It is one thing to want to cook your own food, to want to start a venture and have a vision of what that looks like, it is quite another to actually do it.
Answering basic questions like 'what should the business be called'...such a simple question and yet trying to incapsulate the ethos of what we are trying to achieve here in just one word took a lot of time and thought. We finally arrived at the name 'Myristica' (pronounced 'mer-wrist-sticker'). Myristica is from the latin name 'Myristicaceae' the only tree that produces two individual spices: nutmeg and mace. Having visited the Caribbean we have seen these trees growing numerously, producing vivid yellow fruits that are about the size of your palm, seeing them open up to reveal a deep brown oval pod wrapped in striking red fronds of mace, the smell of them together lingering in the air against a backdrop of verdent tropical undergrowth (...take me back already!), this is a memory that will last a lifetime...but I digress...
I have always wanted to lift the food of the Caribbean to a new level.
Not that there is anything wrong with jerk chicken or curried goat, as dishes like these are close to my heart and culture. If we look back in history, these meals were born from slavery and how they were created is what provides us as a people with the culture we have and the firm place that food has within it. Food for us is a joyous occasion, somewhat an escape from reality and a time to bring enjoyment to one's very being.
Family life in the Caribbean is very important and the homely dishes created in your Mother's (and often your Grandmother's) kitchen is a big part of that. Family gatherings are a time for interaction and lively discussions where each member of the family brings their best dish adding to the repertoire of the occasion...I'm already looking forward to our next one...I know that Aunty Judy will be bringing her famous macaroni cheese (it may get there late but we are all eagerly waiting for it each and every time!), my cousin Anthony's potato salad is incredible...and that's before we even mention my involvement...
I have fond memories of the stalls in Jamaica taking my order at the side of the street before hacking up the chicken with a trusty cleaver with the cloud of smoke from the oil drum BBQ drifting the smells of spice to my nose, making my mouth water...
However, the Caribbean has so much more to offer than just a few dishes and then I got to thinking: Could we transform the fantastic array of ingredients available in the region into new and exciting dishes? Can the food from the Caribbean ever be presented in a fine dining context? Could it make it to the tables of one of the world's leading restaurants?
Take Italian food, for example. Nobody would say that the humble spaghetti bolognese defines Italian cuisine...not least because it isn't actually a dish invented in Bologna. Only the very brave or particularly ignorant would ask a Bolognan for a spaghetti bolognese and yet that is what we think their dish is.
Firstly, the pasta is wrong.
Secondly, the type of meat is wrong, as is the way it is cooked.
Thirdly, the use of garlic and herbs in the sauce is wrong.
Lastly, and most comically, even the name is wrong.
Anyway, I love Bologna far too much to start a full rant, but if you are a serious Foodie and want to know the truth about this dish then you can impress your friend's by reading this article.
Back to my point: Italian food is influenced by the Barbarians and the Romans (to name two) but if you ask any Italian who the best cook in Italy is they will most likely look you straight in the eye and say 'my Grandmother'. Caribbean cuisine is similar in that way. Our dishes are cooked the way they are, it is how it is done, it mustn't be challenged or changed. Ever.
Confession time: I LOVE Netflix, especially the cooking shows like Chef's Table and the very first episode I saw blew me a-w-a-y. It was about a Chef called Massimo Bottura who turned Italian cuisine on its head and brought it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, whilst still managing to stay true to the traditions and culture that make Italian food so tasty. Needless to say, initially there was an uproar, but his restaurant Osteria Francescana has been crowned the best restaurant in the world, even to this day (December 2018). So he must be doing something right...right?!
Then I heard about Gaggan Anand and his challenging people's perceptions of what Indian food could be. Gone were the days of curry and rice, he pushes boundaries. These Chefs are exciting, they are pioneers and they excited me.
I wanted to lift the food of my culture to a whole new level.
To the best of my knowledge, there are no Caribbean restaurants that have achieved the coveted Michelin star. I am a classically trained Chef who has cooked in several Michelin starred kitchens, I am used to fine dining and all that entails, but I have never seen Caribbean food lifted to a fine dining level.
...It is this that we are seeking to change with the Myristica Supperclub.
That sight of seeing people who are serious foodies taking their first bite of a dish that looks stunning, but has the tastes of the Caribbean resonating through it and delivered in such a way that challenges preconceptions, that breaks new ground - that is what Myristica is all about.
Like the fruits of the graceful Myristica tree that gave us our name, we want to create strikingly stunning dishes that remain true to the tastes of the Caribbean but belong in a fine dining context. I am a firm believer that there is a place at the table (did you see what I did there...?) for West Indian cuisine among the elite restaurants in the world and somebody needs to be first to sit in that seat...so why couldn't it be us?!