First Gastronomy Academy Will be Ready for Winter Tourist Season – Bartlett

Jamaica Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has revealed that Jamaica’s first Gastronomy Academy will be in operation at the Montego Bay Convention Centre by the end of 2024.

In making the announcement yesterday (July 7), Minister Bartlett said the academy will be opened “for the winter tourist season this year.”

He said with the convention Center already boasting “the largest and best kitchen, arguably in the Caribbean,” it will be complemented by a gourmet restaurant to be established also at the convention center as the training ground for the academy’s students.

The disclosure was made as Minister Bartlett congratulated entrepreneur Zelecia Smith on marking the fifth anniversary of her Paris Ruby Gourmet pastry venture, at Pier 1.

“We’re going to be having young people like Zelecia becoming part of this, because we’re not only now going to be training executive chefs and sous chefs and trying to make people into Michelin-standard performers for the business of cuisine development and great restaurants,” he said.

Briefly commenting on the performance of the convention center, Mr. Bartlett also congratulated Executive Director, Mureen James and her team “because they took a convention center which was a losing proposition for us and in six months this year, they have already increased their yearly projection by ten percent.”

Pointing to this as proof of the facility’s tremendous potential, Minister Bartlett highlighted that:

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A new board of directors was named for the convention center last month and Chairman Bertram Wright said, “on the agenda, it’s one of the priority items that we plan to pursue.”

Turning to Ms. Smith, Minister Bartlett lauded her for her entrepreneurial drive, “for your tenacity, your assiduity to purpose and the fact that you showed us that a young person with talent, skill and determination, with commitment and a vision can stay the long haul.”

A former banker, Ms. Smith gave up her career in finance to pursue her passion for baking, specializing in fruitcakes, cheesecakes, bread puddings and banana breads.

In an emotional presentation, Ms. Smith related her journey in creating Paris Ruby products, inspired by her mother’s special pancake, and said her goal was to make them available internationally. “A lot of sacrifices went into Paris Ruby and I can’t give up, I can’t give up,” she said tearfully.

In this regard, Minister Bartlett invited her to participate in the Ministry’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF)/EXIM Bank program for Small and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMTEs), with a chance of getting a $25-million loan for five years at four and a half percent interest, for expansion. “We’re about upskilling, expanding, enabling the small enterprises in tourism to become large enterprises in time,” he said.

As an ardent supporter of the Tourism Linkages Network’s “Christmas in July” tradeshow and other promotional events staged by the TEF, Ms. Smith also spoke of her desire to assist other enterprising persons to grow their businesses and she invited a number of small manufacturers to share her space and gain exposure during the celebratory event.

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Linda Hohnholz