In March I was thrilled to have been invited to cover the prestigious Constance Culinaire Festival which takes place over a week in the beautiful Constance Belle Mare Plage and Constance Prince Maurice resorts in Mauritius. Having never been to this magical tropical island nor a festival like this before, I was in for the biggest treat.
In association with Relais Bernard Loiseau and Pierre Hermé, the festival is a well-orchestrated series of events, cooking competitions & unique dining experiences that bring award-winning chefs from all over the world to work side by side with chefs from the various Constance Resorts in the Indian Islands, (Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and the Maldives).
This was the first event since the pandemic and a 2-year hiatus which saw the hospitality sector hit harder than most. Conviviality, knowledge-sharing and connection are key threads that ran stronger through this year’s event, and I felt very privileged to have been a part of this incredible reunion of industry professionals.
The Michelin-starred chefs paired up with local chefs to do culinary battle. I was lucky to be part of a fun group of international food journalists & guests who got to taste and sample much that was on offer.
What it was like attending the 2022 Constance Culinary Festival
The opening event on Sunday was an informal gathering at the Chassé of Constance Belle Mare Plage – a former hunting lodge in a mangrove forest. Guests and participants were welcomed with ravanne drumbeats and traditional dancers.
Six local amateur cooks prepared chilli cakes in the ‘Best Chilli Cake’ of the island competition which was judged by the starred chefs. A street food fest was about to be served but I found it almost impossible to resist these delicious fried morsels served with pineapple rum cocktails.
The cuisine of Mauritius is a melting pot with strong African, Indian, Asian, Arabic and European influences and we sampled an array of delicious flavours at the various stands. The spit-roasted pig was extraordinary as was the locally harvested sea urchin in the shell. The traditional Mauritian pastel-coloured napolitaine cookies were a perfectly sweet way to end this feast.
On Monday I joined two busloads of pastry chefs to visit a local biscuit factory that has been making Mauritian cassava biscuits for over a hundred years. The idea behind the tour was to see how cassava (or manioc) was used locally in a baked product. It was one of the key ingredients in the pastry competition. Every part of the making of these biscuits is done by hand in the original way. It was like visiting a functioning museum.
The tour around the island included a stop at Le Domaine de St Aubin, a beautiful mansion built in 1819 now converted into a restaurant. The property is home to a vanilla plantation and production facility, as well as a rum distillery.
On Tuesday we were invited to visit the judging the Sweet Tapas competition by local Constance chefs. Dinner was an interesting menu with all courses including Rova Caviar of Madagascar which took place at La Spiaggia Restaurant, Constance Belle Mare Plage.
Wednesday was all about the Deutz Trophy and the Culinary Competition Bernard Loiseau. I loved the opportunity I go into the kitchen to chat with the chefs about their dishes. In the evening we were treated to an outdoor casual gourmet Festival at Indigo Restaurant.
On Thursday we attended the Constance ‘Art of the Table’ Competition at l’Archipel at neighbouring Constance Prince Maurice. Having been through three years of Hotel School watching Waiters design table settings and execute 3 dishes tableside Gueridon-style brought back floods of memories from my youth.
In the evening I was back at Prince Maurice for a spectacular dinner by chef Ørjan Johannessen (Bocuse d’Or 2015) from The restaurant at Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri in Norway. The dinner was held at the gorgeous Le Barachois restaurant which floats above a protected estuary accessible by foot on a walkway snaking through mangrove trees.
This meal was the highlight of the festival for me and I can only dream of visiting Ørjan’s restaurant one day. The starter or raw marinated scallops in a cold broth of green apples, yuzu, horseradish with avocado cream and cucumber pickle granite was a sublime and memorable kickoff. The Norwegian Skrei cod with saice ‘vin jaune’, jerusalem artichoke, chestnuts and valencia almonds made me question why we aren’t always adding nuts to seafood dishes.
On Friday was the Constance Pastry Competition – Pierre Hermé & Valrhona Trophy was where all the desserts took centre stage. After a full week of practising and tempering, visual masterpieces kept rolling out. I was delighted to have tasted a few of these dishes at one of the Twelve-hand dinners that evening orchestrated by three of the starred chefs & three of the pastry chefs at Deer Hunter restaurant.
Saturday was the final day and I took the opportunity to jump on a boat for a spot of snorkelling. In the evening there was the Prize Giving & Closing ceremony where all the winners from the week’s events were announced. A Gala Dinner by the Chefs of Constance Hotels & Resorts was a festive end to a magical week in paradise.
*Disclaimer – I was invited as a guest of Constance Belle Mare Plage to cover my experiences of the event on my social media and blog
To find out more about the festival check this amazing video
*A few of the images posted here were not mine and were supplied by Constance