Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 13th 2014 Contents A34
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, January 13, 2014
"I invented my own cuisine, called
Modern Caribbean," Brontë explains,
"and Holiday (the BBC TV programme)
were the first people to come and inter-
Gary Rhodes show Across the
Caribbean also filmed an episode here.
"With Modern Caribbean I took
ingredients from the whole of the planet
earth. I didn t limit myself to just what
is here, which is what a lot of chefs
were doing at the time. Root vegetables
are wonderful---dasheen and callaloo---
but you can t just eat that. Having lived
in London and been exposed to modern
European cuisine I did the same but
called it modern Caribbean. Everybody
tried to copy it, so I changed it to New
World Creole, and nobody copied that."
Amongst his signature dishes are a
salad of jerk chicken, plantain, bacon
and aioli. A dish he calls zarzuela, the
name for a genre of Spanish opera, he
describes as "a medley of seafood---
shrimp, whatever fish is fresh that day,
scallops---and it s sautéed in white wine
and herbs, coconut milk is added and
it s reduced. Its main seasoning is
cilantro and ginger."
Then, in 2008, after many successful
years, Philip grew bored of the slow
pace of life in Tobago and fed up of the
"pretty homophobic" Caribbean.
"Here I never hide who I am," he
says, "so people either talk to me or
they don t. If they talk to me it means
they re fine with me, if they re not they
just leave me alone."
Back in London, he intended to settle,
working at Sonny s and Belgo Noord,
a Belgian-themed restaurant where the
staff dress as Trappist monks. Asked
if he took a vow of celibacy, he replies,
quick as a flash, "Oh yes, I was celibate.
Back in Tobago, after his second sab-
batical in London, with nowhere to
socialise, far from the bright lights of
the city, he started drinking. This new
habit was compounded by his exper-
imentation and eventual addiction to
drugs. A period of dependence and
depression was only broken when his
mother recommended him to psychi-
atrist Prof Gerard Hutchinson of UWI.
Later another psychiatrist, Jonathan
Vince, would visit him at the hotel.
New Life Ministries at Mt St Benedict
was his saviour, but it was too late to
save the restaurant. Customers dwin-
dled until he conceded defeat.
Now, Brontë is ready to reopen the
business, he feels so passionately about.
If the food he and head chef Sylvia Ram
cooked at the reopening is anything to
go by, the Waterwheel should become
a focal point of Tobago s culinary resur-
gence. The signature salad was followed
by a tender rack of lamb or spicy shrimp
fettuccine, then a dessert of mango
The following day, the restaurant by
daylight looks stunning, nestled in a
small valley amongst enormous trees
where fruit bats swirl at dusk. Cocricos
flutter into trees. A woodpecker rattles
its pneumatic drill of a beak against a
trunk. A mot mot appears on a branch
and a hummingbird feeds on a banana
The centrepiece, the waterwheel, is
astonishing. Built in 1856, it replaced
the original wooden structure and made
it easier, though no less dangerous, for
workers to produce the sugar that
fuelled the colonial plantation economy.
Along with the food and scenery, you
get a history lesson.
"The first wheel, built in 1765 was
wooden and sunken in a pit," Brontë
says. "The spring behind this hill was
dammed. A sluice would release the
water through an aqueduct into a tank
which then hit the fins of the wheel.
In 1856 the steam-engine-powered iron
wheel was installed, producing 70
tonnes of sugar a year.
"Canes were fed five times through
this press. If a slave s arm got caught
it would be immediately cut off. 220
slaves lived here, six of them per lot in
a space the size of this table. They
brought things from Africa, like this
He scurries into the bush to find it.
Brontë is a man who could talk all
night and though it s a delight to listen,
it s also a delight when he breaks off
conversation to cook his fantastic food.
London Calling from Page A33
New World Creole
The 19th-century waterwheel, a relic of a 250-year-old British sugar factory, on
William Brontë's 410-acre Arnos Vale estate, in Tobago.
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