By Stephen Weir
There is an art to appreciating Caribbean cooking and fine dining, and there is no better place to learn about it than the Art Gallery of Ontario. For the next two Friday afternoon, two of the city’s most loved Caribbean chefs will be on-line schooling AGO patrons about the fine art of Caribbean Flavours.
The 45-minute talks are called Foodways: Caribbean Flavours and feature chef and food stylists Roger Mooking, La-Toya Fagon and Seylwn Richards. Hosted by the gallery’s Executive Chef Renée Bellefeuille, Foodways is a new conversation series that brings together food experts of the art world to explore the intersection of culinary practices, memory and art. The guest chefs reflect on their own Foodways, inspired by the AGO’s current exhibition Fragments of Epic Memory.
The large art Caribbean exhibition blends historical and contemporary stories, presenting more than 200 photographs from the gallery’s collection of historic Caribbean photographs alongside paintings, sculpture, and video works by modern Caribbean artists.
The first talk happened last Friday with chef Roger Mooking (co-host of grilling and barbecue show “Man Fire Food”). That show is now available on You Tube https://youtu.be/dhZV0q3eTW8
This Friday at 4PM, Chef La-toya Fagon will be with the AGO executive chef on Facebook Live for Part Two of Foodways: Caribbean Flavours, as she talks about growing up eating island foods and her creative blending of traditional Caribbean cooking styles with Mediterranean flavours. Fagon is a personal chef to the Toronto Raptors.
“I did get to a walk through the exhibit and it was amazing, emotional and just all around fantastic,” said Chef Fagon. “They did an amazing job, the pictures and videos were astonishing and attention to detail were so educational. They really took the essence of the culture from all the islands. And to see the hard work from generations and generations still lives on. “
Because of Covid restrictions the chats have been pre-recorded. “The conversation was about 45-minutes long and we talked about many different things, from my history and knowledge of Caribbean culture and food to the impact of Caribbean food to the dining industry.”
“I feel that people are starting to truly understand the depth of flavour and that we are more than jerk chicken in Styrofoam containers, (although jerk chicken is amazing),’ she said. “Caribbean food can be just as high-end as any other cuisine.”
Chef Selwyn Richards agrees with Fagon. When he first started cooking
in Toronto, jerk and patties was just about all people were asking for, but that has all changed. High-end Caribbean dining has finally arrived in the Great White North.
Next Friday (4 p.m) Selwyn will be on Facebook Live for Part Three of Foodways: Caribbean Flavours. He discusses his love for soul food from the Caribbean and his experience as a food stylist. Richards is the President and Executive Chef of the Art of Catering and is the author of The Art of Cooking – Soul of the Caribbean.
Chef Richards is constantly busy. He caters gala’s, festivals and wedding and is known for his unique take on beautifully presented Caribbean dishes.
He just returned from Jamaica where he did check to see the recent trends at his old homeland. “While we are talking high-end dishes, jerk and patties continue to evolve (back home) – one of the new (comfort foods) in Jamaica? Beef and Cheese Patties!”
Fragments of Epic Memory is curated by Julie Crooks. Before the show ends on February 21, the AGO plans (Covid willing) to have the chefs in their kitchen preparing a special evening of Caribbean haute cuisine. https://ago.ca/