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OCTOBER | 2017



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OCTOBER | 2017


10 “The Little Show That Could” - How Taste the Islands Executive Producer Calibe Thompson, Chef Irie and their team beat the odds and developed public television’s nationwide Caribbean food and travel series

34 Everything you need to know about the culinary side of South Florida’s Caribbean events

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40 Gourmet recipes that you can make at home, from the chefs of Taste the Islands TV show

Island Origins

A Caribbean American Lifestyle MAGAZINE

June | 2017

Calibe Thompson Publisher

Amanda Gordon Hope Barrett Karen Grey Katie Hidden Contributing Writers

David I. Muir Photographer

16 // Franz Hall’s Jamaican Bellyful Jamaican Consul General Franz Hall shares memories of his childhood and family, and perspectives on meals they shared together

25 // Barbados: Our Culinary Tour A look back at the local, international and unusual fare encountered by the Taste the Islands team on their trip to Barbados

28 // Bean to Bar USA TODAY writer Melanie Reffes shares ‘best’ options for a chocoholic’s dream vacation in the Caribbean

33 // Tips for Island Party Decor High end interior designer Marsha McDonald shares simple tricks to help you spice up your home or event

38 // Meet the Chefs The people behind the personas of Chef Irie and Chef Thia, culinary hosts of national Caribbean cooking series Taste the Islands (Season II)

53 // Health Benefits of Coconut Milk We’ve gone hunting for some of the facts. Awesome coconut milk and how it can change your life for the better.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this magazine, including the guest writers who took time away from running government offices and national companies to share their very personal stories with our readers. We would like to acknowledge the culture and cuisine of the Caribbean islands and all the chefs who have paved the way for the success of ‘Taste the Islands’, ‘The Taste the Islands Experience’ and this publication. Recipes displayed in the publication are the intellectual property of the named chefs. The publisher regrets any unintended harm resulting from failed attempts at cooking the recipes. Island Origins anticipates that your successful attempts will yield delightful and spectacular experiences, and we hope that you write us with details of your enjoyment.

Copyright © 2017 by Island Origins. All rights reserved. Island Origins Magazine is published by Island Print House. This magazine or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a review. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at Island Origins, 701 Promenade Drive, Suite 202, Pembroke Pines, FL 33026. Printed in the United States of America.

Island Origins Magazine

701 Promenade Drive, Suite 202 Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 (417) 812-5663 |

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Photo: David I Muir

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The little show that could...

From home kitchen to national TV The story behind the TV show and the Taste the Islands Experience

WORDS: Calibe Thompson

How it all began When we started this journey four years ago, I knew that we would end up on national television. I didn’t know how, but the idea for Taste the Islands was conceived with mass market, family friendly potential in mind, so it was only natural. I also knew that regardless of our team’s resources, whatever we produced would be worthy of a large mainstream audience. The quick version of the inception story is that one evening in 2013 over a casual conversation, Chef Irie shared that he wanted to host a TV show, and I shared that I wanted to create one. Without much in the way of liquid assets, I sold my 2007 Toyota Corolla for cash, solicited the services of some recent film school graduates, borrowed a friend’s kitchen, and we got to work. Chef Irie researched his Caribbean culinary history, I went knocking on doors for support. We got a few episodes recorded but no one was giving us money and no one was offering us national distribution. Fast forward to 2014, and Chef introduces me to a contact at Channel 2. They loved the pilot that had been sitting on my hard drive for almost a year, and our team agreed to deliver seven episodes without having a clue about how we’d bring it all together.

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Photo: David I Muir

You know the saying, “say yes first and then figure it out later.” We pulled a few favors and got some of our celebrity friends on board. We finally had the episodes completed, but still no money to cover the distribution fees! I remember sitting in my office on the morning that the funds were due, frantically calling, texting and emailing everyone I had tried to solicit up to that point to let them know that we needed a decision. The hours rolled by and 6:00PM approached with not even crickets responding to me. Instead of sinking, my spirit calmed. My heart and mind knew that we would not have been brought to this point, only to be left outside the doorway. In the quiet room I turned to my computer and continued editing, determined to be ready for the opportunity that was sure to manifest. At about 6:30 that night I received a text message from Paul Pennicook of the Jamaica Tourist Board letting me

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know that Jamaica would underwrite our first national broadcast. I cried. And now our team is forever in their debt.

The choosiest beggar I occasionally refer to myself as the choosiest beggar you’ll ever come across. Yes, I generally am a little self-deprecating, but when I make this comment it’s about practical reality. When you are creating something new, without a track record and without a whole lot of money, you have to do a whole lot of persistent solicitation (begging). Many people in this position take that to mean that they should simply accept whatever they get. While true to a certain extent, I believe that what you make of the goods and services you receive should reflect the quality of the brand you are trying to establish. You must use your solicitations to prove to other potential benefactors that you are a worthwhile

investment. With that in mind, regardless of our resources we ensure that our product, whether on screen, in print or in person, represents only the best of what we have to offer. We are now entering the second season of our national television show Taste the Islands, and while it has been challenging, it is also truly gratifying to hear from viewers across America, and even from Canada and the Caribbean, who love and appreciate our efforts. We’ve heard from parents in Texas about enjoying the show together with their young children. We’ve heard from travellers in Colorado, Ohio, California and New York about the island memories the show has conjured for them. We’ve heard from expatriates of the Caribbean in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina who reminisce about the flavors of home. This season, with the inclusion of island footage from Barbados,


Jamaica and Haiti, we expect that our broadcast will be even better received and more broadly distributed. We are all excited about our imminent foray into the realm of streaming services and look forward to presence on Amazon Worldwide in the coming months.

