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The 'Art' Of Culinary Persistence

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Life not only threw a curveball Selwyn Richards' way, but pots and pans too. When he emigrated to Canada as a young adult all of 19 years old, Richards envisioned continuing his academic studies in engineering science that began here at the then-College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), which he did for a few years in his newly adopted homeland, before heeding the call to venture down a culinary path.

“While working in restaurants and attending school in Canada,” Richards recalled, “I realised that I had a passion for food and decided to pursue a degree in culinary management at George Brown College.” Turns out, following that gut instinct proved not only a sensible life choice, but also a financially rewarding one. Richards went from being a sous-chef at the CN Tower and Executive Chef of Production at the Rogers Centre to owning and operating his own five-star Caribbean restaurant, The Pepper Pot Café, frequented by film stars and diplomats and used as a venue for music productions. Shuttering the eatery after a successful half-decade operation, in 2000, the chef, partnering with brothers Travis and Lennox, launched their current business, The Art of Catering, which provides catering services for a high-end clientele, festivals and government events, in addition to food styling services for movie and television productions.

Not yet done checking off his culinary bucket list, Richards' quest to become a cookbook writer – which began with being constantly asked for recipes at functions and inevitably leading to a 20-year compilation of favoured culinary concoctions – brought to fruition his first published work, The Art of Cooking: Soul of the Caribbean.

Back on home soil, Chef Richards was an ever-so-proud author two Wednesdays ago, for the local launch and signing of his cookbook, hosted at the upper St Andrew home of retired chartered secretary Carol Pryce. On the guest list was a contingent of Richards' friends vacationing from Canada, local chefs, tourism officials, and a fellowship of the invited curious.

Garnering sponsored support from the Jamaica 55 Secretariat, JN Bank, GraceKennedy, and the Jamaica Tourist Board, Richards' cookbook launch featured a live cooking demonstration by the man of the hour prepping a sautéed shrimp dish infused with Smirnoff vodka and Grace pepper sauce, and guests were afforded a taste of a number of his signature dishes included oxtail mini-sandwiches, ackee vol-au-vents, and curried tofu and rice and peas.

Thursday Food books a date at Chef Richards' literary launch event.