'I cook from my heart'
Executive sous chef Oneil Vernon has a proud track record of satisfying the discerning tastes of guests at RIU Tropical Bay Hotel in Hanover. He has been doing this for 16 years and hopes to add many more decades if allowed.
The Green Island High School graduate told Food on a recent visit to the property that his culinary instincts were shaped from his mother's simple kitchen.
"I love the field of cooking, it is not just s job, it's a passion. I love it from my heart; my mother taught me," he shared, adding that his two brothers are pastry chefs working in fine restaurants abroad.
Moving deftly from one food station to the next in the Negril buffet restaurant at the hotel, ensuring that guests satisfaction is guaranteed, Vernon said his job is multifaceted.
"Apart from managing our gourmet signature French restaurant - Krystal - I supervise all the other eateries on property. This makes my job here challenging.
"A lot is required of us here at the hotel and we have to maintain very high standards. For example, good hygiene is a priority. Then the menu each day must meet guests' satisfaction. staff has to be motivated and I also have the task of ensuring that all costs are kept within budget," Vernon who supervises a staff of 74 said.
He told Food that his training in the Dominican Republic, Miami, and at HEART prepared him well for the job at RIU.
While he supervises breakfast, lunch and dinner for the buffet meals, he focuses on fine dining at Krystal where, he said proudly, "the most tender meals are prepared and served in style".
"Every guest wants to experience Kystal. They don't make a reservation and don't keep it," he boasted.
On another level, Vernon is pleased with the decision taken by the hotel to use as much local foods in its menu planning as possible.
"All fruits and vegetables are local; only those frozen are imported. Every two days we get fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm; we don't have a big storeroom, relatively speaking, so we don't stockpile," he explained.
Food enjoyed soursop wedges and June plum at breakfast, which are not regularly served in resort hotels.