Luis Jesus Fitch Gomez is the General Manager/Chef at The Seawind Club and The Calypso Restaurant located at the Seawind Beach Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica. His long list of culinary accolades includes being a guest chef by the heralded James Beard Foundation in New York City and being recognized as one of Mexico’s Best Chefs of 2007 by New Yorker magazine. He is also a recipient of the Star Diamond Award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences and an award by the Academie Culinaire de France in Paris.
What is life like for a Mexican chef living in Jamaica?
Not much different from my tropical home where we enjoy spicy food and many similarities like weather, fruits, vegetables and spices and, of course, sorrell – which we call ‘Jamaica Blossom’. Sorrell infusion is consumed every day by Mexicans, we call it Agua de Jamaica (Jamaica Water). My family has adapted very well to life in Jamaica and we are extremely happy. The positive response to our Caribbean and local cuisine at The Calypso has been extremely encouraging and we look forward to expanding our selection of Jamaican favourites with our unique twist in 2014.
What is your culinary goal in Jamaica?
My intention and commitment is to offer my version of Caribbean cuisine to the highest level possible and for The Calypso to become recognized as a culinary landmark in Jamaica.
What is your favourite Jamaican dish?
Real jerk chicken and pork. It was a real treat to understand that “jerk” is not only a spice but a complex ancient process with very specific ingredients and methods. I especially enjoy taking my family to Portland to enjoy the famous Boston Jerk!
Does your cuisine fall into any of the ‘culinary waves’?
I don’t think so, however I identify myself more with the eco-responsible cuisine without going to extremes or culinary fundamentalism. I believe in using resources that are naturally available, particularly the endemic foods, and try to work with seasonal produce.
What are your favourite food combinations?
Fresh products. My cuisine is fresh and natural. Before my work in the kitchen, I put tremendous effort into sourcing the best products; going to the food markets and speaking to the farmers. At the end of that I get great joy going into the kitchen and putting together these ingredients and produce to deliver the best food to our customers.
What are staple ingredients in your kitchen?
Chiles (peppers), fresh herbs and lime.
Would you describe your cuisine as “Mexican”?
Not completely. So many years in the Caribbean have transformed and enriched my culinary views. However, Mexican cuisine has much in common; latitude, spiciness, flavours.
If you could cook a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you cook?
I would particularly enjoy cooking for such Jamaican icons as Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce or even The Voice winner Tessanne Chin! I’d like to see if they appreciate my version of Caribbean and Jamaican cuisine. In the past I have served many famous chefs as customers in my restaurants, like Rick Bayless and Enrique Olvera and a number of celebrities, such as Maria Conchita Alonso, The Queen of Morocco, and top Brazilian models. It is always a pleasure and I love the challenge.
What misconceptions do people have about Mexican cooking and how would you like to change that?
Mexican cuisine is completely different of what has been exported by Americans. For example, there is no “chilli con carne” in Mexico. In fact, Mexico has the first cuisine in the world to be recognized for its “intangible cultural heritage.” (sic) It is a complex cuisine when compared to most of the world’s better recognized cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese and French.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
My family (parents and siblings) – we are all passionate cooks. Growing up I got a first hand appreciation for the craft, complexity and pure joy that can come from the art that is cooking.
What do you consider the three most important things to being a successful chef?
First a passion for cooking, an appreciation for the importance of using top quality ingredients and taking great care in the selection and use of the ingredients.
The Calypso Restaurant is located at the Seawind Beach Club in Montego Bay.