Pankaj Bisht, executive chef at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts, built his team and his menus from the island. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers
I met executive chef Pankaj Bisht as I devoured a spinach, kale and egg white frittata at breakfast in the Great House restaurant on my first morning.
Two hours later, he was still talking while giving me a tour of the kitchen, chatting with his team, studying menus and handling details for that evening's Chef's Table dinner for 12.
The Indian-born chef learned many of what he called his "little cooking secrets" at his mother's knee when he joined her in the family kitchen at the age of 6.
One secret, he said, is to respect nature and to use raw materials to the best of their use; another is to "train chefs, not teach them. They learn by doing."
When Bisht arrived at the resort a year before its opening, following stints at Park Hyatts in Dubai; Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; and the Maldives, his biggest challenge was hiring his culinary team. "I interviewed 487 people," he said. "A lot were locals who worked in island restaurants, and some were street vendors. I talked to regional chefs and expats, as well."
Among the property's 43 chefs, 18 stewards and banquet staff, 15 are entry-level chefs whom Bisht discovered in the culinary program at the local college.
When he needed eggs from free-range chickens for his menus, he found a farmer who had the chickens but had never done more than sell to locals.
"We named the farm after the first initials of the farmer's kids, and now I get all my eggs from him," he said.
He works with local fishermen and farmers to harvest menu ingredients straight from the sea and the land.
"We're passionate about bringing the island's flavor profiles to life and preserving the land to be fruitful for years to come," he said.