The Taste the Islands Experience When we came up with the idea to produce a live event that would be an extension of the TV show, as usual our broad view was big and shiny. We imagined something like The South Beach Wine and Food Festival, but with a Caribbean spin to it. We envision fans from across the country coming to South Florida to indulge in the flavorful gastronomic delights that we explore on our show, and bringing their friends and family when they attend in subsequent years. Fortunately, there’s a team of people who have bought into this idea. We’re

currently planning the 2018 “Taste the Islands Experience” in a fabulous, multi-day, outdoor setting, and looking to invite a few thousand friends from around the region and the country to enjoy it with us. Instead of doing a typical event program, we have chosen to publish a magazine that reflects all that is wonderful about the cuisine, culture and people in the Caribbean American community, and back home in the islands. Depending on the response, we may make it an ongoing thing. Like everything we do, these projects are pretty awesome. And since we now have a track record, both community and corporate support have been way more forthcoming than in the days of the silent crickets.

Gratitude None of our accomplishments would be possible without the people and organizations who have been early believers. Our profuse thanks to

our series team including Chef irie, Chef Thia, Lisa Lee, Lukkee, Adam, Tyler, Mike, Allison, David, Katie, Rory Lee, Ben, Sara, Maria and Bella, our broadcast partners American Public Television, South Florida PBS (and BECON-TV for the Island Origins TV show), underwriters Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Grace Foods and Lakay Food, and our in-kind supporters Caribbean Airlines and Wright Style clothing. David and I thank the members of the event production team including Tyrone, Marsha, Donna, Allison and all the volunteers involved, as well as Mayor Wayne Messam and the City of Miramar for hosting us. To the viewers, attendees and supporters, we are most thankful to you, and hope that like us, you’re excited to see what happens next! (L ro R - Photo 2 & 4: David I. Muir | Photos 5 & 6: Nicole Hylton-Richards)

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Franz Hall with Chef Irie on the set of Taste the Islands Photo: David I Muir

A Good Bellyful According to Jamaica’s “CG” I was pleasantly surprised when I was asked by the producers of ‘Taste the Islands’ to appear on their show. I had seen Season 1 and recognized the value of such a show in showcasing Caribbean culinary traditions to a global audience, so I gladly accepted. This fit perfectly within the mandate of the ConsulateGeneral, promoting the diverse expressions of Jamaican culture. Of course, growing up in a Jamaican household, food was very important. Some of my favorite gastronomic memories came from times with my grandparents, who had raised a family of eleven children. I recall one weekend while visiting with them, I came across a bucket covered with a large silver tray, and a brick placed carefully on top. Being ever so nosey, I took a peek. Inside was a “sea cat”, better known as an octopus, and its tentacles immediately began unfurling towards the rim of the bucket. Luckily I had the presence of mind to quickly replace the lid and the brick. Little did I know that was to be Sunday dinner,

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and believe me, it was the best curried octopus that I have ever had! My grandmother also made the best rice and peas, and while my mother’s comes close, she too would admit that “Ma B’s” was better – the ideal combination of rice that was of the perfect consistency, with the peas soft but not mushy, and the delectably complementary flavors of thyme, coconut milk, scotch bonnet pepper and an almost imperceptible hint of sweetness. In my immediate household, Sundays were reserved for a full range of typical delights. My mother had a love of French cuisine, so scalloped potatoes or cabbage-au-gratin were often included. To this day, anything in a cheese sauce tastes better! My mother reigned supreme over dinner, but my father was the breakfast king, whose liver and bacon, steamed callaloo and fried dumplings are legendary. Many have tried, including me, to replicate these dishes, with abysmal results.

While I admit that I can hold my own in the kitchen, having displayed these skills and winning the quickfire celebrity chef challenge at the Jamaican Jerk Festival in South Florida a few years ago, I prefer to bake. One of my signature creations is rum cake, with its light, buttery flavor, and a healthy dousing of good Jamaican dark rum. Jamaica is a land of many cultures and they are reflected in our cuisine, representing a perfect melding of flavors that are uniquely our own. I therefore salute the producers of Taste the Islands for their vision, and their dedication to creating this vehicle for sharing the culinary culture of the Caribbean with the world. Best wishes for a successful Season 2!

FRANZ HALL Consul General | Consulate General of Jamaica in Miami


Derrick Reckord and Daughter Photo Courtesy: Derrick Reckord

The Grace Foods Strongman Shares His Softer Side Derrick Reckord is Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations at Grace Foods USA. When it comes to expanding distribution of the prominent Jamaican brand in North America, the buck stops with him. As you can imagine, it’s a challenging job deciding which investments of time and energy will yield a worthwhile return for Grace. But in a candid story, he shares a more meaningful purpose that he and the company he leads, have dedicated their resources to.

Derrick Reckord SVP of Commercial Operations Grace Foods USA

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In preparing for a business trip to West Africa in 2007 I was informed that the best place to get my vaccinations done was at the Government Health Clinic on Slipe Pen Road in Kingston, before heading home to South Florida. It was another early morning in Jamaica, but with heavy traffic I had time to see a side of the capital city I had not seen in years. Looking around me I realized that this old commercial area was also occupied by some families. Through the crevice of a zinc fence I could clearly see a little girl about 2 years old walking through a muddy yard. She gingerly took up seat on a boulder overlooking a pot placed on 3 stones. Someone, I assume to be her mother, was squatted over the pot preparing breakfast. The vision was in stark contrast to what my 2 year old daughter was doing for breakfast in comfort, in Florida. I resolved then to proactively find a way to make positive change in situations like what I was seeing. Over the years, through The Grace and Staff Foundation, many of us made small contributions to the communities around our Grace Offices, factories and warehouses. These contributions are matched by Gracekennedy and have proven quite effective. However, what I felt was absent was the commitment of my own family to be an agent of change. We needed to connect through an organized program that addressed the issues of shelter, nutrition, clothing and health care among the needy in the wider community. We often articulate a vision of what we would do if we had huge resources, but we don’t spend enough time thinking how we can help a few with the limited resources we may have. In 2007 I realized that we can do more today to help the less fortunate, rather than waiting on the grand vision. Food for the Poor became one of the primary channels for our monthly charitable contributions as a family. When these contributions are added to those made by others, they become transformational. With over 95% of what we donate going directly to the people we intend, it is an easy decision to use Food for the Poor to manage our giving. Our charitable effort is one of the most uplifting aspects of our lives and I encourage everyone to plant their own “small mustard seed” and let it grow and help our community.

