Chef Brigette Joseph’s business has taken her across the Caribbean and her latest adventure with musician Gamal "Skinny Fabulous" Doyle has seen her visiting the last Caribbean country on the list, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Doyle is in the process of setting up a new restaurant, Summer Rose Bar and Lounge, in his home country of St Vincent.
Joseph recalled that in 2015 Doyle was a guest at Home Café where she was the chef at the time. They were introduced as he, of course, loved the food.
When he wanted to open his restaurant in St Vincent, a friend of his informed him of her restaurant consultancy business, Chef Brigette and Co Ltd. Remembering her food fondly, he called her to discuss his vision.
Then, just last month, they met in Jamaica where she was catering a wedding and he was performing. There they agreed she would kick start his restaurant which she described as “casual and bouge” with an international menu of elevated casual dishes.
“This is my first trip to St Vincent so right now I’m meeting suppliers, interviewing staff, creating the menu, training the chefs and all that.”
She said with St Vincent being a small island, it does not have access to the large variety of ingredients to which she is accustomed so she has to be creative. Even more so as, after the volcanic eruption last year and the pandemic, food prices have been “wonky.”
According to Joseph, her preferred style of cooking is contemporary, innovative, fun, and at times could be called elevated street food.
Which was just what was requested for the wedding of a Trinidadian bride and Jamaican groom in Montego Bay, Jamaica on April 2.
There she took on the task of representing TT via food to international guests and chefs of varying backgrounds, most of whom had never tasted Trini food.
She explained that pimento peppers and chadon beni are not used as prominently in other islands. Jamaicans call chadon beni spirit weed and it is used to make tea when they are sick, but not in their cooking, and pimentos are not available at all in Jamaica.
“I didn’t travel with my team so a cross section of chefs I worked with learned about our flavours and food. I mean, I had to tote all our seasonings but everybody got an opportunity to experience our food and they were all very pleased. The word ‘wow’ was used a lot.”
She said the bride wanted the setting of the reception to be like a fete so there were stations rather than a full, sit-down meal. As such, she made pineapple chow, pholourie shrimp, crispy skin geera pork belly with a geera tamarind glaze, corn soup, mini crab-stuffed dumplings in curry sauce, mini macaroni pies with creamed callaloo and mini bake and shark.
“I don’t think people understand how amazing Trinidad is culinary-wise. Nowhere else has our seasonings and flavour combinations.
“People usually don’t take too kindly to hearing that Trinidad has the best tasting food in the Caribbean and I generally have an objective and unbiased opinion when it comes to food, because I will say if something just simply tastes good or not. Our food is hands down the best, due to all the various cultural influences we have on the island. As we saw recently with a foreign food blogger’s visit.”
“Food tourism is something TT should be focused on and we aren’t. I think that is a big misstep. We don’t attend conferences, expos, or apply for titles. We win Taste of the Caribbean almost every year but we don’t keep up the momentum or do any additional work.”
Joseph has been a chef for 15 years and has been running her business for nine.
At Chef Brigette and Co Ltd she is a chef consultant, food safety specialist, private chef, and does event food and beverage curation and management, and bespoke catering.
“The services I provide are more in demand recently as more people are interested in opening some sort of food business. Everybody, in my opinion, needs a chef consultant because we have such a large street food culture.
“Certain things, like food safety, should be standardised, people need advice on limiting the number of items on their menu while still having a variety for the customer, and they need to know other ways of reducing their risk and making their business more profitable.”
When doing food and beverage curation for events, she curates the vendors to ensure there is a wide variety so everyone has a chance to make money and the clientele has a wide variety from which to choose.
“The amount of times I went a fete and when you go for food it’s a line of chicken and chips. I don’t want chicken and chips!!”
She said her professional experience, by travelling a lot and seeing how things are done internationally, as well as by being a consumer gives her a unique perspective on how the local food industry could be improved.
“I just want more for us as a people and as an industry. It’s been said before but we have excellent food here. We could real cook. We just need to do better.”