Chef Francis organizes conversations over the table about the links between food, identity, and belonging at Food & Folklore.
Photo Cred: Chef Tamika Francis
Chef Francis draws on her unique background in geography and the culinary arts to create her food business, Food & Folklore. After following a career in public health, she gravitated to a career in food entrepreneurship, following a long lineage of grandmothers in Kingston, Jamaica. Each with their different ways of preparing traditional Jamaican delicacies, Chef Francis embodies her generational culinary expertise while exploring new food techniques and flavors.
Within Food and Folklore, Chef Francis initially asks, “What does home taste like for you?” While guests often can share their memories of home through food, she eventually draws connections between each guest’s history, drawing attention to major geographical international trade routes.
By focusing on how food is produced, distributed, and consumed, she hopes to organize dinners to allow diners to actively participate in a profound understanding of food production. Fascinated by geography, Chef Francis teaches the history of the human ability to grow and preserve foods while showcasing oral generational food traditions.
Her passion for this niche within the food industry began with her childhood memories on her family’s property in the rural countryside. Her first memories of food revolve around the farmland, where all produce and animals were raised and slaughtered on the property.
From these memories of seeing the process of producing meat and constructing a meal, she found these processes central to food creation. Although many chefs are concerned with the meal’s preparation, focusing on cooking techniques, Chef Francis sheds light on the connection between food production from seed to plate.
Chef Francis leads her virtual students to understand how bananas and plantains became iconic cultural dishes, from tostones, patacones, aloco, and bannann to maduros, through The Fundamentals of Plantain Cookery.
Working with Fairtrade banana farmers in the Eastern Caribbean, Chef Francis showcases how these trade routes reach the US and worldwide. With her unique perspective as a chef and global trade geographer, she traces the interconnectedness between cultures centering on the plantain.
Chef Francis gains inspiration for her courses from cookbooks, oral transcriptions, and historical artifacts. However, it is only through travel that she can reach local regions and communities to capture the stories that have yet to be well-documented. Her courses act as living artifacts illuminating the wealth and variety of oral food histories by tracing back through generations of food histories.
Chef Francis unlocks the visceral histories that tell the personal and political story of trade routes. She connects food traditions to the land by following international trade routes and political power struggles.
Encouraging conversations from her guests’ lived experiences, Chef Francis hopes to bring attention to international trade and politics in the food space. However, through Food & Folklore, guests can identify more parallels between people in food preparation, ingredients, and meal types. While her courses allow moments to reflect on our differences, Chef Francis teaches us to see our similarities.
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