Mahi-mahi ceviche, oxtail dumplings and rib-eye sujo are just a few dishes from celebrity chef JJ Johnson that brought the Anguilla community together this spring at Malliouhana Auberge Resorts Collection. The James Beard Award-winning chef, TV personality and author served up a bevy of lively culinary events as part of the new Taste of Auberge series featuring chef collaborations and restaurant pop-ups at select Auberge properties around the world. Below, Chef Johnson shares noteworthy highlights from his month-long residency on the island.
My grandmother is from Puerto Rico and my grandfather is from Barbados, so I grew up going to the Caribbean. I’ve always wanted to go to Anguilla. Until recently, you couldn’t even fly directly to the island. First you had to land in St. Maarten, then take a boat to get there. It has a really exclusive feel.
The resort is impeccable. There’s definitely a good balance of R&R and fun. I really enjoyed hanging out at the pool overlooking the sea, and the beach setup is spectacular. The evening turndowns are insane—you always get something special. I really love the gym, too. They have an outdoor ring bar that I used to do pull-ups during my stay.
Everyone is so welcoming and friendly in Anguilla. There is always someone willing to offer directions or suggestions on the best local spots. It reminds me of Harlem—people are so open and hospitable. There’s a great mix of lifelong locals as well as expats from New York, Great Britain, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. Everybody knew everybody.
Everywhere you go, everyone asks you if you want a rum punch. They use a spirit called Parrot’s Bay, and they know just the right mix of flavor: balancing sweet and sour and adding the perfect amount of rum. It’s such a big part of the culture.
Food connects people no matter where you are in the world. It’s the greatest introduction to a new culture. By sourcing local ingredients, I was able to meet fishermen bringing their catch to the beach, and I got to know a woman who grew collard greens in her backyard, which I used in my salads.
Crayfish is a very local dish in Anguilla. The bartender at Malliouhana recommended trying it at a spot called Blanchard’s. I’ve never had anything like that in my life. I could eat it every day. The chef cooked it over an open flame, seasoned it with local spices and served it with lemon butter for dipping. It was probably the best thing I ate while on the island.
Our server at Blanchard’s recommended Lit Lounge. If you want to hang out with locals, this is the place to go. There was a DJ playing reggae and afro beats. The drinks and staff were great, and the sushi is supposed to be delicious. It’s a lot of fun.