Couples Negril hosts La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dinner
Is it a secretive food enthusiasts’ club? Well, not exactly, but a La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dinner offers a captivating glimpse into the world’s oldest international gastronomic society, exemplified by Couples Negril, which hosted its local chapter, Le Bailliage de La Jamaïque, last month.
A Chaîne dinner is best described as an invite-only gathering of discerning food and wine lovers at which each course is silently critiqued by the society’s members, termed ‘professionals’ and ‘unprofessionals’. Their culinary affiliations are revealed through the pins, badges, and medals adorned with ribbons, with different colour stripes, indicating their rank in society.
A general rule for Chaîne members is to refrain from discussing the taste of the meals with their hosts. However, Charmaine Deane, the vice charges de presse, le Bailliage de La Jamaïque, told Food that “empty plates returning to the kitchen tell the tale”.
The Chaîne dinner at Couples Negril, themed ‘Spellbound: The Flame and the Fire,’ was a celebration of the culinary expertise of the renowned husband and wife duo Andre and Simone Campbell. They serve as the executive chefs at Couples Negril and Swept Away, respectively.
Similar to the symphony of the eight-course dinner, which flowed seamlessly out of the restaurant’s kitchen, members and guests adhered to the Chaîne rules, which require diners to be as much part of the ‘food orchestra’ as the impeccably dressed waitstaff, who entered the floor in Indian file, encircling tables, while serving, pouring, and clearing each course together before exiting in the same orderly fashion.
To ensure that the symphony is uninterrupted at Chaîne dinners, members and guests are expected to remain seated throughout in order to avoid any disruption in the flow and movement of the service staff. Additionally, every course should be enjoyed seasoned exactly as prepared by the host chefs, ruling out salt and pepper on tables as these additives are regarded as ‘external influences which distract from the intended taste and flavour of dishes’.
Most importantly, Chaîne rules suggest that food is to be eaten when served at the moment of peak quality. This practice reflects a sign of respect and appreciation for the efforts of the chef and kitchen staff. And there is no substitution of food courses because of allergy, dislikes, or medical conditions. Instead, members and guests can politely enquire about ingredients used, which, for the most part, are divulged at the start of each course by the host chefs, allowing the option of passing over a meal or course, but politely so, after being served.
Members and guests, including Elias Lee Issa, chairman, Couples Resorts, as well as Caroline Cousins, general manager, Couples Negril, nodding, approved each course and wine pairings.
The Jamaican bailliage, led by Bailli Pierre Battaglia of Couples Sans Souci, praised Couples’ corporate chef, Stefan Spath, the Campbells, and their team. Guests especially enjoyed the appetiser, soup, and the dessert, ‘Cherish of the Day’, which received appreciative reactions. The jerk ganache added a pleasant surprise, balanced well with the 2016 Thomas Barton Reserve Sauterne wine provided by Select Brands.
The Cream of Pepperpot soup, served with ackee corn pork and wonton dumpling, was a delightful take on the Jamaican Saturday staple, incorporating European and Asian influences.
Le Bailliage de La Jamaïque is the oldest and largest in the Caribbean, established in 1985, numbering 45 active members from a total of approximately 100 registered. To become a part of Chaîne, one has to be invited by a member.
“Chaîne comprises people in hospitality - chefs, general managers, and people who, generally, appreciate culinary arts,” Deane pointed out, adding that Le Bailliage de La Jamaïque hosts a function at least each quarter at select venues, which, throughout the years, have included Sandals Whitehouse, Couples Resorts, Half Moon, Round Hill, Terra Nova, and restaurants such as Uncorked.
Brian Sang, vice echanson, Le Bailliage de La Jamaïque, and general manager, Jamaica Pegasus, sits on a committee that approves host venues and their respective menus for Chaîne dinners, an internationally sought-after honour by restaurants and hotels seeking the society’s plaque to be displayed in their establishments.
Baille Battaglia told Food that La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs was introduced to Jamaica in 1984 by Hans Schenk, executive chef, Sugar Hill Restaurant, Half Moon.
“He brought the Chaîne society to Jamaica. The first event was done in 1984 at Wyndham Rose Hall, Montego Bay, hosted by Anil Sid, executive chef.” Proudly leading Le Bailliage de La Jamaïque since 1985, Battaglia’s culinary journey has spanned Europe, following in the footsteps of Kermit Tucker.
After dinner, Battaglia presented pins to the participating staff at Couples Negril as a symbol of their recognition for hosting and serving at a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dinner, a globally renowned honour.