Trini Good Media’s latest contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s broadcast landscape, Around My Table, is not a cooking show, but a food programme.
“Around the table is where all the best limes and chats happen after you’ve had a few beverages and a good meal,” explained journalist, co-founder of Trini Good Media, and Around My Table host Franka Philip.
The show revolves around issues related to food, including health, food security, food sovereignty, the food and beverage industry, artisans, chefs, farmers, and more. Inspired by her love of food, it does not contain heavy news but has a light tone, a wide range, and looks at serious and interesting issues while still having a laugh.
“I’m not going to be teaching anybody how to cook anything. It’s not a cooking programme, it’s a food programme. So while there will be elements of cooking in there, I’m definitely not going to be doing an hour of how to make pelau.”
Philip recalled having a discussion with TTT CEO David Roberts when he asked if she would like to do a programme. She agreed and the rest is history.
The show is broadcast on Talk City 91.1FM on the first and third Sunday of every month from 10 am-noon, and each month will have a theme.
“One of the features of the programme that I hope to always have is a diaspora look. There are people out there, initially but not just Trinis, who are doing fantastic things with food in the world.
“I don’t want this to be only about Trinidad and Tobago, because there is so much interesting stuff happening with food and I have a pretty wide network. I just want to make sure that we do interesting things.”
September’s theme is baking, since many people learned to bake during the lockdown in 2020. The first episode, which was broadcast on September 5, focused on gluten-free baking. It featured top local chef Khalid Mohammed, Moylan Lovell of Moy’s Gluten Free Kitchen, and Jody White of Slimdown 360.
“I came to realise how many people were dealing with issues around gluten – celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, people with intolerances. And not only in bread! You find gluten in weird things like soy sauce.”
Sunday’s episode (September 19) will be about traditional baking and will feature Chee Mooke Bakery, which is celebrating 90 years, and dirt-oven baking at Dove’s Dirt Oven Delights, Guayaguayare.
She explained that each show would include pre-packaged features, in-studio interviews, and audience participation. The full show will be uploaded the next day, and eventually the feature interview will be uploaded as a podcast on the Trini Good Media website. People can also follow the show on the Instagram page, aroundmytablett.
Food has always been part of Philip’s life.
“At almost every turn, food is somewhere in my life. In fact my grandfather was a chef at Country Club, and he was a chef on ships and he went all over the world. I never met him, because he died a month before I was born, but if you look at it in a karmic way, he left that footprint for me to follow.”
She said her mother was a very good cook who had a wide range of baking and cooking skills. She taught her daughter the basics and encouraged her to cook. She also has some of her mother’s local and foreign cookbooks with simple but excellent recipes.
“Remember back then there weren’t many ingredients to really say you could try things. It wasn’t like now, where you have access to ingredients for Arabic food, etc. They didn’t have places like Malabar and Peppercorns.”
She became a journalist at a local newspaper in 1995 and, after a few years, started doing the society beat. Around that time the Caribbean Culinary Championships started and she meet many of the chefs. Also, one of the team captains, chef Debra Sardinha, was a school friend.
In 1999, she left TT to do her masters in digital media at the University of Sussex, England, and ended up staying in the UK for 14 years. She worked at the Brighton Argus newspaper's website and from 2003-2011 she worked at the BBC in London.
“In a place like London, where every nationality is represented, and you get to eat all kinds of things, you get to compare and contrast food styles. It was really an adventure.”
At one point she pitched a show highlighting real Caribbean food, not just jerk chicken, but it was denied.
“I think that motivated me to start looking more closely at how poorly our food is represented and I actually started writing about it. I felt the urge to correct everything that was wrong so I started a blog called Can Cook, Must Cook. Then, in 2007 Caribbean Beat enlisted me to write their Cook Up column for them.”
Through the BBC, she got to know a lot of people in the food industry, including Guy Diamond, food editor at Time Out magazine, editor of the BBC Food website Susan Low, and Australian baker Dan Lepard. Those meetings led her to do reviews for Time Out, and Diamond enlisted her to do lectures in food writing at some of his courses at City University of London. Low asked her to write for the BBC website and develop recipes based on Caribbean cooking, and she collaborated on a few recipes, like chocolate cassava cake, with Lepard.
Then, in 2018, Philip founded GoatoberTT after seeing the growing popularity of the international food festival Goatober.
“That is my thing – getting people together to eat.”
Philip believes her passion for the topic will be obvious to listeners and draw them into a show that is unique to radio. She intends to take a different approach to food, looking at it through a journalist’s eye. She also promises to keep it interesting and exciting using the large network of people she can call on.
She stressed that even as they tackle issues, the stories will be about the people behind the issues and their experiences.