Lime interview - Eating & Drinking
The Art of Caribbean Cuisine
Invoking memories of Sunday dinner at mum’s house and thoughts of slowly sinking into a food coma at the end of the night, Caribbean food forever has a soft spot in the hearts of many of us.
Lime magazine talks to award winning, Caribbean Chef of the Year and head chef of Veranda, Anthony Cumberbatch about why Caribbean cuisine is so important to him.
Was becoming a chef always what you wanted to do?
I was born in London but was sent to Barbados to live with my grandparents, I stayed there for nine years. That was where you could say I learned the skill of cooking, my grandparents had a farm there, with everything from pigs, sheep and cows. It was either becoming a chef or going into hairdressing, but cooking won simply because of my background with my grandparents.
When did you become interested in cooking?
I became interested in cooking through my grandparents, my grandmother used to do everything, cooking, baking, the lot.
How would you describe the food you create?
I would describe my cooking as modern. Caribbean food can sometimes just be slopped flat on a plate, but I like to work from the middle up, for instance my dish with the money bags, ackee can look like scrambled eggs, I like to make it look presentable.
You recently changed the menu, what was your motivation behind the change?
It was due to the clientele and the people we get coming in here. Also I love to work with things like lobster, when the author Iyanla Vanzant came over I cooked lobster for her and it sold like hotcakes. I also wanted to put the soft shell crab back on, and other than chicken I wanted to create something new. There is nothing like this here around at the moment in Brixton or in South London.
What are you favourite ingredients to use when you are cooking?
Garlic and All purpose spices; those are the two main ingredients I use.
What is your favourite dish?
It has to be fish; I’m in the gym, trying to be healthier so I’m really into fish at the moment. I like the Escovitch and the Three fish because I like the way it sits on the plate and looks to the eye.
When you are not working, do to you prefer to cook or be cooked for?
Be cooked for, I like to go out and eat, sample other chef’s dishes. Just a couple of weeks ago I spent some time in Kent and had oysters. But I’m a simple person I can enjoy a lasagne and be happy.
What do you think about the future of Caribbean food in the UK?
I think someone will come and take it to the next level, people don’t know a lot about Caribbean food, they know about jerk chicken and patties but as a whole Caribbean food needs to become more mainstream.
Explain the concept of “nouvelle Caribbean cuisine.”
It’s a new style, a new world cuisine. Caribbean food can look poor; we need to be on the same standard as other styles of cooking. It always comes with a bowl of plain rice, some curry and some salad, we need to be on the same sort of standard as Gordon Ramsey.
If you are not a trained chef, what attribute must you have to be a good cook?
Common sense, without common sense and co-ordination, you need to have an eye for it, it’s like art, otherwise forget it. Sometimes it can be taught but sometimes not.
Where in London reminds you of the Caribbean?
Kent, because of the water, the smell of the sea and the fresh air.
Where in the Caribbean would you recommend we visit [bars/restaurants]?
The Cliff in Barbados.
Dr Maya Angelou and Still She Rises