Dec. 4, 2005 If you think hunter-gatherers are creatures of a primitive past, you could be wrong. Chef Ric Ade spins over the hilly roads of St. Thomas in a red jeep merrily telling his potential television audience of the bounty available, "if only you look."
Ade visits the bayside fish sellers in Frenchtown looking for the right fish for a ceviche. "What's that, shark? I don't think so." He asks,"Where can I find some Parrot fish?" He gets his answer Stumpy Bay, an area known to local fishermen, but not to tourists, who would find it too difficult to reach anyway.
He pulls off the road to point out the limes growing overhead. "See, it's all here, if you know where to look," he says. The limes, along with some mangoes, will go into a Mangazpacho soup.
Ade, executive chef at Bolongo Bay, and captain of the USVI Culinary Team, is making a pilot video which he will market to the Food Channel. Along with his partner, Jackie Reynolds, the two are hitting the culinary road with new ideas and new products.
Both are well-known in island restaurant circles. Reynolds has been a familiar face for years at Hook, Line and Sinker, Bolongo Bay and Banana Tree Grille, to name a few.
"I come up with the idea, and Jackie takes care of all the rest," Ade smiles, "all the stuff I don't want to do." And there's a lot included in "the rest." Reynolds takes care of marketing, accounting and on this particular morning, she is showing off the couple's new hot sauces Mangazpacho, Papaya Blast and Habanero Ketchup.
Ade takes delight in describing his creations. "The Mangazpacho is made with mango, cucumber, Habanero peppers and cilantro. It's great with grilled chicken, turkey and all seafood," he says. "The Papaya Blast is a West Indian style sauce, sweet and fiery." Ade calls the Habanero Ketchup "a new twist on an old favorite."
The sauces are bottled at Endorphin Farms in Florida, a company Ade and Reynolds found on a tour earlier this year. "It's much cheaper than doing it here, even with the shipping," Ade explains. To say nothing of the fact that he doesn't have the time.
All three are on the counter at Hook, Line and Sinker, of course, and Reynolds has placed them at other outlets. The 12-ounce bottles are handsome and colorful with Caribbean labels designed by a New York designer friend.
Reynolds says the sauces are available at Gourmet Gallery, Marina Market, Pirate's Chest in Havensight, and St. John Spice and Deli Grotto Café on St. John. She says they retail between $8 and $10 a bottle.
"St. Croix is next," she says. And, being the enterprising soul that she is, Reynolds has placed a few bottles at Caribbean Yacht Owners Association next door. "You know the CYOA charterers are going to pick up a bottle," she says.
Ade is ambitious. Since arriving on St. Thomas about six years ago, he has made it his business to know the area and its foods. The hot sauces and the video are part of Ade's master plan to market Caribbean cuisine with a continental flair.
He has already acquired culinary status at Bolongo Bay, where his sophisticated dishes have won culinary awards for originality and Caribbean flair. The USVI culinary team brough home a silver medal in June this year in a Caribbean competition held in Miami, Fla. The team prepared Ade's recipe for tri-tip beef filled with gingered-pineapple pork sausage.
The current promotional video focuses on St. Thomas, but future shows will feature Ade sailing to different islands, exploring the unique culinary character of each as he searches for the freshest local ingredients. Tortola is next on the list, he says.
Back to the culinary tour, which now finds us at Stumpy Bay. After cutting down some bush with a machete, Ade dons scuba gear and spears some parrot fish. He holds up a brilliant specimen. "You have to look at a fish's eyes to see they are clear," he says, "and at the gills to see if they are red."
Then Ade drives back to Frenchtown to pick up a lobster from his pal Louie, and then it's on to the vegetable stand for mangos, more limes and onions. He takes his bounty to a lovely island home where he prepares, step by step, a Mangazpacho (the soup not the sauce), a parrot fish ceviche, and a touch of Ade's unique culinary approach french toast topped with a sweet potato puree, fresh lobster slices, Mornay sauce, and a casava chip sticking out of the top like a sail. The plate is decorated with "lettuce from Josephine on St. John, the best," he says. The recipes will be on his Web site, soon to be available at ricstwist.com.
The half-hour video was filmed in three days by an island company — Deep Blue Productions, Ade says. "Three days for the filming, but many hours for the editing. Mark Melville did the photography."
Ade wants to give back to the island from which he takes his inspiration, and says he will be talking to local private and public schools this week about a program where students can sell the hot sauce at bazaars or other school functions. All school sales of Ric's Caribbean Twist products will receive a rebate of $1.50 per bottle, or $18 per case, to go toward the purchase of school supplies. Also, Ade says he will donate 50 cents per bottle in the school's name to an environmentally-concerned charity of its choice.
On Ade's agenda for 2006 are new flavors, new products and a cookbook, which he says will include recipes from the TV program. "I just have to sit down and do it. Hopefully, in four to six months. I am a procrastinator," he says with an engaging smile.
However, to tide gourmands over until the Web site is up, Ade shared one of his singular recipes with the Source:
Banana Guava Ketchup
One yellow onion, diced
2 tbs. vegetable oil
5 ripe bananas
4 oz. guava paste
2 tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 tbs. curry powder
½ cup orange juice
2 tbs. cider vinegar
4 tbs. lime juice.
Cook onion in the oil four minutes. Add remaining ingredients, simmer 15 minutes, and puree.
Refrigerate and it will stay good for two weeks. It makes three cups.
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