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April is Caribbean Parenting Month! Starting this month, we will be publishing stories and interviews of Caribbean parents and their children. They will share who they are, how they keep their kids connected to Caribbean culture, how being of Caribbean descent has affected their lives, and the how it has impacted the lives of their children. The goal of this series, and many of the other goodies we have in store for you this month, is to inspire to you introduce, or continue to expose your children to Caribbean culture.
Photo provided by Chris De La Rosa
It was SO hard to keep this interview under wraps! CaribbeanPot.com is my mom's favorite website (next to SocaMom.com of course) so keeping it from her might have been the hardest. As she went on about his herb garden yesterday, I broke and told her the interview was coming, but that was it. It was only a tiny hint, right?
Chris De La Rosa's following of loyal Caribbean food lovers speaks for itself. This author, entreprenuer, and Caribbean culinary guru is challenging how we think about Caribbean cooking. Spreading his love for Caribbean food using social media, his YouTube videos have received over 4.5 million views and counting, and his Facebook fan base rivals that of prestigious corporations, and pop stars. The joy he gets from his kids and his work shows throughout this two part interview. (Read Part Two here.)
Socamom:For many of us who blog, or run a website, it isn't our full time job. What is your occupation and how long have you been in that line of work? What made you choose it?
Chris:I’m an Internet Marketing Consultant by trade, which means I’ve been working from home, or anywhere I can get an internet connection, the past 15 yrs. The joke is we’ve never had to pay for baby sitting or day care for our three girls. When my wife went back to university and started working full time, 12 hour shifts, I was always home. I quickly learned to braid our daughters' hair.
The past 2 years have seen me make a transition to something I’m very passionate about – food and the culinary culture of the Caribbean. I anticipate that within the next 6 months I would be fully transformed into an internet chef. I worked from home when it was in its infancy and I think I’m breaking new ground by being a full time internet chef.
I chose Marketing Consulting as I was very intrigued by the newness of the internet back then. I still remember the screeching sounds from the modem connecting back in the day. The internet Chef thing came naturally and to be quite honest it does not feel like a JOB! So I’m having a ton of fun. I’m probably the only chef who cooks for over 1/3 million people a month and they’ve never tasted my food.
Socamom: Your fans probably speculate about what you do all day, but tell us, what is your typical day REALLY like? What about your daily routine do you believe that people would find the most unusual?
Chris: Most unusual? The fact that I make my own schedule since I work from home, yet I’m up at 5 am every morning, even weekends, as if I have a traditional 9 to 5 job.
I’ll give you a glimpse into the first 4 hours of my day... start the computer and get freshened up while my tea steeps. While I enjoy my morning cup I scan through my websites, then the news sites and finally the social media fix. Then it would be time to drive my wife to work or go get her from a night shift. When I get back its time to wake our girls for school, which is always a battle, make them lunch and referee their daily fights for clothes (who took what from who). After driving them, it’s time for another cup of tea, then work starts. If it’s a day I’m filming and documenting a recipe for the website, I take about an hour to plan out the recipe itself and how I’ll stage the recording. Somewhere in there I find time to answer emails and touch base with my assistant who lives in the Philippines.
Socamom: So you have the job of fashion referee as well! I just have one girl, so I don't have that. How many girls do you have and how old are they?
Chris: We have three girls, who are 16, 18 and 19.
Socamom:I find myself thinking about my kids' personalities whenever I am making decisions for them, like where to go, and even what to eat. How would you describe your girls?
Chris: India is 16. [I would describe her as] impatient, loving, [and] devoted. Tehya is 18. [I would describe her as] independent, zealous, and inquisitive. Kieana is 19. [I would describe her as] benevolent, assiduous, and charitable.
Chris De La Rosa and his daughters at Carnival - Photo Credit: Chris De La Rosa
SocaMom: What are some of the most creative methods that you have used to keep your children connected to Caribbean culture?
Chris: Food! Not just doing a recipe with them, but taking them out to shop for ingredients. The shopping trip always include how to shop, so I explain how to touch, smell and ‘look’ at the ingredients… at the same time consider how you’ll prepare it. Which ingredient will complement each other and the shelf life of the ingredients so they know how long they have to get the dish prepared before the ingredient goes bad. Ingredients which may seem exotic and intimidating for most North Americans, our girls are very comfortable handling and choosing the perfect fruit or vegetable. Another game we play when we dine out (Caribbean type meals) is if something is not perfect, we get them to suggest to us how the dish could be improved or what is missing. They’re very good at identifying flavours and can even spot errors when I cook [That doesn't] happen too often.
It’s also amazing to see when they can identify which region of the world has influenced the Caribbean dish we put together. So not only are they leaning about the foods of the Caribbean, the ingredients used, but the history of the dish itself.
Chris De La Rosa’s love of Caribbean cooking has taken him from a small village in Trinidad and Tobago to millions of kitchens around the world, thanks to his website CaribbeanPot.com. Launched in 2009 as a place for the self-taught chef to share his favourite Caribbean dishes and document family recipes for his daughters, the site, which has more than 385,000 page views a month, has grown to include a Facebook page of 27,000 fans, a newsletter with 24,000 subscribers and a Youtube channel that has amassed about 4.6 million views.
From the time Chris was just five-years-old, he was already comfortable in the kitchen, thanks to his mother’s insistence that he partake in daily chores such as picking fresh herbs from the family garden. Gathering cooking tips from other family members along the way, Chris was well equipped, by the time he moved to Canada in 1989, to fend for himself among the pots and pans. Not limited to Caribbean cooking, Chris also mastered North American fare such as barbecue. However, his heart belonged to the Caribbean recipes on which he was raised.
Download the Caribbean Parenting Month Press Release here: Caribbean American Blogger, Eva Greene-Wilson Kicks off Caribbean Parenting Month, April 2013 (99.71 kB)