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Everybody loves Raymond’s cooking
By Vernon Khelawan Wednesday, August 24 2011
Raymond, who was captain of the Trinidad and Tobago team which took part in the recent CHA competition in Miami and won a whole bunch of prizes and trophies, agreed to talk to me, but as is the wont of most cooking people, he insisted that I “taste his hand” and decided that I be treated to a special menu while we chatted.
That he would have wanted to be involved in the food industry was not surprising, since mother Annette made her living in Laventille as a small caterer. And according to Raymond, “Mom was a very good cook, although it was quite different from what I do today and actually helped my outlook on food, since many were the occasions on which I helped her prepare her orders.”
Interestingly, Raymond pointed out, the shoe is on the other foot, since now when he has outside catering, Mom helps him with the preparation. He added that although he was now an accomplished chef, his mother’s influence still lives with him, particularly when he is working on certain dishes, which remind him of her when he was a boy at home helping her in the kitchen.
The 37-year-old, single chef was born, grew up and still lives at Snake Valley in Laventille, the youngest of five children. He received his primary schooling at Eastern Boys in Port-of-Spain, while two schools shared his secondary endeavours – Success/Laventille Composite and South East Port-of-Spain Secondary. He began his life’s dream at the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI) in Chaguaramas, from which he graduated.
Raymond is where he is at today by defying his father. As expected on leaving secondary school, his dad wanted him to seek what he described as a “good job.” And although he did not specify what career he wanted Raymond to pursue, it certainly was not cooking. Obviously when he made known his preference to Daddy, it was “definitely not!”
But the young man was persistent and sure of where he wanted to go, so as he put is, “I went behind his back and registered at the TTHTI. Naturally when he eventually got to know about it he just went ballistic.” Realising that becoming a top chef was what his son wanted, he relented and wished him well.
Raymond has been a chef for more than 16 years. He spent ten years at the Cascadia Hotel before joining the Courtyard Marriot as Executive Chef. He said he was grateful for the opportunity to work at the Courtyard Marriot because it is the only hotel in the country where a local heads the kitchen.
But Raymond is feverishly ambitious and felt he needed to do more…much more. He enrolled in a course in Human Resource Management at a tertiary institution in St Augustine and completed his first year with outstanding results.
Because his job takes up so much of his time, he has been forced to postpone continuation of his studies, but said he was now in the process of organising his time so as to allow him to pick up where he left off and move on to complete the HR course.
Asked why he had chosen Human Resource management, Raymond explained that running a kitchen was managing people – chefs, sous chefs, cooks, assistants etc – so proper training in that discipline, would “make me a better manager.”
When Raymond and his team went into competition at the Hyatt Regency in Miami recently, it marked the fifth year he was part of the Trinidad and Tobago team, except that this time he was serving as team captain.
In the competition were teams from ten different countries in the Caribbean and organised by the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA). The Trinidad and Tobago team, although it did not win the “Chef of the Year” contest, was still able to capture gold in that category through chef Devon Joseph (no relation). They however won the “Team of the Year.” The TT contingent also copped silver placing second in the Junior Chef category. More silver was won by Jeremy Lovell in the Beef category while in Sea Food category Aldric Cumberbatch also took silver. In the bartenders contest team member Daniel Jones emerged as Bartender of the Year.
Raymond said he loved to participate in the annual competition and although as captain he was not actually involved in the cooking, he was proud of his team and what they had achieved, not only for themselves, but for Trinidad and Tobago.
What’s the next step? “I’m aiming to become the hotel manager.”