Photo: Jason Chute
The chef of a tourist hotel plays a key role in crafting the food experience for visitors.
Their reputation – and that of the tourist hotel - can thrive or dive on the quality of the food on the table. They’re the ones responsible for creating a culinary journey for the tourist and ensuring good quality ingredients are served on the plates, while maintaining food safety standards.
What’s not so recognized though is the role chefs play in the food import bills of some nations.
As IFC’s new study, From Farm to the Tourist’s Table highlights chefs at Fiji’s main tourist hotels are the key decision makers when it comes to deciding whether to purchase local fresh produce or imported produce.
The study reveals that hotels in Fiji’s main tourism areas source more than FJ $74 million of fresh produce each year, with 52 percent imported. The imports are driven largely by vegetables, meat, seafood and dairy. To reach these numbers, the intensive study gathered data on fresh produce sourcing volumes from 44 hotels and sourcing preferences from over 60 hotels.
The study reveals chefs are often faced with challenges in local sourcing including a lack of networks to local suppliers and farmers, poor quality local produce, inconsistent supply, seasonal fluctuations in local growing, and poor food safety standards on the ground.
Rudolf Kunkel, Executive Chef at the Fijian Shangri-La Resort and Spa, has worked in the country for over 11 years and knows the challenges of local sourcing well. “It is very important that we can support the local community in buying direct from them,” he said. “The farmers, they are producing very good quality, but the supply chain between the farmers and the hotel -- there we have a lot of work to do.”.
So how can we create more links between executive chefs and local suppliers and farmers and support local farmers to meet the procurement requirements of four and five-star hotels?
From Farm to Tourist’s Table identifies 18 key fresh produce items that make up 63 percent of all fresh produce imported by the hotels.
And it shows if the tourism and agriculture sectors work together to encourage more growing and production of these items locally, there is a potential to reduce imports by FJ $24 million.
Davendra Chetty is a wholesaler supplier who has worked with local farmers to supply hotels and resorts in Fiji for over 20 years. “The expectations of the resorts is to get the top quality of fruits and vegetables that compares to the overseas quality,” he said. “That is our main aim whenever we supply our products to the docks of any of the hotels. We make sure that none of our products are rejected. If the chef is pleased then everything is rolling smoothly.”
With the support of the Australian Government and working with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, IFC developed recommendations to address the five key barriers that hotels, suppliers and farmers face when trying to establish market links.
Click here to download the report.