The fifth annual Eat Caribbean Week returns June 17 to June 24. The weeklong program, organized by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), features dozens of eateries and bakeries that serve the finest Caribbean cuisine and treats. About 25 participating restaurants citywide will be taking part in the promotional dining experience, and this year the event is acknowledging the cooks behind the discounted meals, and healthy-eating, said the curator.
“This year we’re actually focusing more on the chefs,” said Michelle Gibbs. “We have a diverse community of chefs that come from different islands and we want highlight these chefs and their healthy dishes.”
It’s also chance to showcase the cuisine from smaller Caribbean islands, added Gibbs. She says more popularly known cuisine from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago often dominate Caribbean gastronomy, but this is an opportunity for foodies, and even natives of these islands to try these offerings and eventually boost tourism.
“Most people don’t get the opportunity to go back home, so we are inviting people inside and outside of the Caribbean to support all of the different islands through cuisine,” she said. “This will help keep the culture alive, because besides music and art, this is another way of saying come home and go experience.”
The emphasis on health consciousness is to revisit traditional dishes created with more mindful preparation, said Gibbs.
“We are all into wellness because healthy eating is something to be conscious about, and this year we want to be very health conscious about what we eat and promote good wellness,” she said.
That includes making ingredient swaps for a more healthy alternatives.
“Simple changes like using coconut oil instead of corn oil, fresh herbs and spices instead of salt seasoning, fresh salads, and so forth,” said Gibbs.
Currently about 15 restaurants, including many that participated last year, are already registered for the program, and that number is expected to increase by launch week, Gibbs said.
A week dedicated to celebrating Caribbean cuisine and local businesses will help increase commerce in the Caribbean community, and showcase the many different cultural contributions members brought to the city, said president of WIADCA.
“The largest portion of supporting heritage month during the month of June is also the fact that WIADCA still maintains a majority of the Carib community, from carnival, to events from year to year, and we continue to support Caribbean heritage month during Eat Caribbean week to help West Indian businesses and the economy of New York city,” said Bill Howard.
Gibbs says she is thrilled that the program has returned for a fifth year, and says the event has gotten bigger over the years.
“I’m excited that we’ve lasted five years and to have so many Caribbean restaurants participate, because this is our mission of expressing who we are as a Diaspora,” she said.
Eat Caribbean Week at various locations. June 17–24. www.eatcaribbean.nyc