Providenciales, Turks & Caicos – Feasting on fresh, local seafood is one of the essential elements of any Caribbean getaway – along with basking on fine-sand beaches and soaking in turquoise waters. The island of Providenciales promises all of these indulgences, but ups the ante with a sophisticated, chef-driven food scene. Read on for a taste of Turks & Caicos. (Originally published in Spanish in Delta Sky Magazine, December 2016.)
Often called “Provo”, the luxurious destination is the centerpiece of the Turks & Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory in the northern Caribbean. In recent years, chefs from all corners of the globe have descended on this sun-drenched island, creating menus that fuse the flavors of the Caribbean and the world. “I think it’s really up-and-coming (as a foodie destination),” says Wolfgang Von Wieser, executive chef at Grace Bay Club in Provo. “The standards are high – and getting higher. The hotels, especially, do a lot of events, such as winemaker dinners and cocktail events with master mixologists.”
To sample the best of the best, visit Turks & Caicos during the Caribbean Food & Wine Festival, three days of eating and drinking at Provo’s best restaurants and resorts. Held on the first weekend in November, this culinary adventure gives local and visiting chefs a chance to show off their most innovative cooking. Festival events include a rum tasting, a food and wine pairing, an island street fair, a progressive “Gourmet Safari” and a five-course brunch. It’s a weekend of decadence and deliciousness, highlighting the islands’ local bounty and creativity.
Local Flavors & International Influences
The festival is only one example of the island’s culinary attractions. Year-round, restaurants are catering to the demands of food-savvy travelers, who appreciate local flavors and international flare. Do you like jerk chicken? At Coyaba, this local specialty is prepared from a free-range bird, topped with a tropical fruit merengue and served with a side of sautéed callallou (a leafy green). Want to try the local conch? Head to Coco Bistro for homemade ravioli stuffed with conch and roasted sweet peppers and topped with piquant rose sauce.
Of course, island cooking is not always that fancy. And sometimes, seafood tastes better when you can plant your toes in the sand and feel the breeze on your face. Such is the case at da Conch Shack, where local fisher folk pull out the fruits of the sea right before your eyes. Another iconic spot is Sweet T’s – a first stop for many island visitors who can’t wait to get a taste of that crispy fried chicken. (Also, it’s right by the airport.)
Arguably, the best place to sample the local flavor (in all senses of the word) is the Island Fish Fry, a popular event that’s held Thursday nights at Bight Park in Provo. The music is good and the food is even better (and inexpensive compared to restaurants on the island). Local fare includes peas & rice, festivals (like hushpuppies) and all kinds of seafood, not to mention original rum cocktails that are not served anywhere else. The highlight of the evening is the junkanoo, a traditional holiday parade with festive costumes and plenty of percussion.
From haute cuisine to down-home cooking, Providenciales is sure to tantalize your taste buds – as well as sating your cravings for sun, sand and sea.
Where to Stay
Located on 11 acres of stunning beachfront, the renowned Grace Bay Club is one of the island’s original properties. Its 60 lavish suites all offer ocean-view balconies and spacious, elegant interiors, where your personal concierge caters to your every whim. On-site spa, multiple swimming pools and extensive kids’ programming mean that everyone in your party will be entertained.
Where to Shop
Many local artists sell their masterpieces at the Island Fish Fry, including the highly lauded conch artist, Stanford Handfield. The National Trust also operates a craft center in the Town Centre Mall.