A Wish to Live With Block Printing

Traveling as diplomat children, we’ve been brought up in various cultures, always fascinated by the people, food, and crafts. My sister and I have always had a strong pull towards crafts, especially Indian textiles.  We’d always look to bring Indian textiles, jewelry, and crafts into our home. However, the truth is that it was hard to find the true treasures amongst the mass-market goods. Indian craft market was hidden in the villages with very few outlets in the mainstream market except for a few stores.

At the same time, my sister was working to finish her Masters in Textiles, specializing in the ancient technique of Block Printing with natural dyes.  The timing was right and with the passion for crafts and a desire to scour and promote craftsmanship. I quit my 11-year software engineering job to set off with my sister on a craft tour of India.

We met many artisans and their families and saw that most of them were connected with their art as a tradition passed down from their ancestors that they also wish to pass down to their children. We also visited a few NGOs that are supporting farmers, artisans, and women. And we loved it all!  With such history and tradition in making of a product, it was just not possible for us not to be part of it. And thus came about ichcha, or ‘a wish’, to live and encourage conscious living; conscious of the environment and of the value and life of the products created and sought.  indigo-curtains-drying-ichcha

Ichcha – A Wish to Live

While Ichcha is also about expressing our artistic side, it’s also about encouraging the artisans to find dignity in their art. “Ichcha for Artisans” is an endeavor to encourage the artist within the artisan, giving back 100% profits to the whole community that makes the product possible.  All hands are awarded the credit of being part of the end product; the treasure that makes it’s way into the customer’s home.

How we got started…

Back in the days, India, specifically the region of Rajasthan, was filled with multiple tribes who were known by the work they did. One of those groups was the Chhipas or Printers. They used to create the printed clothing for the various tribes in the region. Each design, with various motifs, specified your job or the tribe you belonged to. You could tell whether a person was a farmer or Metal smith by the printed shirt or turban worn.

The strict separation of the tribes has slowly dissipated but what remains are a few stories by the elder generation still keeping alive the secrets of the motif and the craft of block printing.

To the artisans we work with, the art of block printing has been their tradition and their way of life, for the past four generations. It continues now to the latest generation that strives to keep the family craft alive by finding new markets and ways to keep up with fashion. The only thing that remains true is the beat of the wooden block on the table, the 20 year old and 10 ft deep indigo dye vat, and the passion to continue.

What is Hand Block Printing?  

Hand Block Printing with natural or vegetable dyes is an ancient print technique. This art form has been around for years in India, and saw its most glorious years around the 12th century. Today, it is competing against the fast world, but surviving only because to the people who still value them.

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Step 1 – BLOCKING. Block means a wooden square piece with an engraved pattern on it.  This block is used to print on fabric – and this art is called block printing. The fabric is then commonly called block print fabric.

Step 2 – CARVING. Master block carvers, who have been doing this for many years, carve these blocks. These blocks are carved by a chisel and wooden hammer to form a design pattern.

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Step 3 – PRINTING. There are a couple of block printing techniques but the one that we work with is called Dabu.  Dabu is a mud resist made by mixing together fuller’s earth, gum and few other natural ingredients.  It is mixed into a paste not by hand nor by machine, but by foot, just like grapes were crushed to make wine in the yesteryears!

Once this paste is ready, the fabric is printed with a block using that resist.  The areas that are stamped resist any dye that the fabric is dipped in.

Step 4 – DRYING. Sun is crucial to this process.  At every step the fabrics have to dry in the open fields under the sun.

Step 5 – DYEING. After the fabric has been printed, it gets dyed. We work with dyes that are made with natural materials found in our surroundings, such as flowers, leaves, spices and various other natural metals.  Below is an indigo vat that has been going on for several years.

Step 6 – WASHING & DRYING. After dyeing, the fabrics get washed by hand. More so than not, block printing is a multiple step process where the fabric gets re-printed, re-dyed to bring out the designs we want.

