Antigua and Barbuda
The Caribbean Hospitality Training Institute
Cornell University School of Hotel Management
Caribbean Culinary Tours
After a short break, we’re back with a new installment in our Yes Chef! Series and are excited to feature our first female chef! Chef Freda Gore is the owner and tour host of Caribbean Culinary Tours, which specializes in culinary vacations and retreats to Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Puerto Rico. Chef Gore has over 25 years in the culinary field, holding various positions including that of Chef Instructor at The Hotel Training Center, Dutchman’s Bay Antigua.
EAT The Caribbean:When did you realize that you wanted to be a chef?
Chef Freda Gore: I realized I wanted to be a chef after high school, after job searching for about a year, with not much luck. The island of Antigua was in the process of opening its first Hotel Training school, and was offering a Food and Pastry arts diploma course. I loved cooking for friends and family and since my family at that time operated a local bakery I thought that with my background knowledge of baking and cooking, that this might be an opportunity for me to learn more about the culinary arts. I joined the school’s Culinary Program and started my journey as a chef and have not looked back since.
My style of Cooking is Authentic Caribbean cooking and I also enjoy playing with Caribbean fusion by adding other cooking styles to some of my dishes. A Menu example Jamaican Oxtail Stew with Blue Cheese Mashed Bonita Yams.
ETC: What other chefs, Caribbean or otherwise, have influenced you most? How?
FG: I had the opportunity of working with a lot of great chefs during my career and all have been great influences in the development of my cooking skills. My Dad was a great home cook and owned a local bakery. I learned a lot about cooking authentic local Caribbean dishes, from cooking along side with him. Along with Chef Jones former chef of Jolly Beach Club Antigua. The Late Chef Daphne Former Chef of Coconut Grove Restaurant Antigua, And not forgetting the late Chef Julia Child who showed me that cooking can be an art with great enjoyment.
ETC: How would you describe the state of Caribbean cuisine and where do you see it going?
FG: Caribbean cooking is on the verge of a new culinary awaking. With Tourism being one of the main economic sources of the Caribbean regions, and as more and more travelers visiting the islands wanting to immerse more by tasting, seeing and doing in the diverse flavors and styles of the islands cooking.
With new yearly Caribbean food and rum festivals hosted by well know TV chefs and cooking celebrities, this has placed a new focus on Caribbean foods and cooking styles and has also opened the door for chefs and home cooks to hone their skills and knowledge in sharing more about their culinary culture through, food tours, cooking tours and culinary vacations. I see this as the beginning of something new and exciting which will only continue to get better as more Caribbean chefs and cooks join the mission of preserving their Caribbean culinary culture by sharing it with others and passing it down to the following generations.
ETC: You have been able to create a successful business focused on culinary tourism which has grown quickly over the years. How have you been able to maintain your level of success while competing with others in the industry?
FG: When we started Caribbean Culinary Tours & Vacations in 2004, it was launched on the brick of faith. At that time there were only a few hotels offering in-house cooking classes to some of their guests. There was no full Caribbean culinary vacations being offered. We researched the concept and learned that there was a number of culinary vacations being offered in France, Italy, Mexico and other regions but none in the Caribbean. To say the launch was easy would be an understatement. The beginning was tough. It was a new idea and hard to sell. However we did our best to market our tours with a limited budget, and gradually we started to get a positive feedback, The bookings came in slow and sparsely, but with the help of some great media exposure coupled with our mindset of not to give up, we started to see improvements in the bookings.
We also added our corporate team building cooking classes three years ago and have received great success with that. We are always paying close attention to the culinary and tourism trends of our regions and have learned to make changes and additions where its necessary. For example, lots of visitors to the Caribbean come via a cruise. How could we market to those visitors? We have spoken to lots of cruise specialist on how can we serve that cruise niche and are now in the planning stage of launching a Caribbean cooking cruise package planned for 2016.
Cooking comes like second nature to me. I enjoy being in the kitchen and I find pleasure in trying new dishes.
ETC: Do you cook at home, and if so, what is your favorite dish to prepare?
FG: Some found in my vast cookbook selections, and I am a die-hard Food Network fan. Funny story: My first dish I ever cooked was at the age of 7 or 8 while at my grandmother’s house. I was left alone in the kitchen ( while my parents went to their farm). There was no stove; it was a wood fireplace. I can remember lighting the fire and cooking green bananas which my parents ate the leftovers after returning home. I still love Bananas and it’s still one of my favorite foods to prepare. I have prepared it at home in many different ways – ripe banana fritters, ripe banana cookies, green banana and cod fish salad, curry green banana crab salad, banana coconut cake, and banana mango ketchup which is great with roast pork or ribs.
ETC: What is the most under-appreciated or overlooked ingredient that you are a fan of?
FG: The most under-appreciated and vastly overlooked ingredient in Caribbean Cooking I find it to be Calabas or Caribbean Pumpkin. In most Caribbean dishes it’s used mostly as an ingredient in soups, puddings and cakes. However I find that I enjoy working and adding it to various dishes. The creamy sweetness of the flesh makes it a great combination when its diced and added to brown rice. It also goes great when it’s cooked mashed and added to garlic sauce, great for tossing with pasta. I love dicing it and adding diced apples to make a great stuffing for pork loin or chicken breast. It makes a great base for cheese cakes. And it makes a great sauce when cooked in brown sugar, rum, and cinnamon to pour over your favorite holiday dessert.
ETC: What is next for Chef Freda Gore and Caribbean Culinary Tours & Vacations?
FG: The next step for Freda Gore and Caribbean Culinary Tours & Vacations is to share and pass on what I have learned to others who has the desire to go into this area of the culinary field. When I started there was no prototype, no handbook. I learned through trial and error and learning from my mistakes, along with lots of internet and book research. There is a need for more local skilled cooks to get involved to teach and share more of their cultural cooking skills with others. This might not just be in the area of cooking tours or vacations but other areas which targets the tourism markets such as candy making, breads, spices or local preserves.
The Caribbean is a made up of different islands and every island has its own unique flavor and cooking styles which can be shared with the masses.
I find that most people do better when they have a mentor or guide. Someone who has been where they want to be and is willing to work with and guide them.
I am working on putting all that I have learned along the way together in a study guide, “Guide to starting your own Caribbean Food Home Based Business” , which I hope to have out at the end of 2015. In this guide I plan to feature “Starting a Food Tour and Culinary Vacation Service” along with other areas in the food and cooking industry where cooks can use their skills in the kitchen to build a profitable business and share their island’s culture and flavors with others. We are also planning to add some new caribbean culinary destinations, such as a Cuban Culinary Experience, a Grenada Spice Island Culinary Discovery Tours. Our future plans is to host culinary vacations in most of the Caribbean islands regions.
We’d like to thank Chef Gore for sharing with us here on Yes Chef! and look forward to her book and the new tour destinations! Stay tuned for more culinary conversations with the best and brightest chefs of the Caribbean right here on EAT The Caribbean! If you’re a chef, or know of one we should interview, connect with us on Twitter and let us know.