TeachingTraveling.com: Today we have an especially delicious treat as we interview Freda, a traveler who teaches cooking! Freda, tell us a bit about your background.
Freda: I was born on the Caribbean Island of Dominica, and my family owned the local bakery in my village. There, I got my early start in cooking and baking. Our family later relocated to the neighboring Island of Antigua, where we continued the baking profession and opened a bakery on that Island as well.
I continued working in the bakery while attending high school. After high school graduation I enrolled in the Kitchen and Pastry program at the local Hotel Training School. During my time at the Hotel School I was honored as head student of my class and was offered a scholarship to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, where I studied professional cooking and baking. I was later recruited by the Hotel Training Center as one of its Culinary Arts instructors: a position I held for 15 years until I relocated to South Florida in 1997.
During my time as a Culinary Instructor, I got the opportunity to visit different Caribbean Islands, and was always passionate about the local Island foods and cooking. It was fascinating to me to learn the diverse nature of our Caribbean Culinary culture, and even though most islands share the same types of fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, herbs, and spices, the dishes that are created from these foods are uniquely different.
After relocating to South Florida, it was a bit hard to find my place in my profession. I worked as a chef at some local restaurants, however I was not fulfilled; I missed experimenting with my local Caribbean foods. This led me to start my own catering and personal chef service, “Silver Palate Catering.” I operated my service for another 10 years.
I continued making visits to the Caribbean, and it was during one of the those visits, as I was standing at the Farmers’ Market on the Island of Barbados, that the thought came to me: I could start a tour service with a Culinary focus! Visitors coming to the islands already enjoyed the local foods, so why not teach them how to cook the dishes themselves? Indeed, Culinary tours were already being successfully offered in countries such as France, Spain, and Italy. Why not the Caribbean Islands?
TT: Fascinating! Can you explain the travel experience that really made you passionate about learning to teach cooking?
F: I was fresh out of High School and was not sure what I wanted to do with my life, when I undertook an important travel adventure. I was encouraged by my Dad to travel for a while, so I heeded his instructions and, with money that I saved from making my own pastries and selling them at school, I headed out on my own journey. My plan was to travel to the smaller neighboring islands.
The first Island I visited was St. Maarten, an island which is divided in two sides: the French side, French St. Martin, and the Dutch side, Dutch St. Maarten. On St. Maarten, I stayed with some of my cousins and got to enjoy the island’s out-of-the-way sites and local foods. On the Dutch side’s capital of Phillipsburg, I enjoyed dishes like Antillean Chicken made with St. Maarten’s famous guava berry liqueur. On the French side’s capital of Marigot, I dined on dishes like Lobster in Sauce Creole. I also learned some history of St. Maarten’s diverse Culinary Arts by touring the Marigot Bay Farmers’ Market.
My other stop was St. Eustatius, or Statia, as it is called by the locals. Statia is also a Dutch island and its close proximity to St. Maarten makes it easy to fly between both islands. I had a great time on Statia; the Island was very small and has some of the Caribbean’s most friendly people. I enjoyed a tour of the Quill, the island volcano. I devoured lunch at the famous Gin House, and had my first taste of Tai Maria liqueur. I also feasted on the Coconut Turnovers made by the local bakers.
TT: Yum! Please tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
F: There was a moment which taught me the art of giving which occured while visiting one of the Sulfur Springs on the island of Dominica. At these springs, you soak your body by lying in the natural pool for about one hour. This treatment is believed to heal one of stress, aches, pains, etc. I am not sure if it does, however I normally feel better after my soak, and I enjoy it!
It was the Operator of the springs, a Dominican Rastifarian, who moved me with his generosity. After my soak, the Operator presented me with a nice platter of fresh fruits he had harvested on his nearby farm. There were slices of perfect, juicy mangoes, ripe bananas, beautiful red watermelon, and sweetsop. That, to me, was hospitality at its greatest! He gave me what he had. It did not take much to make a huge impact!
TT: That’s so sweet! So, how have your teaching-travels impacted you in your current career, and as a person?
F: Teaching has impacted me as a person in that I feel I have something to share with others. I do not take this for granted; I am honored as a person to be doing what I do. Teaching others about my Caribbean Culinary culture and passing on to others what I have learned from my forefathers and mothers is a great blessing, and I feel totally fulfilled. When I tour a Caribbean Market or I stop by while a local fisherman brings in his daily catch, I am passionate about what I am observing and I feel truly blessed to be able to do what I do.
I had the pleasure of touring with a group of college students last January in Barbados, and it was so very satisfying to me to see them get excited as they learned the art of making some of Barbados’s local dishes. It’s times like these that keep me doing what I do!
TT: What advice do you have for others who are dreaming of undertaking their own teaching and traveling adventures?
F: To others wanting to take the path of teaching, I say to you: don’t let anything hold you back; just go for it! I am always amazed that whenever I think something is difficult to do, as long as I give it a try, it always works out. If I happen to make a mistake, then I learn from it.
There is so much information out there that was not there 20 years ago, and the Internet in particular has a bunch of resources. When I launched Caribbean Culinary Tours six years ago, I Google searched “Culinary Tour Services,” and was amazed at the information I got for free. I also asked a lot of questions from people who were in the same business. I read a lot of books on the topics of marketing, business startup, tour services, and beyond. I also believed in myself and believed in what I do. If you believe you can do it, then you can do it!
Here’s a quote from Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, which really inspires me:
“You can be anything you want to be, if only you believe with sufficient conviction and act in accordance with your faith; for whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
TT: Thanks so much, Freda! Now you’ve made me both inspired and hungry. Readers, if you want more of Ms. Freda Gore, check out her website, Caribbean Culinary Tours!