"The authentic St. Lucian farm to table cuisine. Many of the fruits and vegetables that the chef uses are grown on the property. Everything else is sourced from local farmers. The fish is the freshest one. It’s caught on the day, for the day. "
- Christian, General Manager
Executive Chef Nigel and General Manager Christian, of St Lucia’s Dasheene at Ladera, speaks to us about how the dedication to showcase fresh and native ingredients from island farmers and neighboring plantations creates the 'farm to table' experience, visitors will never forget.
TTG: Chef Nigel, are you from St. Lucia?
N: I was born and raised in St. Lucia. I grew up in St. Lucia, on the outskirts of Choiseul in a small community called La – Pointe. My family goes back many generations in my town.
TTG: How about you Christian, are you from St. Lucia?
C: Actually, I am from Guatemala.
TTG: So, how did you end up in the culinary background and how did you end up in St. Lucia?
C: When I was 15 years old, I knew I wanted to work in the hotel industry, so I spent my winter vacation working in the kitchen of a great hotel. After high school I went to Germany to do my cooking apprenticeship, then went to Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland. I then worked with Relais & Chateau in Switzerland, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. I joined Ritz-Carlton in West Palm Beach, then worked for Ritz Carlton in Washington DC, Virginia and was part of the opening team for 5 hotels with Ritz-Carlton. I was working in Puerto Rico when a great friend and co-worker at Ritz Carlton told me about the search for a general manager on the beautiful Island of Saint Lucia. He spoke very highly about the Ladera Resort and the goal to become one of the best hotels in the world. So here I am as the general manager of Ladera St. Lucia.
TTG: Wow, that was quite a journey Christian. Chef Nigel tell me a little about your culinary background and how you ended up at Dasheene.
N: I started in 1981 at Halcyon Beach Club, presently known as Sandals Halcyon, as a steward and I was promoted to a breakfast cook. After seven years, I left and traveled to Antigua and St Martin and worked as a chef at the renowned Shrimp House. Then I received an offer from Executive Chef Robby Skeet to come to Ladera in 1997. Three years ago I became the executive chef for Ladera Resort.
"I love our offsite excursion with guests on Saturday morning when I take them to the local markets for them to choose and see the local produce of St. Lucia and then I enjoy teaching them my cooking skills and experience."
- Nigel, Executive Chef
TTG: So what is your role at Dasheene?
N: As executive chef for Ladera Resort, I am responsible for the overall success of the food service operation, adhering to the clients’ culture and guidelines, the health department’s regulations, sanitation and safety of all kitchens and to maintain Ladera’s standards and expectations of food quality, freshness and presentation. I am also responsible for solving problems professionally, rapidly and fairly as well as maintaining and teaching a good work ethic, while supporting Christion Gandara our general manager, and developing a sense of teamwork and cooperation within the team. As executive chef, I also have the pleasure of interactive experiences with our guests. I love our offsite excursion with guests on Saturday morning when I take them to the local markets for them to choose and see the local produce of St. Lucia and then I enjoy teaching them my cooking skills and experience. We also have a private Villa La Fleur here at Ladera with a great private kitchen. Last week I had the pleasure of creating a tasting menu for them in Villa La Fleur, which was a great one on one experience.
TTG: Christine so what do you do every day as general manager of Ladera and Dasheene?
C: The first thing I do every morning as general manager of Ladera Resort, is take a fresh cup of coffee from Dasheene main terrace, overlooking the Pitons. Then I start my day. I work very close with Executive Chef Nigel and the restaurant manager to ensure our Ladera standards are met and menus always reflect Saint Lucia cuisine. Every morning you get two freshly pressed fruit juices. Today it was mango juice and sauer apple juice. I love testing the juices. I really enjoy being a part of the special memories created at Dasheene. There are so many, but the most recent involved a pair celebrating their 30 year anniversary. He wanted to surprise her, and she wanted to surprise him. We played along with both and created the special moment for him and for her. They both created menus for the other without knowing what was going on. It certainly was a surprise to both when they finally find out what was happening. The entire staff really enjoyed being a part of that wonderful moment. The moments are endless. Just last week we had another guest with his carefully thought out wedding proposal. All the staff knew throughout the entire resort and then he chose the moment at Dasheene at sunset.
