OLE TIME DAYS: Chef Nneka Daniel-Braveboy takes a batch of bread out of her dirt oven which is a highlight of her new restaurant/bakery located at Agostini Street, St Joseph. People believe that anything baked in a dirt oven such as this one has a taste that can't be achieved in mordern gas or electric ovens. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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Baking it old style

Food prepared with a difference

By Verdel Bishop

Bread baked from the scorching pit of a dirt oven is by far an uncommon feature of any modern day bakery across the island. But there also isn't anything common about bakery owner, Chef Nneka Daniel-Braveboy.

Daniel-Braveboy, an innovative chef who has experienced over a decade of success, recently launched her restaurant/bakery, Nick & 2J's at the corner of Agostini Street, St Joseph. The restaurant/bakery is the only eatery in the area that has an open air food theatre featuring a traditional fireside cooker and a roasting box known as a la caja china (a tradition of Spanish heritage) and a traditional dirt oven.

Daniel-Braveboy, a qualified food technologist with a Bachelor's degree in culinary management and an associate degree in food and beverage management, first carved a favourable niche market for herself on the local food scene when she began using hemp as a feature in her menus. Her new establishment in St Joseph is a representation of a woman who steers clear from the norm and opts instead for unusual edible inventions. Her old time method of making bread in a dirt oven is sure to entice costumers but Daniel-Braveboy's aim is to feed more than just her customers — her passion for cooking and baking is also on the front burner. According to Daniel-Braveboy, "I have a passion for this and once you love something you would do it forever. I could cook for free; that is how much I love cooking for people. That's how much I enjoy it," she said.

Daniel-Braveboy's recent restaurant/bakery launch gave the large turnout of guests some insights into the chefs' passion. Among the unique and delectable treats served, bread sticks sprinkled with hemp seeds at the top was a lovely starter treat. When it comes to baking bread in particular, the chef said it takes much more than putting together the ingredients. "It's the love I put into making the bread. It's not just slapping down some bread. Its authentic home-made bread made with love and passion," Daniel-Braveboy said. She has plans to introduce various signature breads to her menu, including chocolate bread with coconut, cornmeal bread and pepper cheese bread.

Daniel-Braveboy crafted the dirt oven herself after extensive research, with guidance from Carib shaman, Christo Adonis. She said she grew up enjoying dirt oven bread as a child. "I remember as a child going up to Toco to visit family and they had a dirt oven; the dirt oven came so easy to me after seeing my family doing it. It's a lot of work in maintaining it; having to lepay it," she said.

She describes her establishment as a real Trini restaurant where patrons can enjoy anything on the menu from gourmet creations to a unique salad. Besides fusing her menu with hemp, which she describes as a super food, the chef also incorporates her own signature features and has come up with a menu which boasts of a combination of unique meals. Patrons can enjoy a Honey Ginger Chili Crab (with steamed chive buns); Marinated blend of Lambie and Oysters in Cilantro Sauce (which she calls Trini Gyal); Mystical Hemp Veg Rice; Hemp Fried Dumplings; Ital Vegetables, Giant Wontons and a special Chef combination of Pacro, Sacred Herbs and Spices.

"I want to stay true to my identity. I am half Grenadian so I am also embracing that. "We don't hear about pacro anymore, very few people know about pacro, so that has been infused into it. I have something called Trini Gyal which is very, very popular and that is basically lambie, oysters and half shells served in a cilantro sauce," She said. Patrons can also enjoy long time chocolate tea and hot doubles every morning with coconut chutney.

Daniel-Braveboy said, besides being a chef I have a lot of science background. I've always had clients with particular needs and health concerns so I found ways of coming up with alternatives. I could do every single thing you can make up so that is part of my journey and how I started. This is how I started with the hemp menu. The food has a touch of hemp. Not all the products have hemp. Hemp is easily digestible. It's similar to the protein content in soy. You really use the seeds; it's a super plant. From the seeds you get oils and milk, which can be incorporated in the flour for breads," she said.

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