Image courtesy of Chef La-toya Fagon
Inspired by Fragments of Epic Memory, the AGO’s three-part conversation series Foodways explored the intersection of culinary practices, memory and art. Each week a different renowned Caribbean chef joined AGO Executive Chef Renée Bellefeuille to reflect on their unique relationship with Caribbean cuisine and its rich history. The series is an extension of our Food & Beverage department’s ongoing commitment to artful programming; it will conclude at a later date with an in-person dinner created by the participating chefs.
Back in January, well-known Toronto-based Chef La-toya Fagon joined Chef Renée Bellefeuille for the third and final installment of Foodways. Chef La-toya is the founder and owner of Twist Catering, personal chef to the Toronto Raptors, and often appears as a food expert on The Marilyn Denis Show. During her Foodways appearance, she spoke about the beginnings of her culinary career, her time training in Italy, and the importance of dispelling myths and misconceptions about Caribbean cuisine.
We recently connected with Chef La-toya to ask her some follow-up questions.
AGOinsider: Thinking back on your culinary history, what are the three Caribbean dishes you most enjoy preparing and why?
Chef La-toya: Thinking back I would have to say my favourite Caribbean dishes to prepare would be oxtail with spinners (dumplings) served with rice and peas, Curry Goat and potatoes served with white rice and garden salad and then any form of soup with ground provisions. These are the dishes I love because they remind me of my mother and the time I spent in Jamaica. Just great dishes for the soul.
AGOinsider: Can you share the inception story of Twist Catering? How did you start the company, and what is your vision for the food you create there?
Chef La-toya: I started Twist when I was still working in the corporate world and I felt the industry was lacking in West Indian food and how they thought of it. I used to say, ‘We do eat more than jerk chicken‘ and ’West Indian food can be high-end, it is just in the presentation‘ But I still have a love for Italian food, so I wanted to bring the two worlds together. My vision has always been to create great tasting food and when you take a walk after eating, you just feel good and complete all around.
AGOinsider: You mentioned during your Foodways talk that you feel Caribbean cuisine is often looked down upon in the culinary world (over-associated with takeout and Styrofoam containers). Why do you think that is, and how can it change?
Chef La-toya: I think it is like this due to ignorance and how food bloggers or any that had a voice in the community perceive it. I do think things are changing a bit now as I see how the effect of West Indian food seems to have more awareness. The change will keep coming as more chefs push through barriers and get their food at the forefront.
AGOinsider: What is the most memorable piece of art or photography that you encountered in Fragments of Epic Memory and why?
Chef La-toya: This is a tough one lol. There were so many pieces that really spoke to me from the time you walk in and see that one particular structure of the person on stilts and looks like large feathers coming from behind them (Zak Ové’s Moko Jumbie). But I think I will say the old photos of women carrying the bananas and standing on the streets (a photograph from the Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs). For some reason those photos gave me strength. It represented how hard they worked to put natural food from the earth onto their tables.
In case you missed it, Chef Roger Mooking and Executive Chef and food stylist Selwyn Richards also chatted with us about their Foodways conversations and thoughts about Caribbean cuisine. Stay tuned for more art-focused programming from the AGO Food & Beverage department.