Friday, February 23, 2018

Soul food with Latin flavours


sweet hand: Chef Wilfredo “Gigio” Omana shows off a wide array of Venezuelan dishes. —Photos: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

If you like Latin American food then you will love Taryn’s Panyol Place. Owned by Taryn Cumberbatch and her husband, Wilfredo “Gigio” Omana, the couple enjoys delighting customers with food from their soul.

Taryn’s Panyol Place, situated on Mucurapo Road St James, is a quaint establishment that is not only bold in design but also flavour. 

The stirring sounds of Brazilian music filled the atmosphere as soon as you enter. The grey walls create a relaxed atmosphere and draws attention to a beautifully hand-painted mural on the left side of the room. The mural depicts some of the architecture you can find in Venezuela; and is also a reminder of home for Cumberbatch.

She said, “I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. My father is Trinidadian and mother is Venezuelan. As a child I moved back and forth from Venezuela to Trinidad but I have been living in Trinidad now for the past 15 years.”

Cumberbatch, a former chemist, yearned to have her own business. 

“I asked myself what could I do that I was not finding here and would like to have. That’s when I decided to open up my own restaurant,” she said.

“We do Latin American cuisine, specifically Venezuelan food but I try to push ever so often to do different dishes; sometimes Columbian or Peruvian,” she said, 

Apart from chemistry, Cumberbatch also had a passion for food. Delighting her customers with a wide array of authentic Latin American cuisine, she says her fastest selling items are empanadas and arepas.

“One of the dishes that we do is called Pabellon Criollo. This is the national dish of Venezuela.”

Pabellon Criollo consists of shredded beef, white rice, black beans and fried plantains.

She said, “One of my hobbies is food and what I decided to do was to use my food to explain to Trinidadians what our culture is.”

Cumberbatch noted that many Trinidadians often call arepas, empanadas and vice-versa. However, Cumberbatch said she was keen to introduce the flavours and foods from Venezuela to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 

“Sometimes we think we know what Venezuelan food is only to realise we don’t actually know what it is,” she said.

“Our food is not very spicy and the flavours are not all the same. They vary according to what it is you want to do. Many of seasonings you have right here in Trinidad and I will use it, it’s just a matter of how you play with them,” she added.

Cumberbatch uses her background in chemistry and applies it to her food.

She said, “Every recipe has a chemist in it. When you are in the lab, you have recipes to prepare; for example soap, makeup or shampoo. Preparing food the same applies. It is also a recipe just in a culinary way.” 

Trinidadians now have another option when it comes to mealtime and Cumberbatch hopes more locals would be encouraged to try other Latin American dishes. Through her love for food, she also exposes her culture.

She said, “Food comes natural to me. I am not a chef but my husband is. An average day for me starts at 4 a.m. and ends by 10 p.m.” 

Taryn’s Panyol has been in existence for the past nine years and has a clientele which incorporates locals and Latin Americans.

Cumberbatch said, “Everything on the menu is stuff that I like and are typical of my country. I think it also blends well here in Trinidad.”

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