What is your name?
My name is Derek A. Went.
What do you do, and where?
I am the owner and artistic director of Went Caribbean Inc. My company designs and produces healthy value added products based on Caribbean lifestyle traditions that address health and wellness needs.
What are the biggest problems you are facing as a producer?
The supply chain for raw materials of high quality is highly susceptible to interruption…particularly when having to be sourced from overseas.
The local supply, while improving slowly, is often challenging and unreliable…and expensive.
What does sustainability mean to you? How do you incorporate these ideals into your work?
I approach sustainability from the perspective of food security. If people do not have to struggle for basic survival and adequate nutrition, then they become able to express themselves in some creative way through their lifestyle choices.
I demonstrate, through my services and products, practical means for making use of local ingredients, both cultivated and wild. I both grow and source local ingredients for inclusion in many of the value added products I design and bring to market.
How long have you been a producer/farmer?
I have planted a garden wherever I have lived in the world from a very young age. I am also a registered farmer with the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture, and I registered my company in the early nineties.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety of of projects and contacts that working in the health and wellness arena affords me. These provide me with interest and motivation as well as the opportunity to affect positive change. The direct marketing arm of my business is called Went Home and it provides excellent opportunities to test new products and receive relevant feedback while interacting directly with my customers. I operate a health food and smoothie bar at Holder’s Farmer’s Market every Sunday under the banner of Went Home and it is very satisfying to see the positive effects of the work I do in such a direct way.
Most memorable/proudest moment as a producer/farmer?
It was when I was finally able after about two years of research and development to introduce my flagship brand of Caribbean Fusion blends of aromatic herbs and spices: WentWorx…and seeing them become immediately popular.
These seven chemical-free fusion blends recreate the authentic taste of Caribbean cuisine as influenced by the various world cultures that visited the region throughout its history. The subtle combinations of myriad flavours still affects our traditional methods of seasoning local meals and are difficult to recreate without a working knowledge of a Caribbean kitchen.
I also like that I can go into my garden and pick fresh herbs, spices, fruit and veggie that I have grown personally.
Could you share with us a few fishing/farming traditions/culture/recipes/ingredients/varieties/species that have been lost over time?
One recipe that stands out in my memory is something my Guyanese grandmother used to prepare for dessert almost every Sunday. She taught me how to make it and I usually have some in my own fridge as a rule. It’s that good and good for you!
She simply called it Sea Moss, but was a sort of molded jelly using our local Irish Moss blended into a smooth gel, flavoured while boiling with a couple quills of cinnamon, a few Caribbean Bay-leaves, a pinch of whole cloves, a swirl of lime rind and some freshly grated nutmeg, sweetened and chilled to allow it to set. The spices and so on were removed before pouring the thick, liquid gel into the mold.
Sometimes there were fruit chunks added to the thickening gel where they would hang suspended or more likely it was served with a fresh fruit compote…often stewed guavas , golden apple or mango as found in season. Sometimes she served it with something like a sweetmeat of chopped dried fruit or even soft coconut jelly. It was always a welcome treat…so much nicer than Jello.
What is your favourite vegetable/fish to eat and how do you cook it?
I most enjoy anything that has been cooked in banana leaves but tend to roast slices of many different vegetables and roots on an open griddle as my meal of choice. I tend to keep my meals very simple and easy to prepare.
I have prepared a meal of whole red-fish, sitting atop a generous mound of coarsely grated sweet potato, seasoned generously with chopped chives, fresh dill, onions, ginger, garlic, sea salt…a sprinkling of my seafood seasoning blend, Island Street, showcasing French creole street food influences, with high notes of orange and lemon, with hints of coriander and other green herbs, mild pepper…all drizzled lightly with freshly made coconut milk, wrapped up in a double envelope of singed banana leaf and grilled for about 10 minutes. Heavenly!
The leaves retain all the flavours and add a special one of their own.
What do you think is the future of food in Barbados?
It lies in the increasingly creative use of our locally grown foods: vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, with an emphasis on wholesome and nutritious meals that employ the best qualities and deliciousness of Caribbean Cuisine. The need to tap deeply into some of the culinary traditions of the region will develop authenticity and innovation.