Messam’s Message The city of Miramar is one of the most diverse and progressive in the state, with one of the strongest Jamaican populations in the nation. The strength of our city’s overall Caribbean community, as well as the increasing number and quality of businesses here, are major points of pride for me and my Caribbean colleagues that serve on the Miramar City Commission. Personally, I take great pleasure in extolling my own Caribbean roots at every opportunity. Although I was the first of my siblings not to have been born in Jamaica, strong work ethic, diligence, pride and love of ackee and saltfish are all characteristics that did not escape me. In fact, some good Jamaican food, whether it’s beef patties and coco bread or oxtails and jerk chicken with rice and peas, never fails to bring my large family, including my beautiful American wife and kids, together. I look forward to having the opportunity to try food from the full variety of Jamaican, Haitian, Cuban and other Caribbean restaurants here in Miramar, and I invite you to do the same. I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 premiere of Taste the Islands with Chef Irie, and of feeling the immense pride of the several hundred people who had packed into the event on that rainy night in April. Like me, Chef Irie and Calibe were achieving their own firsts. First Jamaican to host and first Jamaican to produce a national public television series in the US. I was pleased to learn that parts of both seasons were recorded right here in our city. I’ve also come to learn that Chef Irie and I have more in common than our height. I’m the son of a contract cane cutter, Chef Irie is the son of a bookkeeper who lived and worked on a sugarcane plantation. We have both enjoyed the example of hardworking parents who wanted the best for their children, and we’re both working hard to promote the best of the Caribbean community. I’m thrilled to facilitate the opportunity for our local businesses to partner with programs that have national exposure and international potential. We are honored to welcome the first “Taste the Islands Experience” to the city of Miramar, and we expect this team to bring the same quality, vibrancy, inclusiveness and joy to this event that they bring to their national broadcast. We look forward to welcoming their viewers from around the country to future installments, perhaps at our new amphitheater which is one of many venues Miramar offers for quality event productions. To Calibe, Lukkee, Chef Irie, Chef Thia, Lisa Lee, David and the entire team behind Taste the Islands Season 2 and “The Taste the Islands Experience”, I congratulate you on your achievements and wish you continued success. Mayor Wayne Messam City of Miramar

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) William “Billy” Griffith | CEO, BTMI Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. has the distinct pleasure of displaying to the world the sensational sights, tantalizing tastes and exhilarating experiences that make Barbados an island destination like no other. Our job is to bring to life the rich heritage on which our culture was built – from the astute parliament buildings in capital Bridgetown, to the vast sugarcane fields nestled in the heart of the country – to meet the desires of pleasure-seekers in every corner of the world. Our local and international teams work to ensure that whether you crave a relaxing escape from the real world, sipping world-famous rum punches while lounging on a picturesque beach; soaking up the fun and frolic of the Crop Over festival with the whole family; or perhaps donning your exploration gear and discovering the original tunnels of Harrison’s Cave on an adventure ecotour, you’ll be sure to find it in Barbados.

) Colin Mayers | Consul General,

Consulate General of Barbados

It is my distinct pleasure to congratulate Executive Producer Ms. Calibe Thompson, and the presenters of the series “Taste the Islands”, on the success of their first season and securing national broadcast of the second season of the series. “Taste the Islands” has captured the imagination of viewers across the country, successfully conveying what it means to experience the cuisine and culture of the Caribbean, and invites them to experience it for themselves. I believe that this second season will be most memorable as producers reveal the food and fare of some of the landmark culinary locations in Barbados which cater to patrons from all over the world - The Souse Factory for a local treat, Mustor’s for a traditional Bajan dish of coucou and flying fish, the Cliff restaurant for five star cuisine, Oistins, Moon Town or Baxter’s Road for fried fish or fried chicken and chips. On behalf of the government and people of Barbados and Consulate General of Barbados at Miami, I say heartiest congratulations and wish you continued success in all your future endeavors.

Official messages ) Paul E Pennicook | Director of tourism, Jamaica Congratulations for securing a second season of your Taste the Islands TV show. Last year, Jamaica sponsored the first season of the show... we did this because we saw your passion in representing Caribbean culture to an audience beyond our shores. We are extremely pleased that others have caught the vision, enabling you to produce this second season. Taste the Islands has helped draw attention to the Caribbean region through our cuisine; the show has also exposed some of the inspired chefs who create these tantalizing dishes. Thank you for continuing to champion the culture of the region. We wish you a successful season.

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Adam recording a tour group at Mt Gay Rum Factory Photo: Taste the Islands

Our Culinary Tour around Barbados fLYING FISH AND MACARONI PIE Shooting the on-location part of Taste the Islands Season 2, there were only four team members that made the trip, but we made the most of it! We were able to visit the small, warm island of Barbados on the east end of the lesser Antilles. Our camera operators Adam and Tyler are both from the US south, and it was their first time on the island. They were more into the fresh fruits and coconuts than they were into the fish and seafood, but Lisa Lee and I did quite a bit of sampling with all that was available at almost every stop.

After a restful arrival night and continental breakfast the following morning, we were off to the races. Our first day started at historic Mt Gay, the oldest documented rum factory in the world. While no one gets access to the inside of the processing facility because of the secret methods they use, we were given some clues as to how the unique flavor of the rums is developed. Some elements include a double distilling process using traditional copper pot stills, the use of charred oak Kentucky Bourbon barrels to cure the rum, and the unique

coral filtered water only available in Barbados. (Apparently even their water is different because the island was not formed by volcanic activity, unlike many of the others in the Caribbean). The rums were certainly nice to look at... but we couldn’t drink on the job so it was on to the next location! Bay Tavern is a large dive restaurant by the seaside, fairly removed from the city, but attended by the locals for their Thursday afternoon “lime”. Liming is the eastern Caribbean word for hanging out. We saw karaoke singers, pig’s tails on the grill and folks enjoying flying fish, cou cou and cold Banks beers. But the highlight of that stop was our interview with Alison Hinds, where we learned about the liming culture and the traditional food that is enjoyed around the time of Crop Over, Barbados’ carnival season. The queen of soca music who is actually pescatarian, refused to leave the