Use Coupon code “goeatgive” to receive 20% off any purchase at   www.ichcha.com. Offer expires May 30, 2016.

~ By Rachna Kumar, co-founder of Ichcha, for Go Eat Give. 

An Introduction to Laos

Home to the beautiful Khone Papeng Falls (largest in southeast Asia), ornate temples, while being the “World’s Most Bombed Country” from the Vietnam War, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has endured a long history of hardships.  Like most countries in Southeast Asia, Laos has been a target for colonialism from France, as well as Japan. Laos gained independence as a constitutional monarchy in 1953 from the French but with the impact of Vietnam War, they faced their own arduous civil war (1953-1975) that resulted in the establishment of a communist government in 1975. Laos

Currently, Laos struggles to develop as a nation, however it does not stop their people from being known for their honesty and simplicity, often attributed to their Buddhist roots. A large part of Lao culture is derived from the influences of Theravada Buddhism. Even with the invasions from foreign nations, Laos was able to maintain their Buddhist religious culture from the eighth century.  Buddhism is a vital part of the people in Laos. Every village has a Wat (temple) where the people worship daily in the morning and the evening. The most revered Buddhist stupa is thought to be established since the third century, the Pha That Luang is covered in gold, and shines bright in their capital city of Vientiane. Although Buddhist influences dictate an important part of Laotian culture, there are influences far before the establishment of Buddhism.

muangngoi-laos-women-rice field workersMusic and food have been two consistent aspects of Laotian culture that have prehistoric origins. The khene is their national instrument created from bamboo pipes which is traditionally used to play folk music. The khene has uniquely Lao origins and is still used in ritual ceremonies and festivals to courting women.  Stick rice is another staple of prehistoric Lao traditions which has more meaning to their culture than one may think. They consume the most sticky-rice per person than any other country in the world.  Yet, it is more than a tasty part of their everyday meals. They see it as a vital part of their culture, some groups of Laotian people plant a unique khao kam rice near their home in reverence to their dead parents or they will plant it on the edge of their rice fields to indicate that their parents are still alive.

Laos-Khon Phapheng WaterfallThroughout their history of annexation and occupation, they are still able to maintain their culture and thrive in their agricultural industry.  Eighty-percent of their exports is surprisingly not rice! Laos is especially known in the southeast Asian region for their coffee production. They have ambitions to expand their market in beer production and have started creating a buzz around the world.  Laos still encounters many challenges as any other developing country but being able to preserve their culture over the past thousand years has been a remarkable accomplishment for a country that has been constantly exposed to foreign influences.

To learn more about Laos, attend Go Eat Give Destination Laos on March 19, 2016 at Pattaya Cafe in Atlanta, GA. Click here to learn more. 

~ By guest blogger, Lilly Iijima. Lilly is a student at Oglethorpe University pursuing a major in International Studies with a minor in Japanese. Growing up in a multi-cultural household, she has seen first-hand the power of personally experiencing a different culture to eliminate previous misconceptions. Through this work, Lilly is committed to educating others about different countries and regions while learning about them herself.

Add These Superfood Recipes to Your Diet

Most of us start off with a New Year’s resolution to eat healthy and loose weight. We go on salad only diets, avoid alcohol and sweets, exercise more regularly and try to convince ourselves, that we will burn off those pounds we accumulated through the holidays. But the truth is, most resolutions last about 3 weeks and majority of Americans gain 8-10 lbs. each year.

Perhaps this year you can try something different. Incorporate superfoods into your daily diet, throughout the year.  Superfoods are exceptionally healthy foods that are packed with nutrients and have health promoting properties. Can you identify some of these superfoods?

Photo courtesy ecowatch.com
Photo courtesy ecowatch.com

Here are some recipes using superfoods from Peach Dish to get you started…

The SuperFood Salad

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This hearty, filling salad is made with kale (high in Vitamins A, C, and K), wheat berries (packed with fiber and protein), almonds, olive oil (both healthy unsaturated fats), antioxidant-rich dried dark berries and pomegranate juice. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, and green soybeans, also known as edamame, add protein and iron. Learn more about the SuperFood Salad in this video.

