“We know you’ve been cooped up for so long. If you've been salivating about some of the pictures we've posted online, now's your chance to try all of that food at our food festival,” says Chef Selwyn. He adds, “We want to show off our food in all its glory for everyone to try. We invite you to come and have a taste in a safe and friendly environment.”
All of the food is prepared by Chef Selwyn himself, including 8 to 10 different food stations.
The menu includes these Caribbean favourites:
- Boneless Oxtail Sliders with Portabella Mushroom
- Onion Jam and Breadfruit Chips
- Ackee and Smoked Salmon Val-au-Vent
- Boneless Jerk Chicken
- Rice and Peas with Mango Salsa
- Roulade of Red Snapper Filet on Candy Yams
- Green Banana Casserole with Sweet Chili Glazed
- Rum Cake with Grapenut Ice Cream Guava Jerk Sauce
- Mango Cheesecake
- Rum Cream and Strawberry Coulis and more exotic dishes for guests to try.
But that's not all, a DJ will entertain guests with music and special door prizes will be held for attendees to keep things exciting and engaging. Tickets (covering three sample food stations) are available online for purchase at Eventbrite and at the door.
Journey to the Top of the Culinary Industry
Chef Selwyn was born in Jamaica. His inspiration for food comes from watching his mother cook and entertain guests. He started his culinary journey by making a fried egg sandwich with fresh bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and other ingredients for himself as a young teenager to avoid eating soup on Saturdays. His sandwich became popular among his family.
After migrating to Canada, Chef Selwyn's academic goals were to pursue engineering. One time, he took time off school and worked in the kitchen as a dishwasher. It didn't take long for him to help with food preparation where he once again fell in love with culinary arts.
“I realized that it was second nature. I liked how food brings people together and entertains everyone. I naturally gravitated into the food industry,” he relates.
Chef Selwyn studied Culinary Management at George Brown College and started his new career in the hospitality and food services industry.
For more than three decades, Chef Selwyn has been preparing delicious meals with artistic talent.
“Giving good food to people and seeing their reaction is the greatest feeling a chef can get,” explains Chef Selwyn.
For him, cooking is like breathing and good food is like medicine. “Other than providing you with fuel for the body, good food should sustain and nourish your body and take care of you,” explains Chef Selwyn.
He ensures that his meals are healthy and provide a healthier food option for his diners' wellbeing. He believes that chefs will play a big role in expanding sustainable food practices and prioritizing plant-based foods - going beyond meat. They will have the delicate task of keeping the flavour, texture, and presentation viable for foodies. “As a chef, I should take care of you,” he says. “It won't be long before chefs spend time 'engineering' food that's good for the body - much like a physicist finds solutions to engineering problems.”
Also, food is an art form for Chef Selwyn. “You have to figure out the chemistry of what goes together and make sure it's presented well. You should have a picture of the art in your mind so you can put it out there. The goal, as always, is to make it palatable for guests,” he states.
Chef Selwyn has worked his way to the top of his game. He was the first Black sous chef at the CN Tower. He was one of the opening chefs for the production kitchen at SkyDome where he managed his own department as head chef. He became an indispensable asset for a number of prestigious restaurants in and around Toronto.
Chef Selwyn's extensive experience, coupled with his talent for culinary excellence enabled him to start his own Caribbean restaurant called the Pepperpot Café, with his brothers. The café was closed in 2000 and Chef Selwyn ventured further into the catering business.
He had the honour of appearing on Celebrity Chef and was also featured at various industry festivals and culinary extravaganzas.
Chef Selwyn published a book titled “The Art of Cooking: Soul of the Caribbean”, which chronicles his culinary career and features food from the Caribbean.
“I want to help readers make delicious meals that will wow their guests,” explains Chef Selwyn.
He is a regular contributor to various publications such as Planet Africa Magazine, Wisdom, Pride, Extra, and Share newspaper.
Chef Selwyn is the CEO of The Art of Catering, which he runs with his two brothers Lennox and Travis. The catering company has a presence in the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.
Chef Selwyn also catered to some of the world's most powerful leaders, Prime Ministers, and political figures at home and abroad. He was the premier chef for Jamaica's 50th celebrations in Canada.
He also helps with food styling for TV and movie productions. He has contributed to a number of film and TV productions including Alphas, American Pie, Carrie, Cheaper by the Dozen and Covert Affairs, The Bridge, Poe, Soul Food, and Suits - to name just a few.
Chef Selwyn has been recognized as a professional and business leader. He was the recipient of the BBPA Harry Jerome Business Excellence award and the Planet Africa Award for Professional Excellence. In addition, the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) honoured Chef Selwyn with The Dr. Anderson Abbott Award in recognition of his contributions to the industry.
According to Chef Selwyn, it takes love and passion to become a successful chef with recognitions and accolades.
He believes that Canada has always had a vibrant culinary scene because it's a melting pot of the world's cultures. With that said, the industry still has a long way to go.
During his earliest years in the business, most chefs were from the UK, France, Germany or Switzerland - Chef Selwyn had an uphill battle as he broke glass ceilings and shattered stereotypes.
“French and German chefs were considered to be the best in the business and it was hard for somebody like me to become an executive chef. After a lot of struggle, I believe we have finally shattered all of those myths and have proven that if you're passionate about your craft, you can be just as good as anybody else,” explains Chef Selwyn.
He adds, “Also, we used to train newcomers for a role where they would become our boss. At no point did they ever see that we were qualified for the role. Our industry very recently turned a corner by recognizing talent regardless of race and background. But make no mistake there's much more left to do."
For aspiring chefs, he advises “Take it further. Have respect for it and get the proper training because it will allow you to survive and manage in the industry.”
He likes going to different places to try new cuisines, “I've had some of the best meal in the most unlikely place,” says Chef Selwyn.
Importance of Promoting Black Cultural Food
According to Chef Selwyn, the food in the Black Community is diverse and delicious. “But how can we collaborate and promote it to the world?” he asks.
He says that Caribbean cuisine is trending these days because people travel to the Caribbean, get familiarized with the flavour, and start craving for more of it. But people should go to authentic Caribbean restaurants if they want to relive that experience. The only problem is that there aren't many authentic Caribbean restaurants.
“I want to see a time where people can freely say, "its Caribbean night" because there are so many options for them that they can just go, sit down, and dine as they would for any other cuisine,” says Chef Selwyn.
He emphasizes the importance of presentation, “Not all food is presented as it should be. Some people shy away from it and think there's something wrong with it."
Chef Selwyn feels that food from the continent is not properly represented compared to Caribbean cuisine.
“They should do more to bring their food into the mainstream. Every country has at least one dish that everyone will love. The secret is for you to find out that one dish,” he advises.
Chef Selwyn would like the Black community to collaborate and promote its cuisine so that more people would enjoy it. He further says, everyone in the culinary industry has to play a part, “We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our food survives out there.”
Chef Selwyn’s goal is to mentor aspiring chefs in his community to go out there and succeed.
“Before the pandemic, I reached out to different community groups and taught a few culinary programs. We have something planned with the Black Business and Professional Association."
Chef Selwyn signs off by advising, “The pandemic has taught us that life is fragile. Don't take it for granted and love one another. Appreciate each other because life goes on. Be respectful and kind to one another. And as always, learn to appreciate food. Come to our food festival where we'll introduce you to exotic dishes.”