"Last week we had another guest with his carefully thought out wedding proposal. All the staff knew throughout the entire resort and then he chose the moment at Dasheene at sunset."
- Christian, General Manager
TTG: Christian, what do you think makes Dasheene popular on social media?
C: Dasheene is well known to be a destination restaurant, if you visit Santa Lucia you will have to come and dine in Dasheene. All hotel and guesthouse butlers recommend Dasheene and know they have to book their guest early to get a table at Dasheene. The fusion between the Saint Lucian’ cuisine and the classic cuisine accents delivers an interesting flavor. Executive Chef Nigel is the only Saint Lucian executive chef in charge of a hotel food program.
TTG: What makes Dasheene unique?
C: Dasheene is unique in so many ways. The authentic St. Lucian farm to table cuisine. Many of the fruits and vegetables that the chef uses are grown on the property. Everything else is sourced from local farmers. The fish is the freshest one. It’s caught on the day, for the day. We are also located on a volcanic ridge, on a Unesco protected land, so the views of the Pitons, Caribbean Sea, and Dasheene sunset are breathtaking. Sustainability at the resort and in the community is very important to the team. We conserve the whole product as much as possible. Our Ladera coconuts are used for fresh coconut water at the bar and coconut treats in the pastry. The leftover shells are used on the border of the gardens to contain the earth from erosion for irrigation purposes and as a decorative piece. We feed any leftover fruit to the birds in over 50 bird feeders across the property. Leftover bread is fed to the fish in the pond and composting leftover food and biodegradable products is done daily.
Most of the furniture at Dasheene and at Ladera is made by our craftsmen right onsite. Dasheene is considered a world class restaurant. Many students from the local community will have apprenticeships here in different departments. Hotel schools request Ladera Resort to be part of their school program. For students it is very important to have Dasheene on their CV.
"We feed any leftover fruit to the birds in over 50 bird feeders across the property."
- Christian, General Manager
So as you can see there are very many ways Dasheene is unique. But everything comes back to the culture and our one-of-a-kind Ladera team offering a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, promoting the Ladera standards, St. Lucian authenticity and cuisine and eco-friendly philosophy. It is truly inspiring and in their hearts. It is what creates the true essence of Ladera and Dasheene, as they are not separate, but one.
TTG: Sum up Dasheene in three words
N: “Authentic, St. Lucia, experience” but if I could use more words I would say “We create authentic St. Lucian moments at Dasheene at Ladera.”
TTG: So Chef Nigel when you're not at work, where on the island would you most likely be found?
N: You can find me at home or on my coco plantation. I have a small estate where I do my personal farming where I have some cocoa plants. Then I harvest them when it is time.
"The fishermen get up 2am-3am in the morning to catch the fresh fish and bring it to market."
- Nigel, Executive Chef
TTG: So is there a special place on St. Lucia where you go to escape and relax?
N: I escape to the beach in the town and do some fishing and then cook the fish that I catch at the beach, and then play some soccer on the beach.
TTG: Tell us one thing that tourists don’t really know about the island.
N: No one quite understands the culture of the island. How the people live on a day to day basis. Many people go to their farms early in the morning to farm the land before their regular jobs just to survive and feed their family. The fishermen get up 2am-3am in the morning to catch the fresh fish and bring it to market. St. Lucians do however know how to party on the weekend.
TTG: If you could only recommend one thing for visitors to do on St Lucia during their stay, what would it be?
C: Come to Dasheene restaurant and enjoy our authentic St. Lucia cuisine and our breathtaking sunset.