Flatbread with Smoked Salmon, Artichoke & Arugula

superfood flatbread recipeSalmon has a high level of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and protein. Artichokes are rich in magnesium while arugula is packed with Vitamin K and antioxidants. Some added lemon zest lends extra Vitamin C to this flatbread, and we create a more healthful base by using whole wheat flour for added fiber and protein.

Sautéed Chicken with Cauliflower, Arugula & Date Salad

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Mediterranean ingredients jazz up everyday fare like chicken and cauliflower (the new kale of superfoods!). Salty olives and sweet dates are a tasty combination.

PeachDish is a Southern inspired, national meal kit delivery company. They are introducing a 2016 SuperFood Series this week, available now through February. Each refrigerated PeachDish box is packed with all the ingredients and recipes needed to make dinner at home. The Atlanta-based company ships nationwide and works directly with farmers and purveyors throughout the South to source the freshest ingredients. PeachDish’s in-house dietitian Mary Alice Shreve and Culinary Director Seth Freedman developed the nutritious, superfood-centric recipes as healthy menu options to kick off the new year.

The SuperFood Salad, incorporating 8+ different superfood ingredients, will be a mainstay on the menu throughout the series. Each week, a new SuperFood menu option will be offered. Expect dishes highlighting a variety of powerhouse ingredients, like wheat berries, pepitas, kale, edamame, and more.

~ Contributed by Laura Fryer of Blue Hominy Public Relations.

Eat Well and Give Back in Atlanta

Atlanta foodies, we’ve got something for you! Your chance at an inexpensive culinary tour around metro Atlanta has finally arrived with the release of the Atlanta DiningOut Passbook. This tiny book of two-for-one entrée deals features over 50 of Atlanta’s favorite eateries and over $1500 in value. Participating restaurants include Agave, STK, Apres Diem, Anis, Murphy’s, No Mas Cantina, McCray’s, Sun In My Belly, Meehan’s, Einstein’s, and dozens more!

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In addition to eating good, purchasing the passbook also benefits the non-profit Open Hands Atlanta. Look at you, you philanthropist foodie!

Enjoy the Atlanta DiningOut Passbook for only $39.99, regularly $99 with special discount code GOEATGIVEPASS2015. What’s more? DiningOut will donate another $10 to your favorite charity, Go Eat Give. That’s a win-win for everyone.

So start saving, eat well, and give back along the way!

Reminiscing about Brazil with Go Eat Give volunteer, Amanda Villa Lobos

Meet Amanda Villa Lobos, a 26 years old energetic and passionate lady currently volunteering at Go Eat Give. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with her for the last few weeks as we worked side by side on Destination Brazil. Since our initial encounter, I have been drawn to her perceptions of the world, largely because it’s very evident that she has travelled vastly. The experiences she has picked up along the way make her a wholesome individual. She tells me a little bit about Brazil and the memories she has of her beloved home country.

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When and where were you born?

I was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1988, and thereafter my family moved to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Most of my time in Brazil was spent there. My parents are diplomats so I lived in many countries across the world. However, I spent a total of about 8 years in Brazil, traveling back and forth.

What is your fondest memory about Brazil?

My favorite childhood memory is climbing mango trees and snacking on juicy yellow mangoes. I enjoyed that so much. I would look forward to the weekends just so I could climb mango trees. I would be the only one climbing, and I think it’s my love for nature that prompted me to do so. Despite living in Brasilia, I was very much in touch with nature. I remember making teas with different herbs that I picked up, and making juices out of fresh fruit that I would find.

You’ve travelled vastly around the world. What do you think sets Brazil apart from other countries?

The people! Brazilian people are very hospitable. They invite you to their homes and share their personal space with ease. Sharing a meal, amidst laughter and great music, with friends and family is the order of the day. The relations amongst people are deeper and there’s a deeper sense of belonging. Everybody is welcoming and friendly.

