Lo-Ca-Vore, Chef Juan Jose Cuevas at Vanderbilt & Puerto Rico’s Locavore Movement
I believe most of us really do want to be healthy and we certainly want our food to taste delicious. By buying local produce, I consume foods low in preservatives, support my local economy and reduce my carbon footprint. This makes me a locavore and an advocate of the movement, which is rapidly growing in Puerto Rico. For decades, the Island, its chefs and locals depended mostly on imported goods from the U.S. In recent years, we’ve been experiencing a shift towards a farm to table movement and a more sustainable economy. Since the locavore movement encourages consumption of food grown within 100 miles from the point of purchase, Puerto Rico, about 100 miles long, is the perfect place to embrace this essential movement.
One Chef at the forefront of the locavore movement in Puerto Rico is Chef Juan Jose Cuevas. The executive chef of the Condado Vanderbilt hotel and the mastermind behind 1919, Chef Cuevas is a firm believer and agent of the locavore movement. He poses the question: “Why not invest the money that people spend at the restaurant in us and in our economy?” At 1919, Chef Cuevas has 100% creative freedom in his menu development, an unlikely case for many restaurants within hotels. He works with over 10 local farms, which source him with local greens, eggplant (the Chef’s favorite veggie), passion fruit, zucchini, beans, honey and more. The menu changes 4-5 times a year to incorporate the local fruits and veggies in season. Even though we have a longer growing season in Puerto Rico than in most states, there is a season and it needs to be respected. If a restaurant serves avocados 365 days a year, they simply can’t always be local.
Following suit, the other restaurants within the Condado Vanderbilt, like Ola, also take part in the farm to table concept. “We have to send the same message across the hotel, we have to be one family,” states Chef Cuevas. Remember those grape and strawberry marmalades at every hotel chain in America?
Oh gosh, what horror. When I have breakfast at the property, I always encounter local marmalades like papaya, pineapple, soursop, mango and coconut. By supporting the locavore movement, everyone wins. From the farmer, to the chef to us!