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FEATURE STORY // OUR CULINARY TRIP AROUND BARBADOS location without her requisite fried fish, and hugs and photos with her fans. Day one ended in a sunset conversation with the head chef at the upscale Cliff restaurant. Paul Owens, a British native, travels the world visiting Michelin 3 star restaurants to find inspiration, and then returns to his current home of Barbados to present high end menu options to the island’s most affluent visitors. The restaurant sits on a rocky cliffside by the edge of the ocean. Fiery torches light the columns all around, and you can see huge tarpon fish swimming in the deep waters nearby at a certain time in the evening. Although we only partook of cocktails and arancini (rice and cheese balls) from the more casual sister restaurant The Cliff Beach Club, we were intrigued by the Kobe beef from Japan, fresh vegetables from France, and local seafood like scallops and shrimp being served at the main restaurant. Throughout the following days we made quite a few memorable stops. The adventurer’s spot, The Souse Factory, is where we found vinegar cured pig’s feet and other unusual animal parts that both locals and visitors swear by. Mustor’s is the place for the “bread and two”, that’s a salt bread sandwich made with two fish cakes (saltfish fritters) or two meatballs. Locals and foreigners, officials and men on the street,

Our first day started at historic Mount Gay, the oldest documented rum factory in the world

Mt Gay Brand Ambassador Darrio Prescod with Taste the Islands host Lisa Lee Photo: Taste the Islands

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all lunch at this downtown eatery run by the third generation of its founding family. Cuzz’s Fish Shack wasn’t too far from our hotel. One of his customers was visiting from Australia and confessed that he had eaten there on all three of the three mornings he and his friend had been guests on the island. Cuzz’s “cutters”, fish sandwiches made with Bajan salt bread, fresh mahi mahi or kingfish, and any combination of egg and / or cheese, are a favorite of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, so of course we had to try them too. Oistins is the Friday night “lime” where tourists and locals mingle over seafood caught literally steps away. And the unassuming rasta man that runs Bonzo’s Vegetarian serves up macaroni pie, veggie fritters and rice and peas made the “ital” way, with no meats and only sea salt and fresh herbs as seasoning. On this trip, we were able to see and share so much of our host island. We told stories about the variety of food, warm people and the rich culture we learned about in a most authentic way. I think we’re all looking forward to doing more of that in upcoming seasons. Cheers!

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Spice up your Island Party Décor 5 design ideas for your next liming session If you’re into the island lifestyle, it’s pretty safe to assume that you love a good party! Wherever you are in the world, some delicious Caribbean food and some good reggae or calypso music can transform your space into a tropical oasis in a heartbeat… or a drum beat! Another way to bring the islands home is to add some tropical flair to your décor. Here are five no-fuss ways to infuse the island experience into your party or home.

beige, you can add bold splashes of color for visual interest. If the event is more casual, brighten and uplift the energy of a room with vibrant hues of orange, pink and lime green. For more formal parties, add metallics such as gold or silver with neutrals or blues. 3. Create a focal point

1. Select a Theme

the natural draw of the islands. If you have access to coconuts, use them as accessories. Try large banana leaves as placemats, or bamboo poles leading to a thatched roof outdoor bar. 5. Go Bananas

When your home becomes party central, establishing a theme makes it easier to select decorating items for your party space. If you want a soca fest, choose a carnival theme with bright colors, metallic accents and a bold centerpiece. For a beach theme, go with more mellow blues, seashell motifs and nautical accessories. A theme will help to make your party even more memorable for your guests.

Since everyone is going to gather at the table for the food, creating a tablescape or centerpiece on the table based on your theme is a great way to focus your attention. Other focal points can be seating areas or the bar area. Whether your gathering is indoors or outside, create focal points by adding colorful pillows and a throw to your couch, chairs or chaise. Adding a tiki bar, umbrellas and other props like sandboxes will add to your budget but are also great ways to add impact. 4. Add the natural touch

2. Bring color Into the Mix

Use fruits like pineapples, limes or bananas as décor elements and not just for food. They can be used as accessories on coffee tables, credenzas or on the main food table. Put in a large clear vase and you have a simple centerpiece. During the party, if your guests want to eat the decor, there will be less waste for clean up! Using these five tips will help to spice up your décor, setting the stage for an unforgettable experience for you and your guests as you party island style.

Marsha J McDonald Owner Seacrest Designs & Decor Seacrest Designs is a boutique design studio specializing in residences and architectural interiors. Services include space planning, furniture, kitchen and bath design, redesign and staging. Marsha’s design style adds classical notes with a tropical luxe sensibility, creating luxury living experiences for her clients in South Florida and the Caribbean.

Once a theme is chosen, turn up a notch with a color scheme. Even if your party space has a lot of neutrals like white or

As a nod to your vacation time as a beach bum or island hopper, bring in shells, sand, palm trees and a floral touch to echo

Contact: (954) 361-1127 @seacrestdesign

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FEATURE STORY // Caribbean Culinary Events in So Flo

A freshly made griot wrap at Taste of Haiti Photo: Taste of Haiti / RSCMEDIAGROUP

The Culinary Side of So Flo’s CaribbeanAmerican Events WORDS: M Hope Barrett

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As if you needed another reason to visit the beautiful sunshine state! Along with the inviting beaches, cultural diversity and the steady beat of South Florida’s nightlife there’s a year-long lineup of Caribbean events with a spectacular culinary side to enjoy as well. Here are some of the ones you should know about.

national Caribbean culinary and travel series ‘Taste the Islands’, and takes the delicious Caribbean fare and island exploration in the show, from screen to table. Viewers from around the country are expected to flock to South Florida to “taste the islands” as the event grows. Learn more at

