The BVI's Top Chefs
A cooking show with a twist
Galley Gourmet gives local chefs a wide audience
Story by Claudia Colli
From Top Chef to Rachel Ray and Jamie Oliver, cooking shows are all the rage on network television in the US and elsewhere around the world. But what about the BVI? Who are our top chefs? Galley Gourmet with Chef Lisa has the answer. Lisa Mead's British Virgin Islands cooking show, which airs on CBN Channel 51, features a cross section of our best locally based chefs on both land and sea.
The day I visited the show, it was being taped at Golden Pavilion, a luxury villa on Tortola's Little Bay that offers a sweeping view out to Guana Island and the north shore along with a state of the art kitchen. Lisa's guests that day were Wendy Ketcham of the Tortola catering firm Island Dish and Elizabeth Ryback, the chef at the private rental villa, Baraka Point on Virgin Gorda. Buzzing around the kitchen, making sure that Lisa and the TV crew's needs were met was Kate Purdy, who has been on the show twice and is also Golden Pavilion's chef and co-manager along with her husband Tony.
Lisa describes the program as a "magazine-style" program that combines a sprinkle of easy going chat with some serious cooking. Expressing a mild case of nerves before going on-air, Wendy was put at ease by Lisa's friendly and laidback manner – and perhaps the calming glass of Champagne that Lisa proffers to guests just prior to taping. "It works a charm," quips Lisa, who after three years of producing the show, has become an old hand at relaxing guests and piquing the interest of her viewers.
Lisa then set up camera angles and lighting with CBN owner and manager, Andrew Cox and cameraman Shane Cox. Space was tight, but Wendy and Lisa were soon positioned in front of the large granite counter, with the professional sized stove behind them. When the camera began rolling, Lisa gracefully launched into her introduction: "I am at the luxury villa Golden Pavilion with the amazingly talented personal chef, Wendy Ketcham," she said and then gently quizzed Wendy on her background and asked her what she was cooking that day. The dish she chose to feature was a desert pizza smothered in fresh tropical fruits.
As Lisa questioned her on her cooking methods, Wendy measured out the ingredients for the crust. She mixed, kneaded and flattened the dough, first by hand and then proceeded to deftly toss it in the air for further shaping. Once flattened she placed the dough onto a pan and into the oven to brown lightly. Another crust, which had already been pre-baked, was at the ready, and Wendy first spread a sweetened orange butter on the crust and topped it with slices of mango, kiwi, blueberry and other locally sourced fresh fruits. The "pizza" was placed onto a pre-heated pizza stone and inserted into a very hot oven and baked for around 10 minutes until the crust was browned and the topping steaming hot. As I watched, I wondered if the other onlookers were getting as hungry as I was.
A cordon bleu trained chef, Wendy lived on Tortola from 1979 to 1985 running Fort Burt Restaurant for part of that time. She left the island to raise children and switch careers (temporarily becoming a legal assistant in Wilmington, Delaware) but returned to her first two loves, cooking and the BVI, in 2010.
Wendy's segment was followed by Elizabeth Ryback, whose on-air dishes included green mango spring rolls and a chicken satay with peanut sauce. For desert she prepared grilled pineapple and coconut ice with rum sauce. Before cheffing at Baraka Point, Elizabeth cooked aboard one of the many crewed charter yachts plying Virgin Islands waters. "I loved cooking on the boat," she says of her time onboard. But no matter how big the boat, galleys tend to be cramped and she says that she is now enjoying being on land and appreciating Baraka Point's spacious kitchen.
Lisa's background is also on the sea. The Australian born chef trained at the Culinary Institute of Queensland and has worked at a variety of international restaurants "It's a perfect training ground," she contends, describing Australian food as "a fusion of Asia meets European flavors – the best of both worlds."
"Following her heart and a chef that she had fallen in love with," she came to the BVI in 2003 where she became familiar with "a new world of cooking on yachts." Her current gig is aboard Viaggio, a 74' motor yacht based in the BVI but which cruises throughout the Caribbean.
While cooking may be her first love, cooking shows come in a close second. It was while cooking aboard Viaggio, that she had her "aha" moment. "I am obsessed with cooking shows and one day while I was chopping veggies, I thought how wonderful it would be to have a show which was in a boat galley featuring some of the BVI's many talented chefs." She rang up Andrew at CBN, and "gave him the spiel," and to her surprise, he said he had been "eager to televise a local cooking show," and hers, it seemed fit the bill. "It was a match made in heaven," declares Lisa. The show, which first aired in 2011 soon morphed into one that included both sea and land-based cooks "I was very nervous at first about going on TV, but now I have become very comfortable – I think I now have my act together," she says with a smile.
The show has taken her to some of the BVI's most far-flung locales including Necker Island, the Last Resort and Virgin Gorda's toney north shore villas. She has taped shows with Davide Pugliese, owner of Capriccio's in Road Town and now executive chef at Scrub Island; Imran Ashton a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute's HLSCC campus and owner of Plumrose Restaurant in Road Town; Chef Jermaine "Monk" George from Biras Creek who was filmed at the Mooney Bay Villa in North Sound and Chef Regis Bourdon from the popular Brandywine Bay restaurant on Tortola.
Downtime is not in Lisa's lexicon. The sailing chef balances not only cooking on Viaggio and taping new Galley Gourmet shows when she is back at port in the BVI – but she is also an artist outside the kitchen, specializing in marine themed acrylics. As for the future, she has hopes of taking the show further afield. Online BVI, a video upload site airs episodes and Carib Vision has shown interest in airing the show to a Caribbean-wide audience as well. She would also like to produce a "mystery basket" type show that would be modeled after one on TLC. The simple premise would have her go onto a bareboat and create a meal using ingredients found on the boat along with some that she brought aboard. Once just a small part of the cooking world, thanks to the Galley Gourmet, the BVI's exposure as a cooking Mecca has just gotten a bit bigger.
The Galley Gourmet is televised on Mondays at 6am and 10:30pm; Thursdays at 6:30am and Fridays at 4:30 pm and 8pm. You can also watch the program on CBN's live stream at www.cbnbvi.com
Visit Lisa Meade's website www.lisamead.com for recipes and more news.