Lifestyle

Two in the Bush

Thursday, June 14, 2018

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Chris Binns has no problem saying that St Ann is the next Jamaican food capital. “St Ann is the 'garden parish' — we have coffee, chocolate, fruit and ground provisions. Add to that it's the birthplace of Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey. Our rich culture, history, amazing restaurants and music combine to create something that is really unique,” he told Thursday Food.

Binns and his wife Lisa are co-principals of Stush in the Bush — winners of the 2018 Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Award for Best Place for Vegetarian Food. They also shared a win for Best Culinary Experience with Christina Simonitsch of Simo's Bread and Catering. The group regularly teams up to host a pop-up dining experience - A Moveable Feast, at Arcadia Great House in Duncans, Trelawny.

St Ann possesses over 10 per cent of all of Jamaica's farmland. It supplies local and export industries with a host of produce including banana, sugar, lime, ginger and yam. It's a go-to tourist destination for both luxury-oriented and eco-travellers. It has caves, falls, and bays. The hills have a cool climate that rivals Portland's. There's Noël Coward's Firefly, and even bauxite — this parish has everything. It is no surprise that the couple decided to call it home.

Lisa and Chris lived in the United States and Canada, respectively, before moving home. They met almost a decade ago at Fi Wi Sinting in Portland. Chris reminisces, “It was like a Hollywood movie. We saw each other across the crowd and that was it!” They were married two months later — when you know, you know...

A squeal of genuine delight shot across the audience when the winner for Best Place for Vegetarian Food was announced. Lisa was ecstatic with the win. “Yes, we were very excited,” said Chris, “and honoured to be back at the Food Awards, especially it being the 20th. Sharing the evening with such culinary luminaries was awesome. We were elated.”

Stush in the Bush is a farm-to-table gem — its genesis was truly organic. The Binns' original goal was to open a bed and breakfast. They started growing produce and having friends over for dinner (they live on the farm). Suddenly the friends were calling to ask if they could host business dinners and birthday celebrations at the farm. These occurrences increased to the point that they had to pivot. However, we are the lucky ones because Stush in the Bush is really a nonpareil experience.

A February 2017 feature on the popular website Mic resulted in the Binns' bookings going from two to three calls per week to five to seven calls per day. They had to switch to automated web-based booking — there were just too many calls.

Visits begin with Chris meeting guests in his all-terrain vehicle and taking them up to the farm. There Lisa and her warm smile and soothing hugs greet guests before they have a tour, enjoy appetisers and a get crash course in bush medicine. There's a look-out point, that offers one of the best views in Jamaica, to boot. Following the tour and snapping envy-inducing pics for Instagram, guests are transported to the main dining area to have the full “where rustic meets gourmet” experience.

Don't think of it as a meal — it's an event (that can last up to four hours). Many restaurant concepts either tiptoe around a true farm-to-table experience. At Stush in the Bush, you'll see Chris pluck herbs and pick greens for a salad that will be served in a matter of minutes. There's fresh and then there's this — the quality and taste are exceptional! “Some guests have been back five or six times and they are made up of 60 per cent locals and 40 per cent tourists,” said Chris.

The name of their brand is clever but it's also reflective of who they are. “Lisa is the foodie/fashionista and I am a son of the soil,” said Binns. He was born in the same village that their farm and restaurant are located. Their marriage is not just one of romance, but also one that is rooted in a passion for food and hospitality.

There's gold up in the hills of St Ann and Stush in the Bush shines brightly. There's bona fide soulfulness and gravitas in what Lisa and Chris Binns do and that is why guests leave with full bellies, full hearts and full spirits.

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