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Executive Chef Fábio Fernandes on the Benefits of Growing & Eating Your Own Food

Whether you’re cooking for one or developing a menu for a world-class restaurant, there’s something to be said about the quality of the ingredients you’re working with. From the depth of the flavor you’re able to attain to the impact your food is having on the Earth, freshness and quality go a long way.

Secret Bay’s Executive Chef Fábio Fernandes is a champion of the farm-to-table concept, believing that knowing where your food comes from and being able to prove its quality is a true delicacy. This farm-to-table concept is especially exemplified by our new organic gardens, which help supply food for our Zing Zing restaurant and are readily accessible for foraging by our guests. 

Below, read more about Chef Fábio’s commitment to food quality and philosophy on growing and eating your own food.

1. Can you tell us about the farm-to-table concept at Secret Bay and how the food for Zing Zing is sourced?

Farm-to-table is a social movement which promotes serving locally-grown food at restaurants through direct acquisition from the local farmers. Farm-to-table often incorporates a form of food traceability, celebrated as “knowing where your food comes from.”

The movement has grown with changes in attitudes about food safety, freshness, and seasonality, etc. Currently, 90% of our food served at Secret Bay comes from the island—next year, it will be 100%, with an increasing proportion grown in our on-property organic gardens. 

More than saying that we follow a movement, we have to make our words an action. This year we reduced the consumption of non-local products and single-use plastic by 35%. It was, without a doubt, a great achievement for the whole team. We are proud and have huge goals for the next steps.

Our guests value transparency, quality, and flavor—and by ensuring the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, we can provide a culinary experience we’re truly proud of. By sourcing locally and growing our own organic produce right here on the resort, we’re able to provide a delicious, authentic experience. 

2. What do the organic gardens at Secret Bay mean to you?

They were given to me to elevate the experience of our guests. I am doing the same job as the gardeners I admire and respect for their hard work. I’m watering, too—watering the ideas of our proprietor, Gregor Nassieft, who planned this beautiful project with so much love. We are still at a small level, but as I said, we have surprises coming soon.

Without a doubt, going to a garden and picking some fresh herbs and vegetables means much, much more than shopping at a supermarket. Contact with the earth and all of nature elevates our state of mind and the entire creative process which encompasses a lot in itself.

Learn more about our new organic gardens—available to guests throughout their stay.

3. Why might it be important to know exactly where your food came from & how it was grown?

Especially in recent years, it’s important to ensure that the food you are consuming is safe (free of hazardous substances and contaminants). Additionally—and this is a value that speaks to us at Secret Bay—it may be important to you to know that the food you’re consuming is grown and produced under environmentally friendly conditions.

Personally, I like food just as it comes out of the ground—as long as it’s chemical-free. In turn, when you respect the cycle, all flavors are enhanced. Our organic gardens are based on water and sun—and it’s all they need to be happy, organic, and tasty.

It all comes down to trust. For those of us who want to know exactly what we’re consuming, being able to identify the source and growing conditions of our food can be very important when making health and nutrition decisions.

4. What lessons can growing our own food teach us?

It’s a very interesting question. There is already a zero waste movement that should make everyone look more seriously at what we are actually buying and eating. We think that one day the planet’s resources will run out, and we are not preparing at all for this moment.

More and more, there are foods produced in fast-growing greenhouses with a dubious taste. If today, supermarkets close in big cities, tomorrow there will be no means to provide for the world’s  population.

To get an idea—a pepper, on average, takes 120 to 160 days to get to its final stage. Then, most of the time, we put the seeds in the trash when we should be planting and sowing. There is a process of seed drought, germination and cultivation.

In the end everything will be composed. Respect for the product may be the biggest lesson.

Respect, patience, joy, appreciation, better taste payoff—these are just some of the lessons growing our own food can teach us.

5. What are some of your favorite foods/herbs to grow? 

Everything that is aromatic to me is fantastic: shado beni (a local variety of cilantro), parsley, mint, oregano, and basil are of rapid germination. The whole team started to germinate around the Zing Zing restaurant and now we’ve even created sprouts. Soon, we’ll have a great surprise for all our guests with outstanding gastronomic experiences.

While the foods and herbs in our organic gardens will vary by season, some of the offerings include turmeric, ginger, peppermint, lettuce, cucumbers, and watermelon.

6. For someone who has never grown their own food before, what are a few staple foods you’d recommend starting with (easy to grow, easy to cook with)?

Any aromatic herb is easy to grow. I, for example, have rosemary, mint, and basil in the garden. These are great for finishing multiple dishes or simply for brewing as a tea.

We also recommend growing something you love and cook with often. Knowing you’ll use it and enjoy it will make tending to the plants that much more enjoyable.

To build upon what Chef Fábio said, being able to grow, eat, and even share your own food with others is truly invaluable. Secret Bay is committed to fostering an environment that promotes healing—of the mind, body, and spirit—and food is just one of the ways we’re able to do so. We’re also deeply committed to lessening our impact on the Earth, and by growing and sourcing sustainably, we’re strengthening that commitment. 

Learn more about the eco-friendly initiatives at Secret Bay here.

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