Travel might be on hold right now, but the “Taste the Islands: Culinary Adventures in a Caribbean Kitchen” by Hugh “Chef Irie” Sinclair, Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna and Calibe Thompson is the next best thing. This colorful cookbook features recipes inspired by the “Taste the Islands” television series. They are easy to follow and most ingredients can be found in local supermarkets. Latin and Caribbean stores or international shops might have some specialty items like guava paste. Though I am not sure where to purchase goat, the book provides a list of substitutions for other products.
Still, Sinclair and Verna use plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables influenced by their Jamaican and Haitian roots, respectively. Their vibrant photos convince me to live off salads, desserts and drinks this summer. Some of my favorites include the pineapple pepper slaw, the raw vegan salad, the mango key lime pie, the sweet potato pudding, the special cucumber lemonade and papaya cocktail. I am all set.
Sinclair grew up in the Caribbean on a sugarcane plantation. After high school, he moved to the United States. There, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in architecture from the University of Florida and a degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University. He is the lead personality on “Taste the Islands” as well as private chef and caterer specializing in Caribbean-inspired fare. He appeared on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” and has been a talent personality at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
As a teenager, Verna worked in her mother’s restaurants in Haiti. Soon after, she opened her own before moving to the U.S. at the age of 21. She studied and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute in Miami. In May 2017, she became the first woman to win the People’s Choice award at the Embassy Chef Challenge in Washington, D.C. She is the co-host on “Taste the Islands” (season two) and a personal chef who specializes in Caribbean-fusion.
Interestingly, Thompson, owner of Blondie Ras Productions, is not a foodie, but she loves to study food. She is the creator and executive producer of “Taste the Islands,” the first Caribbean cooking series to air nationally on U.S. public television. The Jamaican-born entrepreneur is also the creative director at Island Syndicate, which produces the Taste the Islands Experience culinary event series.
“Taste the Islands” is a delightful read from three accomplished authors. I am inspired to explore the Caribbean food scene even further when I visit again. Until then, I am going to enjoy cooking its cuisine.
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