What’s your favourite Brazilian food?

Meat tastes way better in Brazil because the livestock is grass-fed. Brazil is a huge country and every region has something special to offer. Our food is also highly influenced by different cultures from Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia, because we are a nation of diversity. This is evident in the huge variety of food that we have. For example, while making Feijoada, a Portuguese black bean stew, the locals would mix the beans with water/broth with some pork ribs. But the best Feijoada was made by the African slaves, because they added the ears and tails, typically parts of the pig that were thrown away, to the stew that made it a richer, thicker sauce. Today this is one of the most popular dishes in Brazil that gets friends and family together over the weekends.

Coxhinia is my favourite pastry. It’s a little piece of dough that fits perfectly in your mouth, and it’s stuffed with chicken and cheese. It’s crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. It literally melts in your mouth. Cuscuz Paulista could also easily be one of my favourite dishes. It’s made out of different flours and delicately finished in the shape of a round cake. It has tomatoes, green peas and shrimps around it, and looks like a beautiful cake.

What do you miss the most about Brazil?

I miss the beaches. If I could wake up every day in Rio, looking at the sand and beautiful water with the waves breaking, then I would be the happiest person alive. There’s nothing more healing than being close to water for me. And people who live by the ocean are so peaceful, especially in the mornings, because they pass by the ocean before work and this gives them energy and Zen to face the day.

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~ By Christine Okwaro, event planning and fundraising intern at Go Eat Give. Christine grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in China and Switzerland. Her personal blog is www.thetravellers.de

Dreams Become Reality in Bali

Sadly, most children we sponsor do not even have a comfortable bed to sleep in – but that has already started to change thanks to new donations for mattresses.

One of the things that is shockingly apparent when we visit families of sponsored children is their poor sleeping conditions. We’ve teamed up with Go Eat Give to donate 8 new mattresses to needy families in Bali.

When Go Eat Give visited us recently, they asked us what they could do to help give immediate comfort to the children we help. Of course, mattresses was right at the top of our priority list.

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With all sponsorship funds going to support children’s education, it is sometimes difficult to provide things that we know families need – such as mattresses.

It’s a sad fact that the majority of children we sponsor don’t even have a suitable bed to sleep on. The families that were previously struggling with school fees simply don’t have the disposable income to afford mattresses.

Mattresses are often old, falling apart or simply thin sheets that are extremely uncomfortable.

A complete set of good quality mattresses, pillows and sheets can cost over $120 – more than most families make in a single month. It really puts it into perspective how much need there is for decent quality beds.I Putu Suandika 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Eat Give supporters clubbed together to raise $1,000 USD – which enabled us to buy 8 top quality mattresses for the most needy families on our sponsorship program.

Meanwhile, Tsarina, who recently sponsored Novianti had also asked if she could donate a new mattress to Novianti’s family. Tsarina had been to visit Novianti with our staff and had seen their sleeping conditions first hand.

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Our team had the pleasurable job of purchasing and delivering fully equipped mattresses to the delighted families.

We were greeted with huge beaming smiles of families that were so grateful to finally have something comfortable to sleep on. The children were especially excited with the rare gift.

The families of gone from only dreaming of new mattresses, to actually having them.

We are so pleased to be able to provide additional support for families of sponsored children. But we can only do it thanks to the support of kind donors.

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Soon we will be launching our Mattress Appeal, which aims to secure many more mattresses for the children we sponsor. Please stay tuned!

If you would like to donate a mattress, please consider giving $120, which will purchase a new mattress, pillows and sheets for a child. We will provide full receipts and photographs of where and who your mattress has been donated to.

Remember to mark your donation ‘to purchase mattress’. You can donate here.

~ By Aron Hughes at Bali Children’s Project (BCP). Aron is from UK and currently living in Bali, Indonesia, where he does marketing and public relations for BCP. 

