Bahamian celebrity chef, restaurateur, caterer, and teacher Raquel Fox just added author to her list of accomplishments with the completion of her first cookbook, “Dining in Paradise. ” The collection of over 150 authentic island recipes is due out this March.
Fox’s earliest memory of being in the kitchen is when she was a 6-year-old sous chef to her grandmother, peeling root vegetables and husking corn. “Watching my grandmother’s love for food, bringing people together over celebratory meals and making them happy was magical for me to watch,” she says. As a child, she would witness fishmongers bring fresh seafood to her house on bicycles and her grandfather, a farmer, start with a seed to bring ingredients to her grandmother in the kitchen and then to her dining table. She realized the power of cooking early on and knew that’s what she wanted to incorporate in her life.
In the Bahamas, Fox attended an international school which exposed her to different cuisines. She had friends from all over the world whom she visited between high school and college. During these travels, she discovered the similarities between different cultures and started looking at her island closely.
Incorporating Cultural Influences into Bahamian Cuisine
With Africa, Latin America, France, Spain, the Caribbean and England influencing The Bahamas diverse history, you’ll can find seafood conch salad with a lot of chili and lime, Johnnycake or Bahamian cornbread, fried whole fish and chicken, as well as a British style steamed puddings called guava duff (the national dish) on the same table. Seafood is a staple and Bahamian cooking incorporates lots of spices, rum and tropical fruits.
Fox and her husband opened a wine lounge in the Bahamas in 2009, which they eventually closed to move their family to Toronto, Canada, where they currently reside. She also hosted her own television show, “Island Hopping,” to educate people about Bahamian food.
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After being in the culinary industry for 14 years, Fox went back to school to get a culinary degree from George Brown College in Toronto. “I tried to be modest at the time, but I wasn’t a beginner to cooking. Still, I learned a lot of techniques, culinary terms used at work, and even the proper way to hold a knife,” she adds. After graduation, Fox opened a catering business and started teaching at George Brown and various cooking schools. “What I enjoy most being a culinary instructor is that you meet wonderful people who are enthusiastic about learning and passionate about food. I tell stories of my childhood as I teach them how to cook, which is very entertaining,” Fox says about her favorite job thus far.
New Cookbook Celebrates Familly
In her cookbook, Fox shares many of her family’s recipes as well as stories from her childhood growing up. She pays homage to her grandma and her mother-in-law for teaching her how to entertain and bring families together over food. Readers can recreate her colorful platters around family, like people in The Bahamas do every Sunday. “Families from other islands would come over for a party in our backyard, older men made rhythmic sounds with a saw, scrub board and goatskin drum games, women danced and kids played hopscotch and hide-and-seek,” she writes in “Dining in Paradise.” “The cookbook is my way of sharing my heritage, love and passion for Bahamian cuisine.”
Juggling so many hats can be challenging, but Fox's passion for food and constant need to innovate energizes her. She advises doing something that brings you closer to your goal every day, even if it is a small step in the direction. “Get rid of the resolutions, be realistic and continue to grow in knowledge,” she suggests for the new year.
As for Fox, she hopes to spend more quality time with family, land a new television show, and make “Dining in Paradise” a bestseller in 2019.
“Dining in Paradise is available at independent bookstores in the U.S. and at Indigo bookstores across Canada, as well as available for pre-order on Amazon. You can also visit her website at www.racquelscookbook.com and connect with her on Facebook.
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