I was born in the road. My mom was hurrying to go to the hospital and she didn’t reach, so I was born in the road. I was born in 1971. My father is a Trinidadian, and my mother is a Grenadian. After about two years my father went back to Trinidad and I remained with my mom.
Growing up with my mother, my mother always turned her hands to cooking. She would cook little things like tarts, bake; she loved to cook. I took it from there and I used to always say, “I want to be a cook just like my mom.” She cooked to sell, to make a living – little things like roti, pone. She did a little catering.
I started school at the Birchgrove RC, in St Andrew’s, and then I went to Grenville Secondary. I didn’t finish. I left in Form Four. I was 17. I went home and furthered myself in cooking. The first place I went was Home Made, a bakery where they do catering. I spent about four months there, then I left. I went to a place called the Carenage Café and I met an Italian man there, Alberto, and he knew I was not a lazy person and I was always interested in cooking, so he took me to train at Spice Inn. I spent six weeks in training; he had an Italian chef that came from Italy and I did a course with him. I learned 11 different pastas and pizzas. I left and went to Canada. I didn’t do nothing like cooking in Canada! When I came back to Grenada I went back to Alberto and cooked with him.
I went to Rex Grenadian in 2002. Every three months I would ask them to change me, don’t leave me on one thing. From the pastry room to the pantry, from the pantry to the original kitchen they call the Oriental – that’s the à la carte menu – and I went to the buffet and started doing lunch. From working with all those different chefs I have the ability to do everything: I can do pastry, breads, Italian, Chinese – I learned a little of everything. I left Rex in 2005 and went to Grand Beach in 2006. When I was working at Grand Beach I got to know about here, and came in for an interview and they took me on in 2007. I’m the head cook.
When I was about 15 I had to cook Sunday dinner, local dishes like callaloo soup, rice and peas, macaroni pie, provision. I don’t think I took my mother’s tricks. I think I do my own thing. They used to use a fireside, cooking on the wood, and I used to look at her and say, “Eh eh! I don’t like that!”
My favourite dish when I was growing up? Oil down. I love oil down. Oil down is our main dish here on the island. It’s coconut milk and breadfruit with callaloo and saffron to flavour it. If you want to add any meat to it you can, like salt meat, or chicken. In those days they used to have something they called corned pork: they cut the meat, put salt and pepper in it, and they left it for two weeks, sometimes three weeks, for the salt to go through it. You take it out, wash it and boil it to take the salt from it. You pass that through the breadfruit in the oil down. I cook oil down for the guests now. We don’t cook it as a main dish, but if guests request you do it for them, you do it. They love it.
We do rice and peas, too; sometimes we serve it with a whole snapper, which we might stuff or grill. To make rice and peas I will sauté my onion and garlic, put my pigeon peas in it, let it fry a little, and when the oil goes through the peas I will pour my hot water and season it up, give it a touch of the Grenadian seasoning, add coconut milk, and put in the rice and cook it until it is dry. Grenadian seasoning is parsley, thyme, seasoning peppers…we have a lot. We blend all together and make our own seasoning.
The difference in our cuisine here: things are more tasty because of the different spices that we use. Over there [in Canada] they make everything from a can and that’s it. We start from scratch to make our dishes so they more fresh, so you get a better taste.
I love to cook. I take pleasure in cooking, especially when the guests call you and say, “That dinner was marvellous.” You always try to see that it’s good, and say, “Tomorrow let me do a little better.” That’s my philosophy. I’m happy being a chef.
Janice’s festive foods
Christmas food in Grenada includes a lot of our traditional dishes. We might do a black cake, or a sweet potato pudding. Black cake – most people call it a pound cake because you use a pound of everything that you can find: a pound of raisins, a pound of cherries, a pound of mixed peel, a pound of prunes, a pound of currants. Sometimes I use our orange peel, candied, and make my own mixed peel, and put it together with my fruit to give it that Grenadian flavour. You also put rum. Our rum is strong, so you’re going to get a strong alcoholic taste. Sweet potato pudding, you could put anything you like in it: a little piece of pumpkin, some people put tannia – we put tannia here – a little coconut milk. Put them together, season it up, you put your spice, nutmeg, lime peel, and you bake it.
At Christmas we make sure we use local green pigeon peas. Sometimes we serve them in a soup. We make sure we roast a turkey. We must make sure the gravy has some local spice in it. We do a ginger and honey glaze.