7 trips that put families in close contact with local wildlife

Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Fulfill your family’s ultimate once-in-a-lifetime bucket list adventure by taking a dip with whale sharks – the biggest (and most friendly) fish in the world! From May to September, families staying at sister properties CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa can embark by boat to snorkel alongside these magnificent gentle giants where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. Though they measure up to 40 feet long and weigh in at 15 tons, whale sharks feed exclusively on plankton and are totally harmless to humans. Added perk: guests at the Cancun Marriott Resorts can check out a GoPro HER04 for the day to capture unbelievable underwater family photo ops.

Book your stay now with TripAdvisor
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Explore the Costa Rican rainforest

For an unforgettable nature-filled vacation, families should head to Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, spread across 900 acres of natural rainforest reserve in Costa Rica’s northern region — an area responsible for 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity. With more than 500 species of local plant and wildlife on property, kiddos just might spot a coatimundis, toucans or howler monkeys. Families can have nearby animal encounters with activities like horseback riding, ziplining through the trees, rainforest tours and more. As an added bonus, the carbon neutral resort offers an eco-friendly environment that teaches kids about sustainability and how to protect the area’s natural resources.

Book your stay now with TripAdvisor
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Swim with sea turtles in Barbados

SUP dude? For an unforgettable animal encounter, families will love Colony Club‘s stand-up paddle board (SUP) and turtle swim excursion. Starting out on the white, warm sands of Barbados’ renowned beach, families will paddle out to The Lone Star Restaurant, one of the local, turtle hangouts, and dive into the crystal blue waters to get up-close-and-personal with the island’s friendliest marine animals – the once-endangered population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles.

 

Hangout with reptiles in Curacao

Situated on a 27 acre plantation of rare natural preserve, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao offers an island-within-an-island feel with some of the most varied and exotic flora and fauna in the Caribbean. Through the resort’s eco-friendly, locally inspired Camp Arawak program, kids will love the chance to feed the resort’s resident iguanas. Plus, in between watersport adventures like snorkeling and paddleboarding, families can observe hawksbill turtles nesting along the resort’s private beach every July through September.

Book your stay now through
TripAdvisor

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Paddleboard with Dolphins in Jupiter, Florida

Hotel guests staying at the oceanfront resort can head to the nearby Blueline Surf & Paddle Co., and work up a sweat navigating the mangroves of the Intracoastal Waterways on a 90-minute paddleboard eco tour, where you might see manatees, dolphins and sea turtles. Complimentary beach cruisers are also available for resort guests to get the heart pumping as they explore the charming, seaside town’s iconic landmarks, including the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Loggerhead Marine Life Center.  

Encounter sea lions, blue footed boobies and penguins galore in The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species in the world, and Ecoventura’s fleet of eco-friendly cruises brings families face to face with daily excursions through the archipelago’s diverse islands. From swimming alongside sea lions (and plenty of curious sea lion pups) to watching the Blue Footed Boobies shake their feet in a mating dance, snorkeling with penguins off the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella. In a destination as pristine and protected as the Galapagos, wildlife wanders freely and fearlessly in the islands, meaning parents and kids are in for the trip of a lifetime.

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Kayak through a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico

A kayaking tour through the mangrove forrest of the Laguna Grande takes families to a secret hideaway — Fajardo’s bioluminescent bay. A short drive from San Juan, the magical waters are filled with millions of prehistoric organisms that when touched, leave a breathtaking glow in the moonlight. The excursion, organized by the family friendly San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, invites families to learn the history and science behind the twinkling trail in the bio bay while enjoying a ride under the stars.