The Taste the Islands Taste of Haiti Experience In May, America celebrates Haitian New kid on the block ‘The Taste the Islands Experience’ promises to become an annual behemoth in future years, mixing the fine presentation of higher end food and wine events, with the spice, vibrancy and joie de vivre of the Caribbean. Guests sample gourmet bites and Caribbean cocktails in a tropical setting with other fabulous people. It is presented by the producers of

Heritage Month, and each year Miami enjoys a ‘Taste of Haiti’. The outdoor food festival is a favorite of Top Chefs, celebrities and local officials. It is free to attend and offers a range of activities from the chefs’ cooking competition to cooking demos, Haitian art displays and live music. In its 5th year, ‘Taste of Haiti’ drew over 5000 people from the Haitian and international communities. Learn more at

FEATURE STORY // Caribbean Culinary Events in So Flo

Calle Ocho ‘Calle Ocho’ is the biggest street party in the country. The Cuban heritage celebration is named for the street shut down by the city of Miami to accommodate the almost 1 million people who attend each year. The Kiwanis Club of Little Havana has staged the event for 40 years, with the hottest Latin music performers, and multiple stages throughout the area. Attendees can try dishes from Central and South America including Citrus Sea Scallop Salad, Green Shrimps with Peruvian Bean Hummus, and Pigeon Peas Escabeche. They can also enjoy cooking contests, eating contests and VIP tours. Learn more at carnavalmiami. com.

Jamaican Jerk Festival Since 2001, the annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in Sunrise, Florida has been highlighting the best in Jamaican culture and cuisine. Around 25,000 attendees each November enjoy the Jerk Cook-Off, cultural stage, dozens of food vendors including from Jamaica and around the US, and a main stage with comedians, veteran reggae artists and international performers. Though traditional Jamaican jerk pork and chicken are massive sellers, festival-goers look forward to an array of more interesting offerings including spicy jerk cheese, mouthwatering jerk lobster, and fan favorite jerk ice cream. In recent years the festival has grown to include New York and DC installments as well. Learn more at

Taste of the Caribbean The ‘Taste of the Caribbean’ educational experience, cultural showcase and culinary competition is hosted in Miami early each June by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). The event appeals both to those in the world of hospitality who aim to build supplier relationships, and to the general consumer who enjoys a selection of great food and drink. A competition for top honors rages between culinary teams from the Bahamas, Curacao, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and beyond. As part of their weekend of activities, the CHTA is introducing a new, more upscale event called ‘Caribbean 305’ in 2017. Learn more at chtataste. com.

Bring your hungry belly and your dancing shoes!

Taste of Haiti Photo: Taste of Haiti / RSCMEDIAGROUP Jamaican Jerk Festival, DC Photo: Derrick Reckord

Caribbean Village Caribbean Village is a fairly new music, arts, food and wellness festival celebrating Caribbean American Heritage Month. Presented by the Galleon Foundation, its higher purpose is to raise funds for scholarship programs in Jamaica and the Caribbean. There are cultural presentations from across the islands, traditional table and yard games for children and adults, and a concert featuring local and international performers.

Taste ot the Caribbean Photo: CHTA

This represents just a “taste” of what South Florida has to offer. With many more events in store, you can bring your hungry belly and dancing shoes, and we will see you there!

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Meet Hugh “Chef Irie” Sinclair

The spicy Jamaican that always sets your ‘food on fiyah!’

Photo: David I Muir

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Friends and family know him as Hugh Sinclair, but his fans call him Chef Irie. He’s the tall, dark, loveable host of public television’s only Caribbean cooking show, Taste the Islands, with that loud yet personably unique way of connecting with his audience. Chef Irie, a native son of Jamaica who presently resides in South Florida, made history in June of 2015 as the first Jamaican host of a nationwide public television cooking series. Chef Irie makes food dance to the tune of his drum. His talent for building unique flavor profiles is influenced by his international travels, but dominated by his Caribbean roots. He’s always ready and willing to teach about how sexy food can be, and to offer easy tricks to add to your culinary repertoire. As an undergraduate majoring in archtecture at the University of Florida, Hugh Sinclair began to explore his culinary curiosities. It took very little time before the campus community branded him the chief chef in residence. He may not have recognized his true passion at the time, but his collegiate fans knew back then that he had all the skills, passion and knowhow to become the illustrious chef he is today. After seven years of designing elegant structures, he took the leap into the world of culinary arts. He graduated from Johnson and Wales University, then paid his dues working in some of South Florida’s top rated restaurants. Today, Chef Irie approaches his craft with the same principles used in successful architecture. His palate pleasing flavor profiles are created with a stable foundation, and built from the ground up using only the very best spices and seasonings.

He has fond memories of his childhood growing up on the sugar plantations of Caymanas Estates, from playing in sugarcane fields, to nighttime crabbing with dad, and weekend shopping at the ever-bustling Coronation Market with his mom. These are the roots that produced the spicy personality and “global culinary architect” we all know and love today.

“By watching how I put flavors together, you should be able to bring a touch of the Caribbean to your plate anywhere you are in the world.” - Chef Irie

The next time you feel the urge to spice up yuh life, just tune in to CreateTV or your local public television station and watch Taste the Islands. Let Chef Irie help make it a “food on fiyah” day! Stay tuned and as always stay connected on social media @chefirie.

Karen Grey Publicist for Chef Irie

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Recipes // Curried Peanut Chicken

Chef Irie’s Curried Peanut Chicken In his exploration of Dutch Caribbean cuisine, Chef Irie came across a recipe for savory curried peanut chicken and long beans. The Thai influence in the Dutch Caribbean islands makes surprising combinations like this one, fairly regular. Of course, Chef Irie made it his own.

