Carlene slices into pudding marketTuesday, October 13, 2020
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
IN the 1990s she raised temperatures as Dancehall Queen Carlene, the scantily clad temptress of popular culture. Fast-forward two decades later and she is creating heat in a completely different way.
Carlene Smith (her full name) just launched a line of sweet potato pudding which is being marketed to a local and international audience.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, the soft-spoken Smith shared that her skills in the kitchen are legendary among her family and close friends, and noted that for those in the know, entering into the culinary business is no stretch. She, however, admitted that the general public who knows nothing outside of her dancehall queen persona, this might take some time for them to wrap their heads around.
“Those who know, know,” she quipped.
“I'm sure there are doubters out there who don't believe I can handle myself in the kitchen. I guess I will have to make a video for my Instagram page and let them see me making my puddings. But the truth is I can cook, I have won a number of celebrity cooking competitions and they just have to ask my family. My daughter wouldn't mind if I cooked every single day,” she said.
Smith noted that her love for cooking developed as a teenager living with her father, who was a vegetarian. In a bid to diversify his meatless meals, she said she became creative and her passion for preparing meals developed.
“I just had to come up with various options that did not have meat or milk or eggs, or cheese. I always loved desserts so I started with the sweet potato pudding and got really good at it. My puddings became really popular among my family and it has only gotten better over the years,” she said.
“In 2017 House of Dancehall got underway and we were doing a weekly event. The head of the company, Michael Dawson, said he heard of my cooking and suggested that I sell it there. The pudding took off... it was really popular. But then a number of things happened. I had to take some time off and went overseas, then came COVID and things basically came to a standstill.”
She said it was the complaints from her niece and nephew who lived overseas about not being able to get her puddings that was the real spark to moving this hobby into a business venture.
“Ayana and Elijah (her niece and nephew) kept calling and telling me that is was not fair that quarantine and lockdown had prevented them from getting their pudding and just told me to find a way to send them their pudding. So I just began sourcing organic sweet potatoes from Jade Lee's Little Orchard Farms in Linstead. Then I had to figure out how to ship the puddings overseas. I then discovered Okeile Stewart of Aisle 876, and that was just sorted out.”
It's early days yet for Smith's latest business venture but already she is deep into the throes of production to meet her orders and deadlines.
“I have a small team which includes my daughter Crystal, advisors Angela Thame and Sonya Stewart, my friend Ryan as well as Dickie, who is my go to person and sounding board. We are so excited about this project, especially when we see the reaction and support from persons on social media. I was up all night baking to fill my orders and they are just coming through... it feels really good,” said Smith added.
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