Book your stay now through TripAdvisor

Feed alpacas and llamas in Cusco

The colorful city of Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley of the Incas is the perfect destination for adventurous families looking for a rich dose of culture. A short drive from the city center, Awana Kancha – a llama, alpaca and vicuña farm — brings families face to face with the region’s most loved furry animals in all shapes and colors. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by the resident animals eagerly awaiting to be fed giant handfuls of grass. The interactive feedings are followed by textile weaving demonstrations by the local women keeping the tradition alive. After a day long day of adventure, families can relax in  the historic JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, a 16th century convent turned hotel whose lobby is frequented by alpacas and llamas.
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~ Contributed by Julia Cavalieri, account coordinator at Diamond PR. Follow Julia on Twitter @diamondpr

Le Diner en Blanc brings Paris to Atlanta

On Sunday, September 132015, Atlanta welcomed for its second consecutive year, Le Diner en Blanc, a 25-year-old Parisian tradition of an all white affair that has now taken its showcase of elegance and friendship international.

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Surpassing last year’s attendance at the inaugural event, which took place at the Millennium Gates Museum at Atlantic Station, the dinner caught the eyes of over 1700 guests and shut down Peachtree Street for a posh picnic taken above and beyond our imagination of a plaid throw and a woven basket.

Le Diner en Blanc unites people from all walks of life each year in 60 cities across 25 countries. This year, Donae Burston and Cleveland Spears hosted the Atlanta event in partnership with Moët & Chandon. They delivered an exceptional evening of entertainment, camaraderie and celebration. Guests came dressed to impress in the finest white attire – gowns, suits, headdresses – you name it. Also suited for the event, Moët & Chandon featured Moet Ice Imperial packaged in all white and the only champagne of its kind to be served chilled.

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The location, unreleased until minutes before the event, nestled eloquently between the historic performing arts venue, The Fox Theatre and upscale Midtown hotel, The Georgian Terrace Hotel. Guests checked in at multiple locations across Atlanta to be shuttled to the top secret location upon its announcement. Atlantans brought tables, chairs, white linen and competitive decor along with homemade dishes to the outdoor party. Rebecca Kailer Downs sparked the evening with sensational tunes performed in French, truly setting the mood for an evening of Paris in Atlanta.

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The waving of white napkins from Ponce de Leon Avenue to 3rd Street signaled the commencement of dinner and concluded with attendees lighting over a thousand sparkers, illuminating Peachtree street. Now, the real party has started.

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Ashanti Floyd, also known as The Mad Violinist, impressed many as he skillfully performed hit songs on the strings of his violin. Based out of Atlanta and Los Angeles, DJ Hands of Grace followed with a set of Top 40, House and R&B that couldn’t help but raise guests out of their seats and onto the dance floor.

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Le Diner en Blanc Atlanta was an unforgettable evening of great energy, class and pleasure. Check out the official website to stay up to date with next year’s locations and dates near you. You don’t want to miss out.

Photo credits: Kayla Freeman

http://dinerenblanc.info/

Chef Spotlight: An Interview with Chef Fernando Franco

Executive Chef Fernando Franco’s name may not be as globally recognizable as that of restaurant tycoon Wolfgang Puck or television personalities Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsey but, to individuals within dining distance of Hyatt Regency Trinidad, his star power shines just as bright.  Anyone who has been been fortunate enough to taste his culinary creations –in the hotel’s full-service restaurant, its lobby lounge, sushi bar, or the rooftop bar and grill – enthusiastically sings his praises in between indulgent bites.

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Born in Argentina, a country of diverse culinary influences, it almost seemed predestined that he would eventually make a seamless transition into life in the equally eclectic Trinidad. For the past eight years, Chef Franco has been using his love for food and his dedication to his craft to produce memorable and tasty meals in downtown Port-of-Spain.

In the following interview, Chef Franco discusses his early inspirations, his global experience, and his intense passion for the culinary arts.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a chef and why did you decide on this career path?

I was 21 years old. I had just finished high school and I was still undecided about my future so I was doing odd jobs related to cooking to earn pocket money. Fortunately for me, I landed a job at Las Leñas, one of the largest Andean ski resorts in Argentina and there I had the privilege to work with many of the best chefs in my country. I enjoyed it so much that the experience set me on the path I am still on today.

What were your biggest food influences while growing up?

