We caught up with Chef Andre Fowles, Culinary Director at Skylark Negril Beach Resort. He told us about Skylark’s charitable culinary weekends showcasing the gastronomic talents of guest chefs from diverse backgrounds with all proceeds going to the Rockhouse Foundation.
A stay in Jamaica should never be taxing. Time on this one love-encompassing island should be spent doing as little demanding activity as possible. That is, unless it’s surrendering your hips to reggae rhythms or paddleboarding over gentle waves.
The best way to enjoy some well-earned respite from the daily grind? Staying at Skylark Negril Beach Resort, tucked on Jamaica’s southwestern tip on the Negril shorefront. ‘Skylark’ is Jamaican slang meaning to dillydally, goof off or laze about. It’s best to consider the hotel’s name as more of an imperative command; take the time to wind down and don’t take anything too seriously.
Set on Negril’s pristine Seven Mile Beach, Skylark’s thoughtful design oozes retro cool and refreshing tropical color guaranteed to lift spirits. It’s an intimate space where a friendly face is never more than a few steps away. Skylark’s 28 breezy and luminous rooms feature four-poster beds for the ultimate regal dillydallying experience.
Life at Skylark is full of flavor, from the energetic Jamaican team to the jerk smokehouse and BBQ grilling station at the iconic Miss Lily’s beachfront restaurant. Perhaps what’s most appetizing of all are the hotel’s gastronomic weekends. Renowned guest chefs come to unleash their culinary creations for guests to enjoy at Skylark.
Culinary Weekends With Sensational Guest Chefs
The culinary weekends were the brainchild of Chef Andre Fowles, Skylark’s Culinary Director. He says the idea for hosting these weekends first arose because the Skylark team were looking at ways to raise awareness and support for their charity, the Rockhouse Foundation, in the local community.
They also wanted to lift the profile of the culinary program at Skylark, Miss Lily’s and Rockhouse, Skylark’s sister property. Chef Andre recalls, “This idea of bringing in chefs of color to celebrate their cuisine and share it in Jamaica was born. It’s also a wonderful training and learning opportunity for our kitchen team in Jamaica to be exposed to these incredible chefs.”
Past culinary weekends have welcomed a trio of James Beard award-winners: New Orleans-based Nina Compton, Savannah Georgia-based Mashama Bailey, and Ethiopian-Swedish acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson who’s come to Skylark on two occasions.
Chef Andre explained that each of the chefs they’ve partnered with has a connection to the local community and is operating on an international scale. “Nina Compton is from the Caribbean, Marcus Samuelsson has been to Jamaica many times and has a love for the country—and is closely connected through our community. Mashama Bailey loves Caribbean culture and is arguably one of the most celebrated chefs in America right now. It’s been an honor to partner with these chefs for such a worthy cause.”
Mashama Bailey graced Negril’s shores alongside her friend and colleague, Johno Morisano. Together they run the renowned The Grey restaurant in downtown Savannah, Georgia. At Skylark, the pair put on a sold out feast inspired by Savannah-meets-Negril flavors that diners enjoyed while looking out over the Caribbean Sea. The culinary weekend also featured a panel discussion between Mashama, Johno and Skylark’s Andre Fowles. Attendees were treated to signed copies of Mashama and Johno’s newly published culinary memoir, Black, White, and The Grey. The memoir tells their story of how a Black chef from Queens collaborated with a White entrepreneur from Staten Island to open a restaurant in the Deep South, with the aim of bridging racial divides and using food to bring people together.
Another culinary weekend saw Ethiopian-born chef, Marcus Samuelsson cook up a sensational transcontinental storm. A long time admirer and supporter of the Rockhouse Foundation’s work, he created an Ethiopian-Jamaican fusion four-course dinner that left diners in awe. He’s the head chef at Red Rooster in Harlem, New York where wholesome comfort food greets diners with a warm welcome.
Describing what he’s most proud of about the weekends, Chef Andre explained, “We’re really proud of the fact that each event has been a great success from all angles, from raising money to creating awareness around the work we do through the Rockhouse Foundation. We’re also really proud of the positive energy and community spirit that’s been developed from those weekends, as well as the opportunity to build a closer relationship with each of the chefs that have come down. It’s been good, positive vibes all around.”
Expanding Childhood Education With The Rockhouse Foundation
The culinary weekends aren’t only a way to enjoy carefully curated dishes from inspiring international chefs, they also provide valuable support to the impressive Rockhouse Foundation.
Founded in 2004, the foundation is committed to improving and expanding the facilities and resources for children’s education in Jamaica. Having raised USD $7 million and counting, the foundation has contributed to the transformation of seven public libraries and schools since its inception.
Rockhouse Foundation’s latest impressive project consisted of funding, designing and building Jamaica’s first ever public mixed ability and full-inclusion early years school, the Savanna-La-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy or ‘Sav Inclusive’. Children with and without disabilities learn alongside each other in the same classrooms.
The school currently has over 165 children enrolled and has ambitious expansion plans. Rockhouse Foundation has signed a commitment with the Jamaican Ministry of Education to expand the school by adding a new grade level every year for the next 10 years (the school currently teaches children from age three up to second grade).
Skylark’s owner, Paul Salmon also founded the foundation so the two entities are inextricably linked and together work to improve infant education on the island. The culinary weekends that Skylark runs help to raise money for the Rockhouse Foundation which in turn enables the funding of more projects. Enjoying expertly crafted cuisine provides the momentary joy of indulging in delicious, locally sourced food and also contributes to creating a lasting impact on the island, its children and their future.
Even Sean Paul has shown his respect for the Rockhouse Foundation and its initiatives, performing at one of the foundation’s annual benefits and thus joining an impressive list of reggae superstars that have supported the work of the foundation including Shaggy, Toots and Maytals, Third World and Barrington Levy.
A Paradise For All The Senses
With a deep commitment to devoted hospitality, the wellbeing of all Jamaicans and the regeneration of the island’s environment, Skylark is a hotel that offers a good time while also taking care of everyone in its ecosystem.
With its holistic offering from soothing spa treatments to spectacular snorkeling expeditions and energizing DJ nights, Skylark has something for everyone and ensures that everyone in its community benefits from the infectious positivity that it exudes in every activity and offering.
In order to create more skylarking opportunities for an increasing number of visitors enticed by Negril’s balmy azure shores, Skylark will temporarily be closing its doors from August to November 2022 to undergo an expansion and renovation that’ll see 15 more beaming rooms and a rooftop spa added to the boutique hotel.
To give guests a chance to visit the property before it closes its doors in August, Skylark is running two special pre-renovation booking offers over the spring and summer. The offers are valid until July 31st 2022, subject to availability.
For their Jamaica Getaway Offer, guests can book to stay at Skylark for seven nights and pay for only five. This offer also includes a 30% spa discount on all treatments. You can use the code ‘getaway’ for online bookings.
Their Last Minute Local Offer is for Jamaica residents: Anyone who books within seven days of arrival will get 50% off their room rate. Here you can use the word ‘local’ for online bookings.
A visit to Skylark is a chance to step out of bustling daily routines and experience the slow, sandy, rhythmic ways of Caribbean island life. It’s the ultimate taste of freedom, something that anyone’s palate can get behind.