Celebrity chef Adrian Forte shares a recipe that takes him back to childhood in Jamaica
‘If you can consume someone's culture, you become more understanding of their struggle,' Forte says
Jamaican-Canadian celebrity chef Adrian Forte still remembers what it was like seeing his grandmother cook for the first time.
"I was just very amazed at how she would just take these simple, humble ingredients and transform them," he told The Current. "I was like, 'This is like magic.'"
Forte's grandmother was the family matriarch in Jamaica. She had seven kids and numerous grandchildren — and Forte said she made sure each one of them knew how to cook, including the men.
"She always said, 'You've got to be able to cook because then, you're more valuable as a husband,'" the Toronto-based chef said.
I firmly believe that if you can consume someone's culture, you become more understanding of their struggle.-Adrian Forte
With a house full of amateur chefs, he said cooking could get competitive — but it also brought the family closer together.
That's what stuck with Forte as he transitioned to the top of the culinary scene, with executive chef positions at Gangster Burger and Rock Lobster and a semi-final appearance on season eight of Top Chef Canada.
"I like to think of food as the culinary conduit that brings us together," he said. "That's why I love doing what I do — bringing people together, getting to learn about my culture and my background, and getting to know me."
Meet <a href="https://twitter.com/adrian_forte?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@adrian_forte</a>, from Toronto, Ontario. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TopChefCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TopChefCanada</a> <a href="https://t.co/TpvhIfcxZo">pic.twitter.com/TpvhIfcxZo</a>—@TopChefCanada
Togetherness and education are two of the key themes behind his new cookbook, Yawd: Modern Afro-Caribbean Recipes, which hits store shelves on June 7.
The book is a collection of Afro-Caribbean recipes but also teaches readers about the historical relevance of certain dishes and ingredients.
"I always try to use my food in my creations as a way to educate people," Forte said. "I firmly believe that if you can consume someone's culture, you become more understanding of their struggle."
Porridge as a time machine
One of the recipes highlighted in Forte's cookbook is for porridge, which is among Forte's favourite dishes to make.
"Growing up in Jamaica, one of the first things I learned how to make was porridge, because it was so easy," he said.
Forte said porridge is like a time machine for him. When he tastes it, he remembers when he was 11 years old, playing cricket with all of his friends after eating from his uncle's big pot of porridge.
He also remembers Jamaican street vendors who would wheel 64-litre pots of porridge on a trolley — and the show they'd put on when they'd hand porridge out to the neighbourhood.
"They do a really high pour … like a cocktail," he said. "It doesn't miss. Not a drop. And he puts it on his head and he dances and takes your money and hands it to you. And you're like, 'Well, how does he do that?'"
"That's kind of where my first excitement with putting on a show when I cook came from, seeing these people do things like that."
Forte said there are a variety of porridges that Jamaicans make, from carrot porridge to peanut porridge. But his favourite is cornmeal porridge — which he makes with his own twist.
"I add my own little spin on it with the pineapple juice. It's not traditional, but it's my take on it," he said.
Cooking cornmeal porridge at home
As part of the interview experience, Forte showed The Current's Matt Galloway how to make his version of cornmeal porridge — and the delicious value of Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
WATCH | Chef Adrian Forte shows host Matt Galloway how to make Jamaican cornmeal porridge:
Readers can also make their own cornmeal porridge at home. Below is Forte's recipe for cornmeal porridge, the same recipe he used in the video and featured in his debut cookbook.
-1 cup fine cornmeal
-1 cup full-fat coconut milk
-1 cup pineapple juice
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp ground allspice
-1 tsp ground nutmeg
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 cup condensed milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-Fresh pineapple chunks, for serving
-Ground cinnamon, for serving
Prep: 2 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cornmeal, coconut milk, pineapple juice, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon stick.
2. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a whisk to avoid clumping. Cook the cornmeal until it thickens and has a porridge consistency, around 10 minutes. Add the condensed milk and vanilla, cook for 30 seconds more, then remove from heat.
3. Portion the porridge into bowls and top with pineapple and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
Written by Mouhamad Rachini. Produced by Julie Crysler. Video shot and edited by Andrew Nguyen.