When Chef Erik Gremmer’s White Chocolate Thai Curry Praline with Coconut, Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass Ganache took the Sweet Gold Medal at the 2018 Chocolate Lovers Showcase in February, the winning recipe hid a tasty little secret.
Lemongrass. Grown on in the culinary garden at the Amanyara Resort on Providenciales.
So closed a loop that began when the Dutch-born chef joined the team at Amanyara a couple of years ago and immediately began stressing the value of growing fresh produce on the resort. There were skeptics – Turks & Caicos isn’t known for its agriculture – but with a Chocolate Lovers medal in hand, Amanyara’s gardening program is proving its quality.
Amanyara’s kitchen garden project was already under way when Gremmer took the executive chef job, and progress toward his local-sourcing goals has been steady. But between this year’s win and the hiring of agronomist David Galluzzi as its Senior Landscaping Manager, the resort appears more invested in Gremmer’s vision than ever before.
Galluzzi cites supporting Gremmer’s garden dreams as one of his top priorities, but there’s more to caring for an Aman Resort landscape than obsessing over whether your tomatoes are getting enough calcium to set proper fruit. For the resort to meet its landscaping goals, the award-winning restaurant’s remarkable on-site garden has to be not only first-rate, but visually appealing, too.
The garden, a legacy from a previous chef, is part of what helped recruit Gremmer. In his first year, it produced multiple types of basil, and everything from sweet corn to papaya. The operation has adequate space, and the whole system is supported by clever aquaponics.
But until Galluzzi’s arrival, the kitchen garden was largely a kitchen project.
In addition to his passion for horticulture, Galluzzi brings more than four years of Caribbean experience working in the field. This is his second stint working on Provo, too, so he knows the challenges of cultivating a thriving growing environment on the island’s limestone-based soils.
But he also came to Amanyara with plans to deal with those issues. And while his structured approach includes the tomatoes on a guest’s lunch salad, it reaches far beyond the kitchen.
“We want to do everything with a purpose, and not be wasteful,” he said.
Amanyara has a history of integrated landscape design. The resort, which is found at the end of a winding road, is adjacent to the national park. Its landscape design was crafted to highlight native plant species, and Galluzzi is nurturing that vision.
“If you can examine the forms some of these plants and shrubs take, and let them do their native thing, they look quite beautiful,” he said.
On an island where much of the featured flora is imported, an in-house native plant program requires a robust nursery. Rows of indigenous ornamental species receive careful nurturing at Aman’s facility, and each will soon find a permanent home amongst the resort’s lush vegetation.
But Galluzzi’s nursery is more than just a staging area for future transplants. Everything that can be recycled and repurposed for plant health is integrated into a sustainable system. In some cases that requires tackling relatively expensive and labor-intensive projects, like improved drainage and irrigation systems, or adding structures. In other instances, it involves little more than emphasizing naturally derived materials, like mulch made from various clippings collected around the resort.
In the kitchen garden, the landscaping crew is busy putting up two new structures, while the aquaponics system chugs quietly along in the background, fertilizing plants in multiple beds.
Galluzzi and Gremmer are working to increase the garden’s productivity and expand its variety. Current offerings include eggplant, basil, lemongrass, sugar cane and papaya, with fresh salad greens, including arugula, sprouting regularly. Herbs, bok choy, peppers and tomatoes are all maturing. Chef Gremmer is hoping to involve the whole culinary team in the tending of the garden. “It gives you a tactile understanding of the food you are preparing,” adds Galluzzi.
The two men would someday like to see a culinary horticulturalist overseeing the kitchen portion of the operation, but whoever does the work, their goal is simple: A garden that enhances the guest experience.