Imagine having a Sunday spread of turkey with cornbread stuffing and sorrel conserve, cinnamon-baked plantains and apples in a cranberry glaze, and mixed greens with caramelised pecans and cranberries, complete with black cake and sorrel on your dining table in July, without having slaved in front the stove until 3 pm. Candice Thomas-Henry did just that after she and caterer Kizzy Joseph crossed paths in late June…and the busy car sales agent and mother is looking forward to being spoilt with Joseph’s culinary delights over and over again.
Unable to hide her enthusiasm about Joseph’s food offerings in a recent telephone interview with Guardian Media, Thomas-Henry said when it comes to food, Joseph and her team bring an experience.
“The first time I had it, it was good. She did it a second time, the food was exceptional. The third time she did it, I said this girl is amazing!” Thomas-Henry said.
She was recalling the “Sunday Experience” offered by Separate Tables, a family-run food catering company which serves up gourmet cuisine with a Caribbean flair. Thomas-Henry, who lives in Chaguanas, found out about Joseph after a friend who had used her to cater a brunch bragged online. She ordered one of Joseph’s salmon packages for Father’s Day and a few weeks later, asked whether Joseph could deliver a special meal to her home on a Sunday because she was so overwhelmed with balancing working from home, extra studies, teens and their online classes, and housework during the current pandemic period.
The exhausted mother requested food that could be laid out on the table as if prepared at home. Wowed by the caterer’s skills, Thomas-Henry encouraged Joseph to extend the format to others and posted about it to her close to 15,000 Facebook followers and 5,000 on IG. Soon, Joseph was also posting on IG and more and more people were calling. One client even came from as far as Guayaguayare to meet up at a Trincity delivery point for the Sunday Experience.
Apart from the meals on Sundays, Thomas-Henry was impressed with a brunch Joseph did for her mother and friends. She said Joseph’s flavours were unique and consistent and the service top-notch.
“There was one Sunday when she did a Tobago special. She sent sweetbread and coconut ice-cream too. Who does that?” Thomas-Henry laughed.
She was sure to mention the generous portions which she said lasted her family of five; including two teens, her mum and husband, at least two days.
The popular sales agent was also struck by Joseph’s willingness to embrace a new idea.
“She was so vibrant and so willing. I brought an idea to this young lady and she never objected. She didn’t say let me call you back; she was ready. That’s what we need now; we need to learn and unlearn. We need to adjust,” Thomas-Henry said.
With a lull in demand after the initial lockdown of the country in April, Joseph said providing busy families with a home-made meal, cooked with love on Sundays was a great means of sustaining the business.
“Week after week it’s been pretty well-received and people are as excited about it as am I,” she shared.
Pre-COVID-19, she catered for a few private companies, preparing pre-ordered lunches for executives Monday through Friday. She has also done small private events like tea parties, girls’ days and birthdays.
According to Joseph, the Sunday Experience begins on a Tuesday when she posts a new menu for the upcoming Sunday from which clients can choose. There are usually three meat options like chicken, lamb, salmon or shrimp depending on that week’s theme; along with an assortment of sides and a dessert, and sometimes a special drink.
Prices are standard, even if lobster or extra meat is added in, Joseph said. The Love Birds special for two is $400, while the cost is $600 for a family of four.
She has done Italian, and a Jamaican theme which she said was “a huge hit.” She catered to meat lovers two weeks ago and there was even a “Christmas in July” theme when she first started. Last weekend she treated clients to seafood —including this reporter and family. Let’s just say, Thomas-Henry did not exaggerate. Separate Tables can throw down.
Joseph still cooks for clients during the week. Grilled fish with pineapple salsa, roasted pork loins with a demi-glaze, roast chicken in rosemary citrus sauce, vegetable rice and Caribbean coleslaw topped with pineapple squares and toasted coconut are just a morsel of one of her Tuesday menus.
Born in Quebec, Canada, Joseph has lived in T&T for the past 12 years. She followed her Trinidadian-born parents who returned home after their retirement. She recalled spending her growing years in Toronto, feasting on the Trini-inspired creations of her mother, Sheila. She’s no stranger to coo coo, callaloo or provisions she informed, since Caribbean soul food featured heavily on their home menu, with the roast beef and roast chicken with potatoes typical of Canada also being sprinkled in.
Joseph graduated with a Marketing degree from Centennial College, Toronto and was an executive at Bell Canada when she joined her mother’s original catering business as the large clientèle was becoming too much for the older lady. She later picked up culinary courses at George Brown College, Toronto.
With Toronto’s diverse culture, she and her mother spent many a day sampling cuisines, from Italian to Greek and Thai—not only because they were food lovers, but also in an attempt to expand their culinary repertoire. They built a name as Toronto’s wedding specialists and were also popular at Toronto Carnival events.
On her mother’s return to Trinidad, the retiree started taking on small catering jobs and when she jokingly suggested that Joseph join her here to help deal with her burgeoning clientèle, Joseph, who was four months pregnant at the time, jumped at the opportunity.
“One day she said she had a job to cater for 600 clients. I was like mum, that’s way too many people. She was like why don’t you just pack up and come to Trinidad. I’m a spontaneous person and I said why not. I mean, I wasn’t going to miss winter…at all. I love it here.”
A concept of her mom based on an old movie, Separate Tables represents the idea that even though we sit at separate tables, we are still one family. The business is located in Santa Cruz with Joseph and her mother as the main cooks and her brother, Nigel, as the grill cook. They are assisted by two other kitchen employees.
Sunday Experience deliveries have spanned Port-of-Spain and environs to Trincity in the East and as far as San Fernando in the South. There are three drivers who meet most clients at particular drop-off points by 11:45 am.
Despite their hectic schedule, her father who was heavily involved years ago now helps with smaller errands. He said his job now is a full-time grandparent to Joseph’s son, Hezekiah and to five others abroad, Joseph laughed.
She and her team do not plan to take a break any time soon. She intends to do Christmas baskets of ponche-de-crème, ginger beer, black cake, home-made bread and pastelles and is offering Christmas meals to go from December 22 to Christmas Eve.
Of course, Thomas-Henry will be first in line.