My biggest influence was my father.  We spent a lot of time cooking and bonding over food when I was growing up. But the truth is, I also grew up in a country where eating and drinking are deeply-ingrained pillars of our culture.  Unlike the fast-food type trend that has caught on in many places today, back in Argentina we take our time in the preparation and enjoyment of our meals. It was routine to go to a butcher to buy meat and then visit separate markets for poultry, fish and produce. Plus, mealtimes were unrushed affairs when friends and family got together to catch up on each other’s lives.

You have an illustrious 27 year work history and because if it you’ve lived in many different countries.  How have your experiences in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Hawaii and now Trinidad impacted your love and appreciation for food?

My love for food began before I ever set foot on a plane but working in several countries and traveling to others gave me the opportunity to learn about many different types of cuisines. As my knowledge grew, so did my understanding and appreciation of the international language of food. Working with other chefs who also shared my passion certainly added to the experience.

What attracted you to Trinidad and Tobago?

Before I moved here, I had never been to the Caribbean before so I was very thorough in my research prior to deciding to relocate.  I was attracted to Trinidad and Tobago because of its many festivals, and its rich diversity and culture excited me.  The local foods also seemed like a culinary adventure that would only expand my repertoire.

Trinidad is home to innumerable culinary influences that melt together in a multicultural pot of scents, tastes, spices and aromas. How does that inspire you to create new recipes?

The variety of local spices and produce, as well as the aroma from the Indian influence in the dishes and the way in which they are marinated with different meats all provide great inspiration for me. Fusing those elements with Hyatt’s food philosophy creates memorable dishes and flavors and tasty seasonal treats.

What are your best kitchen moments?

The moments associated with the opening of the meal period. The adrenaline rush I get from preparing multiple dishes side-by-side while adhering to the finest standards for all of them is unparalleled. It gives me true purpose in the kitchen.

What is your biggest worry?

That a guest many not be totally satisfied with my dishes. I am not successful if the diner is not pleased with what we have prepared.  I enjoy meeting the hotel guests and getting their feedback as it allows me to understand their likes and dislikes. Those open exchanges give me the impetus to be even more creative with my menus.

Are there any emerging trends on the food scene you’d like to tell us about? What types of menu inclusions are travelers requesting more of?

I think travelers are aiming to eat healthier foods and they increasingly expect their meals to be prepared by utilizing only the freshest ingredients. Here at Hyatt Regency Trinidad, we receive a lot of vegetarian and vegan requests from our guests and we have included a separate section on our menus for these options. Travelers also look forward to tasting the new spices and flavors used but they are not limited to any particular fruit or product. As food and beverage is also critical to the success of international meetings and we do so many of them here, I also ensure our menus reflect cultural or religious dietary needs and I inject local elements wherever possible.

Final question: do you have a favorite cook book? If so, what is it?

When I was younger, my favorite cook book was “La Cocina del Mercado” by Paul Bocuse. He is a famous French chef who is known for the high quality of his restaurants and his innovative approaches to cuisine.  After I left the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), I added “The New Professional Chef” to my must-have list. I think any aspiring chef should have both.

~ Contributed by Lesley-Ann Thompson of Cheryl Andrews Marketing Communications

Africa – Full of Promise

On the 9thof August, I attended Go Eat Give’s Destination West Africa at the Clarkson Community Centre. It was quite a mind blowing experience even for me, having roots in East Africa. I realized just how culturally diverse the African continent is and the special attributes of different regions that set us apart in a special way. Unfortunately, I haven’t travelled vastly in the continent of Africa, but this event definitely piqued my interest to explore West Africa in the future.

The guests arrived in large numbers and dressed for the occasion. The ensembles were quite impressive and most people went out of their way to showcase African fashion with glamour and poise. I interacted with a lot of people who had visited different African countries and some of them even spoke my mother tongue, Swahili.

