There is no greater joy than a bellyful of Caribbean food. Readers around the world can share that feeling starting April 2020, when the first collaborative cookbook by Hugh “Chef Irie” Sinclair, Cynthia “Chef Thia” Verna, and Island Origins publisher Calibe Thompson hits stands. The hardcover 240-page Caribbean cookbook titled “Taste the Islands: Culinary Adventures in a Caribbean Kitchen” will be available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. It’s filled with traditional and gourmet Caribbean recipes, interesting behind the scenes anecdotes from the making of the Taste the Islands TV show (which inspired the book), and colorful photos mostly by acclaimed photo artist David I. Muir. With our direct access, we were able to get the details on the book-writing process in the team’s own words.
“As executive producer of the TV series,” said Thompson, “I have a bird’s eye view to every angle of how it’s put together. Seeing the chefs grow as culinary professionals and as presenters throughout this process, facilitating the collaboration with the University Press of Florida, and being able to help tell the stories that tie the chapters together, makes me feel like I’m doing something really worthwhile for the legacy of our Caribbean contingent in the diaspora.”
“It was an interesting process,” Sinclair said about the journey composing this unique Caribbean cookbook. “From not knowing if it was going to happen, to getting word that we had found a publisher to work with us. Going through the motions of requirements like testing recipes and trying to adhere to deadlines was interesting because I had never done anything like that before. But it definitely was well worth the time.”
“It was really overwhelming,” said Verna about the project. Like Sinclair, “It was my first time being published, and it was no joke. It was a year-and-a-half long process so the ‘wait’ was heavy, but now that I can see a real book that I can hold in my hands, it’s a miracle and a blessing.
“I was able to bring a little bit of Africa, the Caribbean and the French to the project, so you could say you get to taste some of my personal Haitian history with the food that we made and the spices we used,” she shared.
In similar fashion, Sinclair mused, “The process allowed me to showcase some of the things that relate to my roots—from where I was born in Jamaica, to some of the things I’ve learned in the industry. Bringing my Caribbean heritage to the table I thought was both cool and important as part of the process.”
As for what they’d like people to take away from this particular Caribbean cookbook, Sinclair says, “I hope people see that Caribbean food is very multidimensional. It can be complex, it can be simple, but it’s always full of flavor. I hope that as they read and try the recipes, they’ll see how much love goes into cooking Caribbean food.”
Chef Thia appreciates how much of a milestone this is, another major accomplishment for a girl from Haiti with big dreams. “I would never in my life have imagined that I would be published, and by the University Press of Florida?! That’s huge! People need to know that if I can do it, we all can do it.”