Rakeem Parpit, 26, faces a dilemma although he has checked all the boxes for a satisfactory lifestyle.
He attended a “prestige school” (Presentation College, San Fernando), studied science and went on to secure a university degree.
But while holding an undergraduate degree (double major) in biology and resource management from the UWI, St Augustine, Parpit not only struggles to find a satisfactory job in the field, he also feels disconnected from his academic pursuits.
“I felt like I was just shovelled into science from early, just by virtue of the subjects I was placed into at the CSEC level. But I really did not have that much interest in sciences.
“Then, I went into UWI and did what I was qualified to do but that’s about it,” said Parpit while chatting with Sunday Newsday, over dessert, at the Haagen-Dazs ice-cream shop located near the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
Now a foodie, Parpit is working towards making a sustainable living in the unorthodox field using the power of social media and his love of food.
Known by his pseudonym Avocado Papii on Instagram, Parpit shares his dining experiences with over 3,500 followers.
“Trying new foods is nothing new to me. It is just that now I am sharing that experience (on Instagram) to connect with people who also enjoy foods.
“Since I was small, I was always willing to try new foods.”
Parpit first created the Avocado Papii Instagram page while studying in UWI, though its inception was for a completely different purpose.
During his UWI studies, Parpit took on a healthy eating challenge and the Instagram page was simply created to keep himself accountable of the foods he ate.
“I would post the stuff I made, like breakfast, and most of the time it would include avocadoes,” said Parpit of his initial activity on the Instagram page.
While he kept posting home-cooked meals, as Parpit began dining out more, he started posting the foods he tried at restaurants.
By 2018, as his Instagram page gained more engagement, he decided to exclusively focus on highlighting his dining experiences.
He would also adopt the name Avocado Papii to brand himself for social media followers. It is a play on Champagne Papii, the Instagram name of Canadian rapper Drake, and representative of Avocados which were regularly featured on his page since its creation.
On the content he curates on Instagram, Parpit said, “As people eat with their eyes first, I curate a feed for people that are interested in food. I like getting picture of foods which are appealing.
“I choose to only highlight positive experiences. Everything I post would be something I enjoy personally.”
Apart from photos of food, Parpit shares aspects of his dining experience like the customer service and tips on what menu items may be best to order based on budget and preference.
But Parpit stops short of calling himself a food critic which is a title, in his opinion, he does not deserve or have the qualifications to hold.
“I wouldn’t call myself a food critic. If I do, it will feel like giving myself a title which other people have worked really hard towards.”
So, what is Parpit’s goal?
He hopes to inspire people to discover and develop an appreciation for TT’s food landscape.
In the process, he is also hoping to make the efforts financially sustainable.
To do this, he continues to seek partnerships with local restaurants and is developing his writing skills by doing freelance food reviews online.
In the future, he hopes to be paid to do food reviews and have a food review column in a local newspaper, if the opportunity provides itself.
With his work already reaching an audience, Parpit said, “People message me all the time. They ask for (restaurant) recommendations for different events like birthdays, brunch, and graduation dinners.
“Some even ask where they can try stake for the first time.”
Yet, there are some hurdles which still needs to be crossed.
While partnerships with restaurants are key to Parpit’s successes, they are also the hardest to build.
Though restaurants sponsor food for review and he has collaborated with some for promotions, Parpit said breakthroughs with local restaurants are still difficult.
“I reach out to a lot of restaurants, just to establish a partnership, and a few are receptive.
“A lot of local restaurants don’t really recognise the value of the social media of local foodies.”
“I have a friend doing the same thing in NY and she says it’s very much appreciated there because (restaurants) understand the power of social media.”
At home, while Parpit’s family is supportive, it may also take them a while to see the long-term and monetary value in his pursuits.
“I think my family just sees it as a hobby. I will not say anyone sees it as an actual vocation.
“I am working to change that attitude to show that it can be worth something that can help me be financially secure.”
Embracing his efforts, however, is the local foodie community who he says has been supportive.
“Becoming a consistent (food) blogger I have met other local foodies.
“I have realised the entire foodie community, while small, is growing and people are very friendly.”
So, what are the best restaurant spots in TT, according to Parpit?
Parpit’s favourite restaurants are Five the Eatery in Maraval, Chaud Café in Woodbrook and Lola’s Food Company on Tragarete Road in Port of Spain.
On what makes Five the Eatery and Chaud Café among his favourites, Parpit said the menu options, portion sizes and service are consistent along with affordable prices.
On what attracts him to Lola’s Food Company, Parpit said, “They have sandwich of the month specials, which are unique sandwiches, only available in particular months.”
And if you are looking for a unique dining experience, Parpit recommends Krave Restaurant in Marabella where he tried escargot, a dish of edible snails.
If you have not tried it already, Parpit said you may discover snails are surprisingly good with a texture like mushrooms.
What is next for Parpit?
Currently using an iPhone for his food photography, Parpit is working towards securing a professional camera.
Hoping he will be able to do photography classes, when that time comes, he is also open to learning photography on YouTube.
While Parpit likes to eat, it may be a while before you catch him trying to whip up any exotic meal as he is doubtful of his skills in the kitchen and his desire to take on any heavy culinary pursuits.
On the possibility of finding a use for what he studied at university, Parpit said, “I’m still interested in certain things (in biology) especially where genetically modified foods (GMOs) become a topic of conversation and the foods that we eat in terms of diet.
“Those are still the parts of biology that I am interested in.”
His advice to other young people considering entering unorthodox career fields or simply pursuing passions?
“Expose yourself to what you are interested in. It is important to absorb about your interests through things like literature and videos.
“Your passions change overtimes so you can figure out what your passion is and as it changes, you change with it,” said Parpit on what other young people can do to pursue their dreams.
Anyone interested in Parpit’s food adventures can follow him on Instagram @avocadopapii or like Avocado Papii on Facebook.