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Turtle Island introduces new culinary program

May 6, 2019 Dining No Comments Email Email

Turtle Island, a privately-owned luxury island in the Yasawa Group, Fiji, is introducing an exciting new culinary program which will bring to life the truly authentic Fijian nature of the Island.

The program will be spearheaded by recently appointed Chef de Cuisine, Simon Orviss who will work in close partnership with Turtle Island’s established Fijian Sous Chef, Beni Betekoaka.

Having worked for more than 10 years at award-winning African safari lodges and luxury islands, Orviss will utilise his expertise in bringing an important sense of place to the entire guest dining experience.

Betekoaka hails originally from the village of Vuaki, across the lagoon from Turtle Island, and has been in the food and beverage team for 16 years.

Together, Orviss and Betekoaka will create new signature Fijian dishes that honour the local produce making it an important part of the barefoot luxury experience that is Turtle Island.

They will utilise both the land and the sea as their source of inspiration. The five-acre on-island kitchen garden has around 150 garden beds and is managed by a dedicated team of five people led by head gardener, Ifereimi Ilimotama, who has been working on Turtle Island for ten years.  It supplies up to 80% of the food that is enjoyed by the guests, including beehives which provide the island’s delicious honey.

The surrounding waters offer up local delicacies such as slipper lobsters and yellow fin tuna which are brought in from the daily catch by local fisherman to reappear later as grilled lobster for lunch or as sashimi and seared tuna appetisers for dinner.

Guests can enjoy a “dinner party” atmosphere with a single long table set up at night on the beachfront, or on the mountain top affording amazing vistas of the island, where together they enjoy sharing their experiences from the day.

A new addition is a weekly dinner in the kitchen garden which begins with a tour of the plantings and sees guests seated under fairy lights strung between the trees enjoying the sounds of Fijian music played by the staff as the sun goes down.

Dinner that night includes locally caught lobster and crabs and Spanish mackerel which hangs suspended over a charcoal grill, infused with herbs, while the syrupy juices of slowly roasting pineapples drip from above. The caramelised pineapples will then be served with ice cream for dessert.

Once a week there is a Fijian Lovo on offer where Fijian delicacies are cooked in an “underground oven” followed by a traditional Meke and kava ceremony.

Guests on Turtle Island can also choose to dine privately at a variety of locations around the island including on a purpose-built floating pontoon in the lagoon with their meals served to them via boat, at Cliff Point overlooking the beautiful gardens and surrounding waters or on the open-air verandahs of their bures.

New signature dishes on the menu include coconut clam soup with Turtle garden herbs, a refined version of a Fijian classic. Guests can really experience a ‘taste of place’ having gone clam digging themselves during the day and seeing the produce from the local waters used in the dish.

Another signature dish is the Fijian rourou spinach balls with fresh lobster. The process of making rourou (from taro leaves) and spinach balls is a typically Fijian custom, however by adding fresh lobster brought to the island by neighbouring fishermen and the spinach from the garden, it helps add to the guests’ enjoyment.

New beach picnic menus have also been designed for guests to take on their daily visits to the Island’s ten spectacular private beaches.

All food and beverages for guests are included for the duration of their stay including a personalised bure bar stocked daily with the guest’s selections.   An extensive array of fresh, fruity cocktails is available at the bar on the beachfront and includes new additions – a Cucumber Basil Cooler and a Green Lantern – inspired by the new kitchen garden dinner and utilising its bountiful selection of herbs.

Chef de Cuisine, Simon Orviss said: “I’m thrilled to be here on Turtle Island, working with and learning so much from Beni and his team. We have such an abundance of local produce from the gardens and the sea to choose from and I am enjoying creating some truly memorable dishes.”

Almost 40 years after opening, 500-acre Turtle Island, is a natural paradise and the overriding Fijian ‘welcome home’ ethos that greets all guests has been a tradition since 1972 when the island’s owner, American entrepreneur and eco-visionary Richard Evanson purchased the island and made it his home.

Today, Evanson still calls the island home but it is now managed by his son Richard Evanson Jr.  Together, father and son, with the support of a passionate 90-strong team of local Fijians, honour and nurture the land and local culture respecting the barefoot luxury and friendly service that the island has become famous for.

Turtle Island is open all year-round for couples and twice a year ‘welcomes home’ families with Family Time.  The Family Time dates run from 22 June 2019 to 21 July 2019, and 21 December 2019 to 12 January 2020.

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