Most Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa employees who have remained on the island haven’t been able to work very much as a result of the closure of the Cayman Islands’ borders to tourists and the subsequent “shelter-in-place” order due to the Covid-19 threat. But that doesn’t mean staff members haven’t been eating well.
The Kimpton brand is well known for its gourmet approach to dining at its hotels and the culinary team at Seafire wasn’t about to let the coronavirus situation change that.
Kimpton Seafire General Manager Steven Andre says the staff meal programme carried on after the hotel’s closure.
“We wanted to support our staff during this difficult time,” he says. “We have an amazing team which goes above and beyond for our guests every day, and we wanted to do the same for them.”
About half of the Kimpton Seafire’s staff enjoy one meal a day prepared by the kitchen staff.
Andre says the culinary team uses various methods of communicating the menu to staff, including Facebook and group chats.
“The culinary team also sends an email the day prior with upcoming meal offerings,” he said. “Seafire staff will soon have the added option of selecting a meal based on their dietary needs such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, etc. from a web-based document we are in the middle of creating to ensure everyone’s needs are considered. With this platform, we will also be able to send out the entire weeks’ worth of offerings for convenience.”
In addition to staff, the daily meal offerings also include immediate family members, Andre said.
“We also hope to increase the meal periods in the near future to a lunch and dinner offering.”
Staff members pick-up the meals at set times at the designated “drive-up” station in front of the hotel, which ensures that social distancing requirements are met, Andre says.
“The boxed meals are distributed to staff in their car with minimal physical interaction from managers suited up with masks and gloves,” he says. “We are following our government’s protective guidelines and hours for access.”
Kimpton Seafire Executive Chef Massimo De Francesca says developing the menus for the staff meals is a collaborative effort with the culinary team, which currently consists of eight members including himself, sous chefs and sous chef leaders and the executive pastry chef.
“The chefs assess our inventories, discuss and plan for the week,” he says. “Our goal is to ensure each meal includes a protein with sides such as starches, veggies and a sauce, gravy or glaze using what we have already in our inventory or what we can source locally during this period.”
Each pick-up box for the staff includes a full meal along with a surprise treat.
“It could be a side of homemade gelato, dessert, cookies or small bags of nuts,” De Francesca says.
Vegan or vegetarian options are offered daily as well.
“We’ll normally design the vegetarian and vegan item to be dairy free, gluten-free and nut free as well in order to accommodate other common restrictions,” he says. “Seafire staff have a direct line of communication with our culinary team, so they are able to accommodate specific allergies or restrictions accordingly.”
The meals, which differ from week to week, are getting rave reviews from staff.
“We love to know that staff is enjoying our preparations,” De Francesca says. “Some of the most popular meals that we’ve created so far are renditions of classic comfort dishes such as shepherd’s pie, which is ground beef and vegetable ragu, gravy and topped with whipped herb potatoes; orange-glazed pork ribs served with sweet potato purée and tropical coleslaw; and crispy fish and chips served with green apple tomatillo salsa and lemon tartar sauce.”
The actual food preparation on a given day is done by four chefs from start to finish, De Francesca says.
“We all wear safety masks and gloves while ensuring the heightened standards for distance and spacing, while maintaining our extremely rigid safety and sanitary precautionary measures.”
In this challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic, De Francesca says the culinary team finds it rewarding to be able to cook for the hotel’s staff.
“We have all worked together for a long time, but it has been especially gratifying to collaborate and support each other through this meal program,” he says.
Andre says the programme is very much appreciated by staff.
“We have had an amazing response from Seafire staff, with many sharing their gratitude,” he says. “It has really kept us all connected and comforted.”