3 lbs. Chicken Thighs, boneless 1 tsp. Salt (or to taste) 1 tsp. ground Black Pepper Canola Oil 2 tbsp. Yellow Curry Powder ¼ cup Onions, diced 1 tbsp. fresh Garlic, sliced 1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes 1” piece Ginger, sliced 1 tsp. Garlic Powder 3 tsp. Paprika 2 tsp. ground Coriander 2 tsp. ground Oregano 3 tbsp. fresh Lime Juice ¾ cup Peanut Butter 2 cups chicken stock 1/4 cup Line-scented Peanuts

1. Season chicken with the salt and pepper. 2. In an oversize frying pan over medium-high heat, add the curry powder and stir for 30 seconds. 3. Add the onion, garlic and chicken to the pan, stirring so the chicken becomes coated in the curry. Add the red pepper flakes, ginger, garlic powder, paprika, coriander, oregano, and lime juice, mix well, and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. 4. Add 1 cup of hot water and the peanut butter to the pan, stir well then add stock. Mix until the peanut butter has blended with the stock. Add the chicken back to the pot. Let simmer on low heat, covered, for 30 - 45 minutes. Cook for another 15 minutes if using bone in thighs. 5. Garnish with peanuts and enjoy with steamed white rice or Chef Irie’s Long Beans. Recipe by Chef Irie | Photo: David I Muir

38 Island origins | magazine

Recipes // CArrot Juice Cocktail

Chef Irie’s Carrot Juice Cocktail Foregoing the creamy milk based version of Jamaican Carrot Juice, Chef Irie opted to create a cool cocktail modification to the traditional lime infused recipe. It’s made with the juice of a Granny Smith apple for tartness, nutmeg for spice and some white rum for a mellow kick.

1 ½ pounds Carrot, roughly chopped 1 Granny Smith Apple, cored and roughly chopped 2” piece fresh Ginger, peeled ¼ cup fresh Lime Juice 1 tsp. Nutmeg 6 tbsp. Brown Sugar 2 tbsp. White Sugar 2-4 oz. White Rum, optional

40 Island origins | magazine

1. Blend the chopped carrot, apple, ginger and six cups of water until fully pulverized. 2. Line a strainer or fine-mesh sieve with a cheesecloth and place over a bowl or pitcher. Pour the juice through, squeeze by hand to extract all the liquid, and then discard the pulp. 3. Add the lime juice, nutmeg, brown sugar, white sugar and, if desired, rum. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then place in the refrigerator to chill. Serve cold. Recipe by Chef Irie | Photo: David I Muir

Recipes // Scallops in Sauce Chien

Chef Irie’s Seared Scallops in Sauce Chien For the Scallops: 10-12 large Bay Scallops 2 tsp. Garlic Powder 1 tsp. ground Black Pepper 2 tsp. Paprika 1 ½ tsp. Cumin 1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes 2 tbsp. Canola Oil For the Sauce Chien: ½ cup White Onion, roughly chopped 5 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped 1 tbsp. Oregano 1-2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers, whole with stems removed 2 tbsp. fresh Lime Juice 3 tbsp. Canola Oil

1. Gently peel off and discard the “foot” or appendage of each scallop. Toss the scallops, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, and canola oil together and allow to rest for a few minutes. 2. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the scallops and sear about 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. 3. For the sauce chien, add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly combine. 4. Add 1 cup of hot water and continue to pulse until the consistency is semi smooth, but still a bit chunky. Serve over hot scallops.

In the Afro-Caribbean themed episode of Taste the Islands Season II, Chef Irie prepares these scallops with French Caribbean sauce chien or ‘dog sauce’, so called because of the bite it has from the spicy peppers blended in. He used 5 scotch bonnets in the original recipe. Follow at your own risk!

Recipe by Chef Irie | Photo: David I Muir

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Meet Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna

Warm and honest, just like her food

Photo: David I Muir

42 Island origins | magazine

Meet Chef Thia // Bon Mange

If someone could blind you with a smile, Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna would probably be the one to do it! With huge, sparkling eyes and contagiously joyful energy, the Haitian American social media maven is the new culinary co-host of national television series Taste the Islands. Though she’s classically trained in French techniques, and graduated at the top of her class, her recipes are often simple, and her island roots consistently shine through. She’s from a region of Haiti called Pelerin, just outside the capital city of Port au Prince. Family members mentored young Thia who opened her first restaurant, ‘Ateliers le Bamboo’, at 17. Since then she has deliciously satisfied the cravings of presidents and celebrities, and represented Haiti’s consulates in Italy, Thailand and Suriname. Today, she is a private chef and caterer, living and working in South Florida, but her long term goal is to operate restaurants, develop mass market food products, write more books, and build a sustainable brand around her name. One of the food products you might see in the near future is the element she talks about most, Chef Thia’s Spice. It’s her own version of Haitian epis, a blend of fresh herbs used as a base for savory dishes. Like Haitian culture overall, her food reflects a blend of African, Indonesian, European, Latin and native Taino elements reflected in frequent use of ingredients like star anise, parsley, watercress, cinnamon and thyme. She says that what sets her food apart is simply the love and passion she puts into making it. Rather than throwing things hurriedly together, she’ll take the time to roast fresh garlic, or saute her special spice to release other layers of flavor, before adding them to her recipes.

The ingredients she uses in her own cooking are usually natural and fresh, and she is acutely aware of the health benefits they offer. According to Chef Thia, fresh herbs and spices are the fountain of youth, as evidenced by her family members who “refuse to die”. She plans, like them, to stay healthy and functional way into her 90s with prolific use of garlic, and secret recipes like parsley tea.

“I hope by sharing my passion for food and cooking, you are able to see with me, the beauty of Haiti” - Chef Thia

As a survivor of physical assault, she is a staunch advocate for abused girls and uses her platform to raise awareness of social issues. In her 2015 book “Ordeals”, she shared her story of family, food, victimization and triumph, and now she focuses her energy on uplifting messages of hope for her legions of online fans. She is a mother to three beautiful children, and a devout Christian. Look out for her first cookbook “50 Favorite Haitian Recipes” as part of the Taste the Islands Essentials collection, available now on Amazon. Catch her warm Haitian energy on Season 2 of Taste the Islands, on Create TV or a public television station near you.


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Chef Thia’s Stovetop Pain Patate Sweet potato pudding has many iterations throughout the Caribbean. In this version, familiar elements like baking spices and raisins are present, but so are elements like rum, ripe bananas, and three types of milk that make it extra creamy. This method starts on the stove and ends in the oven.

