Saturday, April 20, 2024

The spices of life


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It’s no stretch to say that Derek Went grew up surrounded by and loving food. In fact, it influences everything he does.
“My mother and grandmother never chased me out of the family kitchen,” he reveals, “so I ended up learning all about the orange peel and ginger, garlic, bay leaf and corn and everything from their kitchen.”
But it wasn’t only about the spices and the ingredients that lend to a flavourful pot that Derek learned about. As he advanced through life and his culinary skills increased, he also learned how to fuse cultures and cuisines, a task that would end up serving him well for his future.
“My grandmother was Venezuelan cooking for a Portuguese husband with very West Indian sons, so we had lots of cultural influences,” Went said. “So my life was full of flavourful Caribbean and West Indian cooking.”
“The fact that I am now recognised locally as the “cooker man”  is because I started styling food for an advertising campaign for Super Centre and the advertising agency discovered that I could cook. The result of that was that I did the Cooking Express show on CBC sponsored by Super Centre and it just snowballed from there.
It was those family influences and his work locally that have inspired Went to launch his own line of spices called WentWorks.   
“It was through my work at Super Centre that I realised that people needed help in understanding the connections between the sources of health from their diet and simple, easy methods to make their food as tasty as possible,” Went said. “People liked the way my food tasted, so I formulated the spices to be simple and convenient to add a lot of flavour to their dishes.”
The spices, which are available at supermarkets locally, were born out of his desire to help people eat better and healthier.
“In terms of its success, it has addressed a fundamental need in a lot of people’s lives,” he says in the response to his products. “The fact that it has produced great tasting food because you expect that seasoning is going to make your food tasty. But the fact that it contains none of these chemicals or additives that most other spice blends have is a plus.”
What sets Went’s spices apart is also the way that they are formulated.
“The particle size of my product is very different in that I’ve selected certain herbs that work better when they’re larger,” he adds. “You get more flavour, and a longer life because these spices don’t clump up like half of the spice powders out there that become solid after a month.
Went, a former physiotherapist, has developed an interest in healthy eating and using food for the development of the body. He feels that too many people take most of the nutrients out of the food during food preparation and are not getting the proper nutrients for their bodies. Went also feels that busy lifestyles are also contributing to the health problems people face.
“When it comes to eating certain meals, especially when people are on the road, a lot the options are not that healthy,” says Went. “There are a lot of health concerns related to poor dietary choice. My services now include information and education related to helping people understand those connections, as well as provide the vehicle through my product range so that people can address some of their own needs. It’s to encourage them to return to the kitchen. People often think of cooking as a chore, but I’m trying to show them how simple and easy it is to cook really tasty food.”
The success of these spices has even surprised Went, who was unsure of how the local populace would respond to them.
“The idea that people would respond positively is not a surprise. It is a surprise the extent to which it has been popular,” Went adds. “I really didn’t think that Barbados was going to be such a positive market for my product. I had intended initially to export the flavour of the Caribbean in a bottle to the world. But I’m also getting responses from tourists who are trying to find the products in New York, Canada and in Europe.”


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