Conun Drums, an Atlanta based all women’s group opened the event with a spectacular percussion performance of West African rhythms. They engaged with the crowd and had everybody singing and dancing along. The group of four women and two little girls was clad in colourful African attire, embellished with vibrant print and patterns. Needless to say, they have mastered the art of playing drums.

conondrums

Owokoniran Taiwo, a renowned Nigerian musician based in Atlanta, who has been performing for over 30 years entertained the guests with some African tunes. His band is very popular among the Nigerian community and has been known to perform in different events, festivals and weddings. He sang and played the keyboard beautifully. He was accompanied by a skilful drummer. I was surprised to hear him play a popular Swahili song titled Malaika, which means Angel, with such great ease. He sang it like a native. The other Nigerian tunes he sang were very soothing and made me quite homesick. I thought to myself how my father would have enjoyed Owokoniran’s genre of music.

The keynote speakers made great speeches with strong conviction. I was especially moved by the Honorary Consulate of Mali Vince Farley’s and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US Geoffrey I. Teneilabe’s speeches. They emphasized on the social and economic potential in Africa at the moment and how sustainable trade and tourism will contribute to the growth of the continent. They applauded Go Eat Give’s efforts at promoting cultural awareness and community service with their programs and Teneilabe called for more trips to West Africa in the near future. In the recent past, all that was heard from West Africa was the Ebola Crisis and this negatively affected the region. Teneilabe was keen on reminding the guests that the crisis has been dealt with in the region and Ebola is no longer a threat, which I am sure was a great relief to many.

vince farley

Their speeches resonated with me because they told a positive story of Africa. I have had the opportunity to travel around the world, and I have seen how the danger of a single story can have adverse effects in a society. Most people I have interacted with during my travels have usually had an unfavourable perspective of Africa, thanks to the media. Therefore I have taken it upon myself to always tell of the other positive stories that exist in my beloved continent whenever I get the chance. Also, most people group the continent into one entity, which is entirely false. We have thousands of diverse tribes, languages and cultures. I was happy to see Mr Vince Farley hang a map of Africa during his speech and pointed to different countries where he has visited and worked. It was very educational. He has served as the deputy ambassador in the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, South Korea, and Yugoslavia.

ambassador of nigeria Geoffrey I. Teneilabe

After the keynote speech the guests lined up to serve the delicious mouth-watering dishes prepared by Chef Okon James from Nations Café restaurants. I was eagerly anticipating the food because it was my first time to sample West African cuisine, and I must say I was quite impressed. My favourite dishes were fried plantain and Jollof rice, a popular fried rice dish in West African countries especially Nigeria and Ghana. Every dish was rich in flavour. I also tried Banku, a popular Ghanaian dish consisting of fermented corn and cassava dough mixed into a paste. Its acidic taste went well with the fried tilapia topped with bell peppers.

Other dishes included Chichinaga (meat Kebab), Vegetable Samosas, Puff Puff (an African snack similar to a doughnut), Ugba (fermented African oilbean seeds), Mafe (tender beef in peanut sauce), Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast, Fried Tilapia, Moi Moi (steamed bean pudding), and Red Red (black eyed peas cooked in palm oil). The dishes vary significantly from what we eat in East Africa. However, I was more than happy to indulge.

After dinner, we enjoyed a Manga African Dance performance by Ramatu Afegbua and her team of agile dancers. They moved the crowd with their ethnic sounds and body movements. Manga is actually a registered non-profit organization founded in 1990 by Ramatu with a mission to teach and preserve indigenous African cultural arts through dance, drums, songs and more. This was my most favourite performance of the day. They executed the true African spirit through dance and music.

manga dance

To close off the event, Sucheta Rawal made some closing remarks, thanking everybody for their role and participation to make the event a success. I extremely enjoyed myself and was honoured to be a part of such a great cause. I believe a lot of people left Destination West Africa having gained so much more knowledge, understanding and appreciation for West Africa, and more importantly, Go Eat Give’s mission.

~ By Christine Okwaro, event planning and fundraising intern at Go Eat Give. Christine grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in China and Switzerland. Her personal blog is www.thetravellers.de