A report from South Florida Caribbean News.
A Christmas getaway in the Caribbean is an exhilarating experience. Visitors are welcomed with open arms in true Caribbean community spirit, in a festive atmosphere, laden with entertainment, lavish foods, exotic drinks and lots of laughter.
But 2020 will go down as the “year of virtual gatherings” as many visitors who typically celebrate the season in the Caribbean, opt for a staycation.
Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean (TASC) will bring some tropical flair to this year’s holiday celebrations, with a virtual culinary tour throughout the Caribbean.
The 12 Days of Caribbean Cooking Festival will be staged during the period November 29 – December 11. It will feature popular Caribbean chefs, bakers and culinary artisans who will showcase the food, rums, desserts and diverse culinary traditions of the region.
The daily cooking series will feature 16 destinations and 25 Caribbean chefs who will share heirloom recipes and anecdotes about their heritage.
Each recipe will feature local rum as one of the ingredients. Connecting via ZOOM, each day two chefs will prepare a feast of Caribbean-inspired dishes from the destination that they represent. They will demonstrate simple steps in making mouth watering dishes in 30 minutes of cooking time.
Although food traditions in many Caribbean islands may be somewhat different, there are also many similarities. Christmas dinner features roasted ham, chicken or turkey, a pork dish prepared with a variety of indigenous spices, slow cooked “Caribbean style” on an open fire.
Each island has their own traditional Christmas drink featuring local rums. It could be cremas (Haiti), rum-and-eggnog concoction called “rum popo” (Belize), Ponche de crema (a kind of eggnog with added rum (Trinidad & Tobago) and various recipes for rum punch — a Caribbean cocktail that includes the local rum, pineapple and orange juice, grenadine, Angostura bitters and nutmeg.
What’s for Dessert?
Dessert in many of the islands is the famous black cake, made from a combination of fruits that have been soaked in wine and rum for a several months. The popular cake Buche de Noel or “Christmas Log” is an extravagant dessert that is popular in the French speaking islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Six of the participating 25 chefs in the 12 Day of Caribbean Cooking Festival share their local Christmas traditions and viewpoints about Caribbean cuisine:
“The food is fantastic in the Caribbean year round, but there are some epicurean delights that are reserved specifically for Christmas. The food is St. Lucia is as rich and festive as the season, and our drinks and desserts are often drenched with rum. Orlando Satchel, owner of Orlando’s Restaurant and Travel and Leisure’s “Caribbean Chef of the Year.
“In Haiti, rice with djon djon (Haitian mushrooms), chicken creole and fried are part of a feast that can last the entire night as people dance and sing to celebrate Christmas,” said Natacha Supplice Henry who was a contestant on Food Network’s “Chopped.”
Natacha Supplice-Henry – Private Chef/Caterer icancook2. Participant in Food Network “Chopped” Chilli Cook-Off, 2016.Email: email@example.com.
“In Antigua and Barbuda, we toast the season with sorrel. It is a spicy, sweet, tart traditional holiday beverage that tastes great and has some awesome anti-oxidants. The dried flowers are steamed with ginger, then mixed with rum and wine and served over ice. This is a must-have during the Christmas season.”
- Claude Lewis – Former Executive Chef at Porta Restaurant, Owner of Freetown Road Restaurant, Jersey City NJ. Season 38 Champion on Food Network’s “Chopped.” www.freetownroadprojectnj.com
“Conkies are a Barbadian delicacy, made with a flavorful base of corn meal, coconut, pumpkin, and sweet potato, and seasoned with brown sugar, spices, and raisins. The mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, which makes for a convenient unwrap-and-eat treat. Traditionally conkies are made in November to celebrate Barbados’ Independence Day, but are a popular treat throughout the holiday season.”
Chef Wilwore Jordan is a private chef and caterer who has worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Barbados, including Sandy Lane Hotel and The Cliff Restaurant. He has won numerous culinary awards and is also versed in French, Italian and Asian cuisine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Oildown is the national dish of Grenada and is a part of the Christmas feast. It consists of salted meat/pork, chicken, dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo, dasheen leaves and assorted vegetables (called provisions). Everything is stewed down in one pot with coconut milk, herbs and spices. Traditionally, it is made on the beach, over an open fire with family and friends in a ‘cookout’. Many restaurants have oildown on the menu.”
Belinda Bishop – Local tastemaker who conducts culinary tours. Managed five restaurants as food production manager at Marriott Hotels in NY, FL, GA. Email: email@example.com
12 Days of Caribbean Cooking Festival e-Book
The global pandemic continues to impact many Caribbean chefs and their businesses, both throughout the islands and around the world.
As Caribbean chefs struggle to remain afloat, the “tastebud tingling” array of traditional Christmas recipes featured in the 12 Days of Caribbean Cooking Festival, will be compiled in an e-Book.
This publication will help promote Caribbean chefs and their businesses, while educating travel advisors, many of whom are avid Caribbean brand ambassadors.
“These interactive on-line events are designed to create greater awareness of the Caribbean’s diverse culinary offerings and culture and raise the culinary profile of the region. This virtual showcase will also highlight some of the lesser known cultural experiences throughout the region and give travel advisors an authentic experience and a rare treat, to watch talented chefs create a Caribbean meal in real time. The e-book will be leveraged as one of TASC’s exclusive promotional tools. It will inspire travel advisors to put together exciting itineraries that feature Caribbean food, communities and culture,” said Derede Whitlock, Senior TASC Administrator.
The line-up of chefs in the 12 Days of Caribbean Cooking Festival:
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