1 stick (4 oz.) Butter, unsalted 5 cups Boniatos (Caribbean Sweet Potato), finely grated 1 1/2 cups Top Top Coconut Milk 1/2 cup Brown Sugar 1 tsp. Ginger 1 tsp. Cinnamon 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg 2 medium sized ripe Bananas, mashed 1/4 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk 1 1/2 cups Evaporated Milk 1 cup Raisins 1 tbsp. dark Rum 1/2 tsp. Vanilla

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.



Preheat oven to 350°F In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add boniatos and cook for 4-5 minutes while stirring. Add 1/4 cup of coconut milk and continue stirring for about 2 minutes. Stir in sugar until it is melted, then mix in 1/2 cup of the coconut milk along with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold mashed banana into the mixture and add remaining coconut milk, then stir until bananas are melted. Add condensed milk, evaporated milk, raisins and white rum while stirring for another 5 minutes. The mixture should be moist and approaching a semi-firm texture by this stage. Mix in vanilla, cover and let simmer at low heat for 5 minutes until the mixture has reduced and become sticky in texture. Spoon mixture into ramekins and bake for 25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the crown of the pudding is dark brown.

Recipe by Chef Thia | Photo: David I Muir

44 Island origins | magazine

Recipes RECIPES // Seared // TASSO Scallops DE DINDE

Chef Thia’s Tasso de Dinde 2 lbs lean Turkey Breast, diced into 1 1/2� pieces 2 tsp. Mustard 1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes 1 tsp. Salt 1 tsp. Black Pepper 2 tsp. Lakay Foods Tomato Paste 3 tbsp. Scallions, chopped 4 tbsp. Canola Oil 1/3 cup Red Bell Peppers, diced 1/3 cup Green Bell Peppers, diced 1 1/2 cups White Onions, thinly sliced 1/2 cup White Wine 1/2 cup Chicken Stock

1. Place turkey into a large mixing bowl and season with mustard, pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Toss to combine and place in refrigerator to marinate for 30 to 40 minutes, or overnight for maximum flavor. 2. Over high heat, heat canola oil and sear turkey breast for 3-5 minutes on each side until browned. Remove turkey and drain excess oil from pan. 3. Reduce heat to medium and add tomato paste. Stir in 1/4 cup of white wine and bring sauce to a light simmer. When sauce is simmering, add green and red bell peppers. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes and then add scallions to the pan. 4. Increase heat to medium-high and add turkey along with any juices released. Add the onion, remaining white wine and 1/2 cup of stock or water, and stir. 5. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until there is no pink coloration inside the turkey breasts and they are soft and juicy.

In Haiti, turkey is eaten as commonly as chicken. This recipe sees turkey breast well seasoned, fried, and then sauteed in tomato paste for a rich, robust flavor. Try it with Djon Djon Rice for a delicious dinner.

Recipe by Chef Thia | Photo: David I Muir

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Recipes // djon djon rice

Chef Thia’s Djon Djon Mushroom Rice Djon Djon Rice is a uniquely Haitian delicacy made with wild black trumpet mushrooms called “djon djon” grown in the north of the island. Well seasoned from start to finish, it is very popular in the Haitian communities at home and abroad.

1 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced 1 cup Chef Thia’s Spice (or other Haitian Epis) 2 cups frozen Lima Beans, thawed 1/4 cup Canola Oil 1 cup Button Mushrooms, sliced 4 cups Djon Djon Mushrooms 3 cups Lakay Foods Yellow Long Grain Rice

1. Bring dried djon djon mushrooms to a boil in 4 ½ cups of water over medium heat and allow to boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. When it’s ready to use, strain the mushrooms and silt from the water using a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheesecloth. 2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in dutch oven and add Chef Thia’s spice (or other Haitian epis). 3. Add red bell pepper, stir, and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the seasoning begins to lightly caramelize on the bottom of the pot. Add lima beans and button mushrooms while still stirring. 4. Add strained djon djon water and bring to boil. 5. Once water is boiling, add rice and reduce heat to medium high. 6. When the water is dried out, cover and reduce heat to low for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked. Recipe by Chef Thia | Photo: David I Muir

46 Island origins | magazine

At Florida Power & Light Company we are working together with the communities we serve to make Florida an even better place to raise a family and do business.


Robin Mahfood with children in Haiti Photo: Food for the Poor

Food for the Poor: Saving Lives, Transforming Communities WORDS: Amanda Gordon

Founded and operated by members of the Jamaican Mahfood family in 1982, Food for the Poor has become a giant in the world of charitable organizations. Each year the nonprofit moves millions of dollars in food, medicine and relief supplies for the benefit of almost 20 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. Their mission is greater than simply providing material goods for the here and now. They mean to systematically improve the lives of poor families and communities by teaching them how to become self sufficient. As a Christian organization, their outreach is effective because they work directly with leaders of every faith throughout the region to provide life saving benefits for the people they serve. President and CEO Robin Mahfood (pictured above) once shared with us that he saw Jesus in the faces of the less fortunate, and is humbled by

the team of people at Food for the Poor who drive the organization’s engine of transformation. One of the group’s clear missions is educating women in rural areas to live off the land. Women are typically responsible for sustaining families and communities, and the theory goes that when women are properly equipped, the needs of their entire community are mitigated. Take a look at the image of a fish on Food for the Poor’s universally recognizable logo, and you might envision from biblical reference that they’re providing means for the poor to feed their own 5,000 (Matthew 14:1321) Children are their other primary focus. They believe that by educating and supporting the next generation of adults, there’s a better chance of breaking the poverty cycle. Angels of Hope is one of the organizations supported by Food for the Poor. The program allows benefactors to sponsor, write letters to, and even visit with one of the 510 participating children in Jamaica. As young as they are, these children have faced challenges that would devastate even

the strongest adults. An encouraging word, and a bond with a stranger thousands of miles away who has committed to continuing support, can help change these children’s lives for the better. Over 40,000 homes have been built in Jamaica, and hundreds of children are educated each year, because of Food for the Poor initiatives. Since they began work in Haiti in 1986, they have built almost 27,000 double unit homes and installed hundreds of wells for providing water, a surprisingly scarce commodity in rural communities across the Caribbean region. They have also stepped up their emergency response activities because of catastrophic events in recent years, like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Matthew. Their mission continues, and they need the support of every person and agency willing to help. To learn more about how you can contribute to Food For The Poor, please visit

island origins | magazine 49

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FEATURE ARTICLE // How Coconut Milk can change your life

