A web designer recently asked me ‘what sets you and your blog apart from others?’ She, a trini and design professional based in Philly, asked many questions in hopes of us working together to ‘pretty up’ d blog nah – yuh know. Our informal phone call was great, I’ve never had this creative meeting before that resulted in great online presence insight. Of the ‘tough’ questions asked of myself, goals for Gasparillo Junction and single life cooking, this one question stood out the most. I took a while to form into complete sentences the mission and purpose I’ve painted so beautifully in my head, as I wish I could boast of being this dope-ass wordsmith that eloquently recites whole sentences to express myself. And before the words rolled off my tongue to answer her, I quickly thought of the scores from a recent psychometric exam. Ha! I scored high in modesty and I’m not competitive. What I can speak of and communicate till I can’t blame it on the alcohol anymore is my love of being a Chef. Working with everyday ingredients, out of my home kitchen and with no words the prettiest picture or the craziest story is expressed through food – all you need are your senses.
Uptowne Cafe & Bakery Presents: A Chef’s Story
Through food, who are you? Y’all, this question I have asked myself has taken me from New York, Trinbago, St Lucia and Barbados, which I’ve previously written on, I even made my way to Wisconsin for the year so far. The most travel I’ve done in my life to cook; be invited into the homes of strangers and friends of friends; meet with local farmers and listen to fascinating food culture stories galore in the hopes to figure out my style of cooking and my identity and next steps in my culinary career. Cause a chick can’t moonlight as an Assistant all her life right.
The preparation for this dinner felt like months in the making per the ongoing group chat between myself and friends Sonja, Enrika and Adrian. Still plastered on my kitchen walls are the large white Post-it sheets that I examined with every passing. Sometimes adding more scribbles daily of further details to consider, menu changes, a listing of songs for a bomb-ass playlist, other moving parts and to-dos for my second pop-up dinner our years. And before I knew that summer weekend in July came. With a mixture of excitement and nervousness of stepping out my comfort zone to tell my story through food. A true-life story inspired by my Trini upbringing and life in New York. I was ready.
Pigeon Pea Fritters
Curried Onion Jam. Kale Chips
Roasted Sweet Plantains
For the table
Geera Seed Roasted Cornish Hen
Stewed Peas Medley
For the table
Local Rhubarb and Strawberry Mudda-in-law (pickled spicy condiment)
Spiced-Rum Pound Cake
Passion Fruit Caramel
I enjoyed testing the new and considering the old traditional and non-traditional recipes to create a menu that was not complex, for it was clear most diners never experienced true Trini / Caribbean food and flavors outside of the common and sometimes imitated jerk and the resort favorite coconut shrimp. But highlighting the wonderful spices, seasonings and techniques handed down by my Ma and Grammies, and used today in my Trini kitchen. Warm Coconut Bakes made with freshly made Coconut milk. The crowd went wild as they smeared Guava butter on this easy to prepare bake. Toasted Geera seeds were transformed into a coarse ground, rubbed on Cornish Hens then roasted to a golden-brown perfection. Using much fresh and local herbs, vegetables and edible flowers from La Crosse. Chocolates created from single estate cocoa beans, sponsored and shipped from Trinidad by Cocobel Chocolate. Even the choice of wines paired with every course was supplied to us by Purple Feet Wines, thanks Todd!
The Trini food I prepared was received with open minds and satisfied appetites. Starting a conversation in this mid-west town on my recipes and true Caribbean flavors and recipes. It’s safe to say this was an awesome Chef Story opening dinner and win for me in my quest to find my voice, and to use it in my culinary journey.
Thanks to Uptowne owners, husband and wife team Adrian and Chris, my ride or die (with no stipulations), lady Chefs Enrika of New Leaf Boutique Catering in Jackson, Mississippi and Sonja of Our Moving Table, Trinidad. My friend, private Chef BJ Dennis out in South Carolina and the awesome people of La Crosse. See you next year!
What’s next for me? An experiment with boxed lunches and an upcoming trip to Paris.