Sweet New Beginnings

Food has the power to bring people together in the most unexpected ways. Over a meal or a coconut tart we can’t stop thinking about, we make memories that will live on in our own kitchens. ​

It’s a stunning October morning on the far northeast shores of the Caribbean island of Antigua in the West Indies. Deep turquoise waters glisten in the distance as waves crash against the limestone rocks at Devil’s Bridge National Park. It’s the kind of view you can try to capture with a camera but will never truly compare to being there. And I, amidst the glorious view and salty-sweet smell of the ocean breeze, am thinking about … dessert.

“I can’t stop thinking about that coconut tart,” I tell my husband, David, for what must be the tenth time in half as many days. “I just can’t get it out of my head. I need to know more.”

Salt Plage, a beachside restaurant at Siboney Beach Club in St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, is where we dined our first night on the island. A day earlier than planned to beat bad weather, we needed a place to stay for a night and Siboney had the space. That evening, on a long list of desserts sure to appease holidaymakers like ourselves, the coconut tart jumped out from the menu as something special. And it was.

“Let’s go back,” David says as we make our way through sea spray and over craggy rocks.

Two days later, we do.

Upon our return, a giddiness comes over me that I don’t even attempt to hide as our taxi pulls into the parking lot. I’m here to meet with Shana Murraine, the 28-year-old pastry chef and mother of two responsible for creating a tart that has been calling from the depths of my stomach, a symphony of quiet rumbles that tell me I cannot, will not, leave this island until I know the story and have the recipe in my hands.

Shana in Chef's Jacket and Hat standing in front of Trees

Shana greets me and I’m immediately enamored by her authentic sweetness and the warmth radiating through her smile. In this moment I’m grateful to be doing exactly what I was called to do: share the stories of those who put such commitment and love toward perfecting their craft that others may enjoy it, thrive from it, even.

Shana says she’s living her calling, too. Following graduation from culinary school, she completed an internship and worked in the kitchens of several of Antigua’s premiere resorts before she landed at Salt Plage. She wants to open her own bakery and pastry shop one day.

“I fell in love with pastries in culinary school. I was just taken by them,” Shana says, noting that one of Antigua’s renowned pastry chefs, Mark Smith, taught her much of what she knows.

“The love you put into it is the love you’ll get out of it. That’s true for anything you do. I dream of going to France to learn the techniques of their pastry chefs. I want to travel and learn new things, and then I want to bring them back here to Antigua. This is my home,” Shana says, emphasizing her love for this island, its culture and, most importantly, its people.

“The love you put into it is the love you’ll get out of it. That’s true for anything you do."

I snap several photos of Shana and her divine coconut tart and soak in the view from the table where we sit and chat, promising to keep in touch.

That’s the thing about food. It brings people together in unexpected ways. It creates connection and community. Over a meal or a coconut tart we can’t stop thinking about, we make memories that will live on in our own kitchens.

In the spirit of learning about new cultures and cuisines and bringing them home, I can’t think of a better first recipe to share with you than Shana’s Coconut Tart.

Sweet New Roots

Caribbean Coconut Tart

This recipe was created by Shana Murraine, pastry chef at Salt Plage at Siboney Beach Club in St. John’s, Antigua. Chef Shana shared her delightful Coconut Tart recipe exclusively for the readers of Sweet New Roots.

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