For years we heard that anything made with coconut was bad for you because of all the natural fat that it contains. In recent years, the rest of the world has caught up to what those of us in the Caribbean always knew - anything coconut is all good! In the islands we enjoy the water of the fresh coconut, and its soft sweet flesh. Then when the coconut is more mature and has dried, the hardened flesh is pulverized and squeezed to produce a naturally sweet, velvety liquid known as coconut milk. The desiccated flesh is used in baking and dessert making. The milk on the other hand, is used for a wide variety of culinary purposes including cooking, drinking, baking and even for topical applications. Jamaican Rundown, Puerto Rican Tembleque, Barbadian Curried Crab, Haitian Pen Patat, and some of the smoothies at your local health food joint here in the US all incorporate it. Here are some of the ways that adding coconut milk to your diet can help improve your life.

1. Keeps you younger, longer Coconut milk is rich in antioxidants, which can slow down the aging process and help to reverse damage done by free radicals. That means it reduces your risk of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. It’s a veritable fountain of youth.

Bet you didn’t know all the ways coconut milk can change your life! 2. Helps fight off illness

dandruff, skin diseases, wounds, dryness and irritation of the skin.

The Lauric acid in coconut milk has antibacterial and antiviral properties that help get rid of infections and illnesses. Lauric acid may also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreasing the risk of coronary disease and stroke.

5. Fills your body with Vitamins and Minerals

3. It’s got the good fat Since the body uses the type of fat in coconut milk for energy, rather than storing it, there is less of a chance it will contribute to blocked blood vessels or arteries than other sources of fat. These unsaturated fats may actually help with weight reduction and boost your immune system. Awesomeness!

4. Sustains fabulous skin and hair Coconut milk’s unsaturated fats naturally moisturize the skin, making it healthier from the inside while also repairing wrinkles and sagging. It may help to treat

Vitamins C and E and phosphorous which keep your bones healthy, are plentiful in coconut milk, as are B vitamins which vitalize the cells. It is also packed full of magnesium, potassium and iron helping maintain a healthy nervous system, proper brain and kidney function, and supporting the transportation of oxygen through your body. Bearing in mind that we aren’t doctors, just people who like to research and share helpful information, please consult with your physician before making any dietary changes. That said, we think coconut milk is amazing. Hopefully it’ll add a little sweetness to your life!

Find more health articles at

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5 Fabulous Caribbean Food Festivals WORDS: Amanda Gordon

Although it’s unlikely that anyone, ever, will get tired of the fantastic sun, sea and sand the Caribbean has to offer, many islands have begun ramping up promotions of their culinary offerings in recent years as well. There is a proliferation of festivals celebrating rum, fruit, crab and more, all throughout the region. Here are just a handful of the amazing annual events where you too can sample the delectable cuisine of the islands.

All Andros Crab Fest, Bahamas Each year since 1997, tourists and Bahamians alike enjoy an all out crab extravaganza at the All Andros Crab Fest. The event is held the second week in June on Andros Island, the largest of the 26 inhabited islands of the Bahamas, located 77 km southwest of Nassau.

Highlights include a crab culinary contest, crab cultural display and land crabs cooked 101 ways. Learn more at

Cayman Cookout, Cayman Islands With partners like the RitzCarlton and Food & Wine Magazine, expectations for Cayman Cookout are always pretty high. The multi-day event includes tastings, demonstrations and excursions, as well as appearances by celebs like Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse and Jose Andres. Eric Ripert, chef of Blue at the RitzCarlton, Grand Cayman, has hosted the event for 8 of its 9 past installments. The culinary talent is a veritable who’s who of local and international personalities. At just about 30 minutes flying time from Miami Airport, this seems like a good place to please the higher end palate. Learn more at

52 Island origins | magazine

Portland Jerk Festival, Jamaica On the first Sunday every July, Jamaicans and visitors to the island make the journey to Portland on the east coast for the country’s largest celebration of its signature spicy jerk seasoning. The Portland Jerk Festival offers delicious food, arts and crafts, and a concert to keep guests entertained as they sample lobster, conch, sausage, chicken, pork and more across the grounds. Learn more at

Food, Wine & Rum Festival, Barbados In November, near the time of Barbados’ independence, travelers from around the world visit the eastern Caribbean island to eat, drink and be merry at their annual Food, Wine and Rum Festival. Stars like Marcus Samuelsson, and a number of international chefs, come together with local chefs to

share techniques and create a memorable spread of fare for their guests. As home of the world’s oldest documented rum factory, the event organizers believed it was important to incorporate lots of rum into the proceedings. Learn more at

Mango & Food Festival, Nevis Nevis, the sister island to St Kitts, hosts its Mango and Food Festival each July. This fairly young festival takes place over 4 days with dining, cooking demos, master cookalong classes and a beach celebration. One of the unique mandates for participating chefs is that each and every course of every meal must have Nevis mangoes incorporated. The weekend’s climax is the Nevisian Chefs’ Mango Feast, a challenge of creativity and skill as an ode to the scintillating gastronomic thrills of the king of fruit. Learn more at nevismangofest.


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Island Origins Magazine  

CONTACT: david @ islandsyndicate . com | 417-812-5663. Island Origins Magazine opens a window to Caribbean America with stories on people, p...

Island Origins Magazine  

CONTACT: david @ islandsyndicate . com | 417-812-5663. Island Origins Magazine opens a window to Caribbean America with stories on people, p...