This week we have a conversation with Trephene Andrea, a Jamaican personal chef living in Denmark. She born and grew up in the Kingston 20 area and migrated to the US. Trephene’s interest in cooking stated at an early age and since high school she has had her own small business. Trephene used to make Gizzada and Coconut Drops and distribute to two canteens in Kingston and a pharmacy in the Spanish Town area. After high school and a year of working, she attended the Runaway Bay Heart Academy where she focused on Food Preparation. After the Heart Academy, she worked in a small chocolate boutique in Montego Bay, then Ciboney Hotel in Ocho Rios and lastly worked as a manager at Kathy’s Restaurant in New Kingston prior to migrating to the US. Upon relocating to the US Trephene’s path took a different turn, but she never left the kitchen as she continued doing events from weddings to church banquets. Sixteen years after the Heart Academy, she was accepted to Le Cordon Bleu, Paris (LCB) and proudly graduated as Grand Diplome student having studied French Classic Cuisine and Patisserie. At the end of 2007 she relocated to Sweden where she worked at Caribe Creole and Bloom in Malmo. Trephene moved to Copenhagen, Denmark several months later and in 2010 she launched Stir It Up by Trephene, a personal chef service.
Q: Are you Jamaican? Tell us the story of how you got to Denmark?
I am a very proud Jamaica. Denmark is another stop on my life’s journey. I was studying in France where upon completion I was not ready to go back to the US and through a dear friend at the time was influenced to move to Scandinavia, to Sweden. After a bit over 8 months I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. It was only a 30 minute train ride, so the move between these countries was quite easy.
Q. How did the idea come about to start Stir it Up in Denmark?
In preparing for graduation from LCB, the administration asked what it is that we planned to do. I know since the days of catering that I wanted to do something similar but small and intimate. I wanted to work as a private chef. While in Mallorca in the Easter of 2010 I began the brainstorming process and after a few tossing of ideas Stir It Up by Trephene was born. during the mid 90s I was marketing myself as Cooking from the Heart (an homage to the Heart Academy). My education included French Classic cuisine. And with that plus my Jamaican heritage and Italian kitchen experience, the food style was developed. It is further influenced by the places I’ve lived.
Q: Describe your personal chef service in Denmark?
I am a private chef where I cook in people’s homes. I cater to small dinner parties and weekly dinners for individuals and families who are too busy to make their own meal but don’t want to sacrifice eating well and at an economical cost. I also provide cooking classes and organize Pop Up kitchens, making 3 or 5 course dinner events in individual’s kitchen for up to 20 people.
Q: How has the personal chef service been doing? Did you believe you would have this much success?
My service is well received. I individuals who are fascinated by Jamaican kitchen and the way my style works well the Jamaican kitchen and the French classic style. I have several repeat clients and requests for more service.
Q: How many Jamaicans live in Denmark?
I don’t know the precise number of Jamaicans here. I have met approximately 20 since I’ve been here. My client base is mostly foreigners and Danes.
Q: What would you say is the top selling dish? Are there any dishes in Denmark that are similar in to taste to a Jamaican dish?
I am always asked for Jerk Chicken. People seem to know a lot about that. A year ago I was in Johannesburg, South Africa and that was also a well demand item which I had to prepare for an event I hosted there. I cannot think of a Danish dish that is similar to Jamaican dish. Our, Jamaican cuisine has a lot of spices and flavors whereas the Danish cuisine is a bit more simple using much less spices.
Q: Since Jamaican/Caribbean food is probably not in the mainstream in Denmark have you used any particular marketing strategy for the personal chef service? Do you host Jamaican type events?
My cooking style is influenced not only by my Jamaican heritage, but also by my French cuisine education and also by the places in which I’ve lived. So I incorporate these in my cooking. I can find produce from the ethnic stores here and also from the restaurant/caters suppliers store.
Q: I have to ask this…Do you have Manish water and/or Cow Cod soup on the menu? Also where do you get the seasoning to cook the food?
No (smile), no Manish water nor Cow Cod, I am not sure where I would get the primary ingredients – although recently I was in Nairobi and a girlfriend gave me a packet of Manish water mix, I didn’t know that existed. Luckily I travel to the US about twice a year and I have family and friends visiting me here, so for the things I cannot get here like pimento seed, jerk sauce (although I make my own sometimes), Grace Soup Mix, I get from Jamaican or the US. I grow my own little herb kitchen where I have a variety of thyme, sage rosemary, oregano, basil and in the summer I have tomatoes, sweet pepper and berries. I have been having a challenge in planting more due to long winters and too wet spring.
Q: What is the weirdest question you have been asked about Jamaicans and Jamaican food since you started your personal chef service? What Jamaican person or things would you say most of your customers know?
About Jamaicans, well what do you think? Do we all smoke. I get the head shake and doubtful look when I say I don’t. Question no 2., Do I know Usain Bolt or can I run that fast? No and no. Oh they know Bob Marley for sure and yes Usain Bolt. I was surprised once when I was having a conversion with one person and he asked me to tell more about Marcus Garvey. This is not a usual request. But proudly I was able to.
Q: Have you considered offering your services in in another part of Denmark and what things do you do to promote the Jamaican culture in Denmark?
Not at this time. I am working on promoting my services to the current market I am in. And during this winter when it is cold and dark and people are not keen on going out, or hosting (winter times are quiet times in Scandinavia), I am working on packaged easy weekly comfort meals. In the meantime, I have have been writing some and plan to get into the test kitchen in 2014.
Q: Do you have any advice or closing comments for the visitors and reader of the Jamaicans.com?
Travel and taste to local cuisine. I absolutely love doing that and from time to time discovering how many cuisine are similar to the Jamaican cuisine. Keep eating and eat well.
Thanks for your time and we wish you the best for the future..
Keep updated with Trephene Andrea and “Stir It Up” here:
twitter: @StiritUp byTrephene