategically planted superfoods such as ginger, turmeric and moringa that complement provisions such as dasheen (taro), banana, papaya and passion fruit.
Other foods and herbs that grow on the Secret Bay property include hibiscus, guava, bay leaf, pursley (purslane), lemongrass, three types of citrus trees (lime, gospo, and sour orange), two types of mangoes (titou and long), tamarind, cherry, tiger nuts, beetroots, three types of peppers, two types of local kale, katuk (wild spinach) and peppers (cayenne and bird’s eye chili).
Chef Lynott has a passion for the pursuit of heritage crops— native ingredients that survived Dominica’s British and French colonisation. He is also working with local farmers to pick wild crops that are a part of Dominica’s natural heritage. “Dominica is rich, with a variety of microclimates and hypersensitive seasons, so the food landscape is constantly changing, meaning we have to consider what we can actually forage,” he explains. “I often rely on survival manuals and botany studies from the 1950s to track and find unique ingredients that are either indigenous or foreign, but now grow here.”
Chef Lynott regularly engages with local farmers, sharing seeds and cuttings that he finds himself or obtains from friends and is working with other culinary luminaries in Dominica to build a network that they can all tap into, upon maturity.
Secret Bay’s boat captain, Don Mitchell, leads the resort’s lionfish program. Lionfish are a predatory and invasive species with devastating impacts on marine biodiversity. By actively fishing lionfish, Secret Bay contributes to the preservation of the island’s marine life.
Over the years, Secret Bay has connected with a select group of local suppliers to produce and provide a wide range of local provisions, like honey, poultry, fish, cocoa and even bath and body products, with the intent of sharing Dominica’s most treasured secrets with its guests. These relationships underlie sustainability principles of the resort’s day-to-day operations. Secret Bay’s commitment to the environment is enforced via a sense of accountability, not only on the part of the resort but also in the practices of local farmers, fishers and manufacturers with whom it conducts business.
Farmer and fisher partners use biodegradable bags and compost as part of their sustainability initiatives. The resort purchases exclusively from farmers that engage in soil-friendly farming practices and do not use toxic pesticides. In keeping with its prestigious Green Globe Certificate standing, Secret Bay avoids commercial packaging, using biodegradable and reusable packaging exclusively, replacing plastic bottles with reusable and refillable borosilicate glass bottles, relying on a drip irrigation process to reuse wastewater, reducing waste through composting and recycling, implementing energy conservation measures, reducing greenhouse emissions where ever possible and sourcing local foods and herbs from the land and sea. In this context, the term “Catch of the day” means just that and guests have come to expect that “a commitment to fresh” means the same foods might not be available every day of the week.
In line with its commitment to keeping it local, Secret Bay has also become an integral part of the community. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the resort has collaborated with sister-property Fort Young Hotel to launch an initiative called “Koudmen” Kitchen, after the Creole word Koudmen, meaning ‘helping hand’, which has provided more than 1,000 meals to Dominica’s frontline healthcare workers. By sourcing locally, Secret Bay supports local cottage industries, farmers, fishers and manufacturers. A partnership with the members of the St. Peter’s Fisheries Cooperative Complex in the small fishing community of Bioche, for example, has been a great source of financial support to local fishers and fishmongers.
Secret Bay attracts visitors from all over the world who are seeking a personalised, anti all-inclusive, off-the-grid experience. Nature-enthusiasts, adventurers and couples wanting a romantic retreat are among the most popular visitors, as well as families and solo travellers.
The Residences at Secret Bay, a limited luxury collection of fully-appointed, sustainable residences, is also attracting international interest from both second citizenship investors, as well as vacation home buyers who want a serene escape that aligns with their values and offers the chance to connect with nature. “I wanted it to feel like an escape that was innovative and forward-thinking yet still authentic, accessible and an extension of the environment,” says Gregor Nassief. It’s not only the design of the property and our location that are unique, but our six-star, personalised service is what makes us world-renowned and sets us apart.”
For original article, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/daphneewingchow/2020/04/30/hyper-local-ingenuity-and-environmentally-regenerative-gastronomy-have-made-dominicas-secret-bay-a-world-leader-in-sustainable-food-tourism/