Hamilton YouTuber who demonstrates Caribbean cooking among recipients of fund for Black creators

The #YouTubeBlack Voices fund works on allowing Black creators to increase and expand their content on YouTube.

Chris De La Rosa, Tosin Ayeronwi of Ottawa among Canadian creators chosen for the fund

Caribbean cuisine is what connects Chris De La Rosa of Hamilton to home. (Submitted by Gerard Richardson)

Chris De La Rosa wants you to know that you can make Caribbean food no matter where you are in the world. 

"It's important for me to put all food and all culinary culture in a positive light," he said. "And not just that, but in a niche that breaks it down so anyone can make it no matter where in the world they're based." 

The Hamilton-based creator does all that and more on his channel, CaribbeanPot — which is shy of 800,000 subscribers. His videos have also garnered a combined total of 90 million views.

De La Rosa's channel is the YouTube counterpart of CaribbeanPot.com, a blog he started as a way to collect recipes for his kids to make someday and document the rich cuisine he enjoyed while growing up. 

Now, the channel is part of #YouTubeBlack Voices class of 2022, where creators on the site receive funding and support to help grow and enhance their YouTube channels. 

YouTube announced the program in a 2020 blog post that outlined a multi-year, $100-million fund to amplify and lift Black voices and ideas. 

Tosin Ayeronwi of Ottawa hopes the fund will help her upgrade her channel, BGT, which has vlogs, life updates and conversations pertaining to her Nigerian audience. (Submitted by Tosin Ayeronwi)

De La Rosa is one of five Canadian creators — including Tosin Ayeronwi of Ottawa — who have been chosen for the fund. 

With additional funding, he plans to tell the bigger stories behind the food he makes. 

"I want to tell the stories further of not just the food, but where the food comes from. I want to tell that story as well. I don't want to always be in the kitchen." 

Creating the taste of home in Hamilton 

Many of the meals De La Rosa knows and grew up with aren't documented, and they don't have precise measurements. 

"I had to create everything from scratch," he said, "and I wanted it to be very easy for them to recreate the flavours that they enjoyed growing up, even right here in Canada." 

Growing up in Trinidad, he said, everyone knew how to cook — whether you were a boy or girl. 

"My parents have two boys and two girls, and they never assigned gender roles back then as would be normal in the Caribbean and many other places," he said. 

"My mom always wanted her sons, especially her boys, to be independent and do their own thing." 

When he was in his mid-teens, De La Rosa immigrated to Canada, where he lived with his aunt and cousins in Hamilton.

Inspiring other Black creators 

After he was required to make some of the meals, he realized he wanted to have a taste of home again more than ever before.

"When [...] it's -20 degrees outside, it's overcast, it's snowing, you want to feel like you're part of the Caribbean again." 

When it comes to reaching out to other Black creators on YouTube, De La Rosa finds his inspiration is helpful to those creating similar content.

"If you look now, you'll find 15, 20, 30, 40 different channels with the same sort of topic that I've been doing since 2009. And if you look closely at the way they present their work, the way they edit, the way they shoot, the way they speak on camera, you will see elements of my channel on those.

"I have personally reached out to a lot of these other YouTubers, these Black YouTubers, Indian YouTubers — whatever race they are, and I say, 'Can I help, how can I help? I've been doing this for so long.'" 

'The space has room for everyone'

Although what they do can come across as copying the content that he creates, De La Rosa reminds himself the creative space of YouTube and other online platforms is for everyone. 

"The space has room for everyone," he said. "It's not a competition." 

Tosin Ayeronwi's YouTube channel, BGT, features vlogs, life updates and conversations pertaining to her Nigerian audience. 

The Ottawa YouTuber, another of the five content creators chosen for YouTube's class of 2022, has 21,300 subscribers and it's growing by the minute. 

Some of her more viral videos, like one video titled "Asking guys questions girls are afraid to ask," has 54,000 views. 

Going international

In another video, Ayeronwi documented American rapper Megan Thee Stallion bringing her up on stage received 31,000 views. 

Although based in Canada, her audience is also a global one — reaching fans in the U.K., the U.S. and her hometown in Nigeria, for instance. 

She attributes the success to simply being herself, and added that it's about "showing people that you don't have to forget your heritage. You can still carry it on and be who you are." 

Much of her content allows people to see themselves on screen. Representation is key" when connecting with other Black creators and viewers, she said.

"When you're able to see someone who looks like you on screen doing stuff, you also feel like, 'OK, if she can do it then I can do it as well.'"

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Being Black in Canada highlights stories about Black Canadians. (CBC)