Can organic, healthy and Caribbean be said all in the same sentence?
Words such as rich and heavy are often used to describe Caribbean food with jerk chicken, rice and peas and more leading the charge with hefty portions. Nola Ro is combatting these affiliations with her healthy twists on what Caribbean American food can be from tasty hummus filled cucumber bites to coconut wings.
Ro is the founder and mastermind behind “new” catering company, Sumptuous Bites, already serving 12 clients. Her entrepreneurial spirit is etched into her genes, following the footsteps of her mother. “I think it has to be in my blood because my mother has always been a business woman,” Ro said. “It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I really started working with her. She had a restaurant already and I started working with her and it really became clear to me that I never wanted to work for anybody else.”
After working with her mother for a little over a decade, Ro was ready to branch off and take the next step. Falling back on her talents, a catering company seemed like the most logical and organic route to follow.
“Food and cooking is something that is just second nature, I love it. A catering company just seemed like the most natural thing to do based on my background and experiences,” Ro said.
Officially launching her catering company Sunday, June 28 at The Hill Lounge located on Church Avenue between East 46th and 47th streets, Ro exposed friends, family and strangers to her tasty creations.
“I’m Jamaican so being introduced to all this Caribbean – Guyanese flavor – I’m not used to it but I’m enjoying it,” Kevin Tempral said.
Jamaican descendant Tempral describes Ro’s take on Caribbean food to be different than what he is accustomed to. Aside from her Guyanese roots shining through her dishes, Tempral appreciates the different flavors and healthy twists. “It’s not expected but it’s really good and I am dying to try these coconut wings,” Tempral added.
Accompanied by the sounds of the steel pan in the backyard of the venue, all in attendance enjoyed Ro’s staple cocktails and sample portions of her reimagined Caribbean food. Taking an Italian staple, ravioli, Ro reinvents the pasta dish by filling it with callaloo and drizzling it with a Guyanese curry sauce. Another staple and favorite on the menu are her “Fun N’Flirty Fish Cakes.”
Filled with gratitude and love by the support she has received since embarking on this journey, Ro’s constant driving force comes from the love she has for her four-year-old son Pharaoh. Her number one supporter, cheerleader and helper, Pharaoh is already showing off his culinary talents in the kitchen.
“He’s doing very well with reading so he reads his own recipes. He knows what needs to go into the dish, he’ll help me mix them — the only thing he doesn’t get to do is anything with the stove or fire or anything that can injure him,” Ro said.
The self-proclaimed “mommypreneur” prides herself in creating food that is delicious and good for you — rich in flavor but light on your body.
“My menu is Caribbean and American fusion. I have a lot of vegan and vegetarian options as well. I would also like to point out what gives my company a difference or an edge from other companies that are doing a similar thing is that my ingredients are not processed,” Ro said.
Although Sumptuous Bites was made public June 28, Ro has already catered many events during the past six months. From book launches to weddings, Sumptuous Bites combats the “you serve curry chicken” stigma with her versatile menu.
This is only the beginning for Ro. While she juggles being a mother to her four-year-old son Pharaoh, helping her mother with their restaurant, managing “Make Food Not War” blog and her rising client list for Sumptuous Bites, the serial entrepreneur is already working on her next venture: an Internet cooking show.
“Pretty soon I will be recording an online cooking show. I love being in the kitchen and I think it’s a great way for bringing awareness to this idea of a healthier, more nutritious, Caribbean type of food,” Ro said.
Follow Nola Ro, Sumptuous Bites and her upcoming ventures at sumpt